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57. Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
59. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
60. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61. And they said unto her, There is none by thy kindred that is called by this name.
62. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marveled all.
64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
65. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70. As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71. That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72. To perform the mercy promised to our father, and to remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
When you get to know Jesus Christ, and when you really understand who He is and you get acquainted with Him and you start out on this life’s road and pilgrimage with Him, and that’s what Christianity is; it is a pilgrimage, when a person focuses his attention on Jesus Christ, the Son of God and follows Him, knowing that in His power and in His love and in His grace there is the potential of great power for you as you look to Him. I want to tell you that that is the greatest trip that you can ever take in all this world, is to follow the Lord, Jesus Christ. Because when that daystar rises as we read about, and it comes into your heart to give light, things look different. One of the reasons why so many people are bogged down in this world, they have never had the reception of that divine light that comes through Christ, that comes in the heart and mind and helps to understand what life is all about and about eternal life. So we focus attention on the world to come instead of upon this world so much. No wonder the prophet would say in the reading that I’m going to give to you tonight that the time would come when there would be a light that would shine to the people who sit in darkness.
I’m reading tonight from the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 1, beginning at verse 57. During the Christmas season, for the most part, we place a great deal of focus upon these great stories that surround the birth of Jesus Christ, and a lot of attention is given to Matthew’s account and Luke’s account and others. But especially Matthew and Luke, and most of the time we are looking at Mary and we talked about the “Magnificat of Mary”, the magnifying of the Lord that Mary did in a prophetic way. And sometime we don’t take the time to analyze what the people really say in this prophetic way and tonight we’re looking at the prophecy of Zacharias, the real message that he received because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. We pick up the story at verse 57.
I want to zero in as I said on this message that Zacharias gives as a tremendous prophecy when the Holy Spirit came on him and filled his life at the naming of John the Baptist. From the day that Zacharias was in the temple and the angel of the Lord spoke to him that he would have a son, and his question of somewhat doubt, ‘How will I know this?’ registering some kind of very human attitude toward this great startling message that he, a lowly priest, would father a child in his old age and the old age of his wife, Elisabeth. From that day forward, after he had made that question and somewhat doubting and questioning what the angel had to say, he was stricken and he could not speak and evidently could not even hear. Most scholars think because of one of the verses that I will mention in the reading when they had to make signs to him, they couldn’t just speak to him, but they had to make signs to him about the naming of this son, so the inference is that he was deaf and he was also dumb, that is, he could not speak. And for over nine months, he had gone like that. He had finished his assignment in the temple. He had gone home as the routine went. And he spent over nine months evidently in silence. When he did not speak and could not hear anything. I think that is extremely significant. I don’t have time to preach there except to say that there are drastic results that come to anybody’s life who questions God’s Word and who rises up with doubt and begins to question what God has to say. I know a lot of people who make light of the Bible and they cast it aside and it has no influence whatsoever upon their lives and they make fun of it and make light of it. But that is a dangerous thing to close your eyes to the light of truth that comes through the revealed Word of God, the Holy Word. Because there have been some people who have closed their eyes to that light long enough until their eyes went out and they remained in darkness and they could not see and understand. They pushed away the light from them. I would say to any person these days whose life is in darkness, open up your mind and heart and life to the light of God’s truth and the light of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, our Lord. Let Him come into your life and a miracle of enlightenment and revelation will take place as you begin to grow in that knowledge and understanding of who Christ is and what He can do and how He can lead you and how He can straighten your life out. Amen? How many of you want to testify by raising your hand to say that when you were in darkness that light came and you welcomed the Word of God and the light of truth and the Lord began to lead you? Raise your hand. Amen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Thank God for His divine light and His guiding hand.
I suppose that during that nine months or so that he had a lot of time to think. But the day finally came when the promise of the angel came true and Elisabeth’s time came and the baby was born and then on the eighth day, as is customary among Jewish customs, they came to circumcise the child and named him. And they waited, that was also at the circumcision was the time for naming the child. So, here was a priest who is performing the act of circumcision on this child, John. And he names him Zacharias the Second or something. And Elisabeth said ‘It’s not so. He is to be called John.’ Well! They said ‘Nobody in your family’s got that name. This is not something you hand down. You’re just picking up some name here’…and they made signs to Zacharias and he asked for a tablet to write on and he wrote – not ‘He will be called’, but said ‘His name IS John.’ He wasn’t going to play around with what the angel said anymore because that’s what the angel had told him and he wrote it down. His name IS John. And they marveled at this that he would know this and Elisabeth, his wife, already knew this, and they attested to the fact that this is indeed his name. And when they named him John, everybody marveled and suddenly something marvelous and something wonderful and miraculous happened to this priest, Zacharias. He was loosed. His tongue was loosed and he began to praise God and the Bible says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit just came down upon this priest and made a prophet out of him and with a divine gift of prophecy, he begins to speak.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about tonight because his prophecy can be divided into three sections: First of all, What God has done - the fulfilled prophecy, and bring to that point, and thenThe mission of John himself, what he is going to do, and thenThe future that God is bringing in because of this. And it’s the most marvelous thing in all the world. We talked last time about the meaning of the name of John and it means ‘the grace of God.’ We talked about the names of Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. And they are very significant as we will see a little later on. But the overwhelming concept that is here seems to me is that the voices of the prophets have been silent for 400 years or so. And God decides to do something new and great and He is sending His son into this world. But at the same time, He is preparing a prophet to rise up in Israel where the voice of a prophet hasn’t been heard for a long, long time. And God is going to have a herald that paves the way and makes the announcement ‘Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.’ Hallelujah!
The mission and work of John the Baptist is going to be so great in relationship to the coming ministry of Jesus. Let’s look at what Zacharias says when he is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to speak. The first thing he says is that ‘God has visited and redeemed His people.’ This is the great sovereign act of the almighty God. He has come down to visit His people. I like that expression. When you go to looking at the actual Greek term and what it means, it has to do with the divine sovereignty of God that He is moving in with His divine acts and government to carry out His purpose and His will. It’s not just a light little visit where you walk by and chat. No! It’s the kind of visit where He comes down in power and glory. He is about to do something in this world that nobody can resist and nobody can withstand and nobody can stop. He is bringing a visitation of His glory and power upon this world and it will be through John the Baptist and of course, His own Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He said ‘He has visited us from on high and He has redeemed.’ Here is the beginning of the story of redemption as far as it relates to the New Testament. The Israelites already knew about the term redemption. They knew of the deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the whole work of miracles and power that God wrought in their deliverance and that was redemption absolutely because He bought them and redeemed them and loosed them and set them free from Egyptian bondage. But now then, if He is to reach far beyond this nation of Israel and it has to do with redemption of all people, worldwide. And it was such an announcement and such a profound act of God’s purpose and divine will. He comes now with prophetic touch upon this priest and he was elevated beyond anything he’s ever known. He has spent nine months in silence, but when he breaks the silence, he praises God and is moved on by the Spirit and he prophecies with a heavenly message as God pours out His Spirit upon him to do so.
And he tells the whole story. And it is a great story, He says ‘God has raised up a horn of salvation for us so that we could be saved.’ Anytime in the Bible that the word ‘horn’ is used in the symbolic sense, it has to do with a great power and a great force. And now then, he is saying ‘Here is the great power and the great force that God is about to show to this world which will bring to revelation His work of salvation in the world.’ Oh hallelujah! Tonight we rejoice in it. And sometimes it becomes commonplace, but I want to tell you when you start singing about the night that you prayed through and was changed and the blood still applies and the salvation of God, his mercy and grace that He promised in times past. It’s been a long time since His promises were given to the prophets. But time doesn’t mean much to God. I have a hard time myself trying to comprehend this; that God dwells in eternity…past, present, future. It doesn’t mean a thing to Him, He just dwells in the whole thing and sees beginning to end and time doesn’t mean anything. All the clocks and watches that we are enslaved to, especially we Americans. You know we have a lot of trouble, a considerable amount nonetheless, out of our international students who come from other countries who are not enslaved to the clock and to all kinds of schedules like we are. You know, we’ve got to get up at a certain time. Alarm clocks have to wake us up. We have to eat breakfast at a certain time. We have to be at a certain place at a certain time. We are slaves to the clock, it seems like. But that doesn’t mean a thing to God. Dwelling in eternity. And He has promised something and 400 years doesn’t mean a whole lot. And here it is coming to pass. And He is coming to move in mercy and grace, Zacharias says. And you remember the name John means ‘the grace of God’. And then he said ‘He has remembered His holy covenant.’ And Zacharias’ name means ‘God remembers’. I guess this is probably one fellow who went around saying his own name all the time. I think I would if my name meant that. Zacharias, God remembers. Zacharias, God remembers. I think he just went around calling his own name! I know I would have! I would have just kept on saying it! God remembers! God has remembered! God has remembered! Hallelujah!
This comes out in his prophetic message and he goes on further to say that ‘He has remembered His oath that he swore to Abraham.’ You know, we talked about it before. Elisabeth’s name means ‘the oath of God.’ So, in the very first portion of this great prophecy, Zacharias, by the power of the Holy Spirit is doing a play on the names of John and on his own name and on his wife’s name. And it’s all tied up in the bundle of the things that God has coming with grace, and God has remembered and God is bringing to pass the oath that He has given to His prophets as far back as Abraham.
See! He doesn’t forget. God swears by Himself and by His holiness. Twice in the book of Amos, he talks about ‘God has sworn by Himself, and by His holiness that He will bring it to pass.’
I want to tell you tonight, just to sidestep a moment, don’t take it lightly what God has promised you, what God has promised for His church, what God has promised toward the end of this age. Don’t take it lightly. God remembers! God remembers His oath! God remembers His covenant. And He moves with divine sovereign power! Hallelujah!
Zacharias said the result of all this that God has done is that He has made provision for us to serve Him without fear. I wish I could preach on that just awhile, but I can’t! But just let me strike it again. God does not intend for you and me to live in this world in service and worship to Him and be troubled with fear in our heart. He does not mean that. Because perfect love casts out that fear. If there are things that are bothering you and are troubling you tonight and if you are fearful and you are worrying, focus your eyes on the Lord Jesus and get so baptized and filled with His love, it will push it out. It will push fear out. It will shove it aside. Hallelujah!
We would serve Him in this world without fear. Or we would serve Him in holiness and righteousness. See..last time, earlier we talked about this, this great gulf between the High and Holy God, and Him so holy and mighty and He comes and speaks to the lowliest of the priests of Israel, a human being that is so startled and shocked when the angel begins to speak to Zacharias. It is such a gap there until it is hard for us to comprehend that at the same time that we are to serve Him without fear, we are also to serve Him in holiness! And that is a word that we have almost eliminated from our testimonies and our sermons and our songs and everything else these days. But it is still just as powerful as it ever was! People who live in holiness before God and they honor Him for the high and holy God that He is, have had holy reverence for Him. That holy reverence burns out of their lives those things that would cause people to feel guilty and afraid in the presence of God! Amen!
That’s the reason some of your kinfolk don’t want to go to church very much. They are afraid that one day something different in the church will happen and God will move in! And they’ll have a great outpouring of the Spirit and the fire of the Holy Ghost will fall and they will be so convicted and so filled with fear and they don’t want to walk out on God again. There’s a lot of folks, this especially used to be true, they were afraid to just come barging in to a holiness meeting with just any old attitude because the fear of God was there. Because of the holiness of God that settled down upon the people. He said you can live without fear and yet in holiness and righteousness. Holiness has to do with God and what He does for us and righteousness has to do with doing right, how we live. You don’t have to be afraid, but you can live all the days of your life. I tell you, I’ve stood by the bedside of people who died and left this world who had lived that way all their lives. And I’ll tell you, there was not a thing about them that they were afraid of. They were not afraid at all. They went away rejoicing! They were aware that there were holy beings that just came to be with them, to help them to cross over. I’ve told you this before, but my mother-in-law was one of the greatest saints I ever knew. She and my mother are tops as far as I’m concerned on the list of saints of God. And as she was dying, she saw into the world to come and at the same time could speak in this one. And she said, ‘Don’t you hear the great singing?’ And she called people’s names, two of her sons, she said ‘Oh! There’s Robert. There’s Raymond.’ These were sons who had preceded her in death. Robert had been killed in World War II. Raymond died as a small boy. Evidently, they were there to meet her, waiting on her, saying ‘Come on!’ Oh hallelujah! I want to tell you when you come down to die, you want this to be real. You really want it to be real then so that you can face the very end with no fear, no doubt, no worry.
He continues to prophecy and he talks about what John is to do. He said first of all John is going to be called the prophet of the Most High God, the prophet of the Highest. And Jesus Himself would attribute that kind of greatness to John the Baptist. He would say ‘There has never been a man among men that was greater than John the Baptist.’ He is a prophet of the Most High God. One of the first prophets to begin to speak and to call Israel back. He said “He will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways. I don’t always understand how God does things, but I want to tell you that he saw the hardness of this world and the hardness of the religious system of Judaism and He sent this bold, fearless prophet to soften things up so that when the gospel of the kingdom through Jesus would come, there would already be people open and receptive to the good news of the gospel…the forerunner, the announcer. You can read in the first chapter of the Gospel of John and you will see John the Baptist denying himself, so to speak, saying ‘I am not the Christ. I’m just a voice crying in the wilderness…’ and so on. And he said ‘He’ll give knowledge of salvation unto the people. This salvation will come by the remission of sins. This will be the kind of message that he will preach. He will bring knowledge and salvation and that salvation comes by the remission of sins.’ When you study the baptism of John, which we will do later, it has to do with the baptism of confession of sin and repentance and turning from sin and turning to God, and remission for sin coming because of confession and repentance. That is what he is going to do. He is going to open up the way and begin to bring knowledge of salvation to the people and the remission of their sins.
Then he talks about the immediate future and even on in to the future. He said because in His mercy – God and His mercy, He has visited us and says that the dayspring from on High. This word ‘dayspring’ literally means something like the sunrise of a new day, the springing up, the dawning of a new day. I remember a song that caught our ear years ago “It is the dawning of the age of Aquarius” and it seemed to be the theme song of the new age movement. They don’t have the slightest idea of what it really means for the daystar to arise that you read about in the hearts of people and the daystar and the dawning of a new day when God begins to bring His salvation forth and reveals it. He [John] says ‘He has visited us and He will continue to visit in mercy from on high.’ He will continue to come to us like a dawning of bright new day and He will come in His sovereign power to bring His salvation and to fulfill all of His promises so that light will be able to shine to them. Quoting now, Zacharias is quoting from Isaiah, the prophet. And what we have seen in these prophetic utterances, not only by Mary but also by Zacharias, is that under the divine prophetic gift it always comes in perfect harmony with what the Word of God has already said. Anybody who gives a “prophecy” and it does not harmonize with the revealed Word of God, just mark it off. These people under the divine unction of the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy are prophesying and quoting Scripture. They are bringing in the fulfillment of certain Words of the Old Testament into their prophecy. I’ve heard prophecies like that and interpretation of tongues like that where the Holy Spirit quickened the Word of God that had already been revealed and brought it into the interpretation or prophecy and it is certainly in good Biblical order, because both Mary and here is Zacharias doing it.
When he said ‘He will bring light to them that sit in darkness. They that sit in darkness have seen a great light,’ Isaiah said, and in the shadow of death. But this light will come to them, to people in darkness. That’s where I started earlier. That’s where I’m ending now. When I was just making some preliminary remarks before we read about and talking about the light coming into the lives of people. I wish I could get this message across. I wish I knew how to tell people that when His light shines in the darkness, even in the shadow of death, it becomes a guide to your feet.
There may be somebody here tonight who has questions about your life and what to do, and what steps to take. Allow this light to shine into your life and it will give guidance to your steps and to your feet. And as you follow it, it becomes brighter. As you face into this glorious light, you see things more clearly. If you turn your back on it, then all you will see are the shadows that fall out in front of you. If you’ve got shadows out in front of your life tonight, for God’s sake, turn around! Face the light! Let the shadows fall behind you and let the light of divine revelation open up your heart. God will guide your feet into the way of peace. There are a lot of people in our troubled world who need to put their feet on the road to peace and walk in that direction until they find the way of peace.
I pray that the prophetic words of this great priest from so many years gone by will penetrate our hearts tonight. Let the story of God fulfilling His promises and His plan and His purposes bringing about salvation, opening up our eyes and letting the light shine into our hearts, I hope that rekindles a flame of praise and worship in your heart. If anyone in his house tonight feels that you are stumbling along, I would ask you to come tonight toward the light, toward the truth, toward the Word of God to believe in it, to stand upon it, and receive it into your heart. It will become strength to your life. It will become food to your starving soul. It will become brightness to the windows of your life. I feel moved upon by the Holy Spirit to see if there is someone who really needs to come pray tonight for the Lord to just take charge of your life. And by coming up here you are saying ‘I want to believe the Word of God and I want to follow Jesus Christ, and I want to follow the light. I don’t want to walk in darkness.’ Can you make that kind of testimony? Pray, saints. I’m feeling the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the unction and presence of the Holy Spirit that wants to give strength and guidance and help to somebody tonight. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
I’d like us to pray now. Make an altar right where you are. Lift your heart in praise to God and magnify Him and glorify Him. Let us pray. “Our Father, we thank You for the touch of Your mighty hand. We thank You for the power of the Word of God. We thank You for the visitation of the Holy Spirit. We thank You for the presence of a holy living God in this place tonight. We thank You and we honor You and we reverence You and we praise Thy Holy Name. Breathe upon us in this hour. Receive us graciously, Oh God. Help us to worship You in spirit and in truth and to live our lives daily without fear, but in holiness and in righteousness all the days of our life.” Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the Name of Jesus!
In the words of this verse 80 that said ‘the child grew and waxed strong in the spirit,’ I pray you go tonight in the Name of the Lord Jesus and wax strong in the spirit. God bless you.
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