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Archive for December 24th, 2012

PART I

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We will look today at Luke 1:5-7:

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

I enjoy Luke 1:5-7 and in a way it stands out from the rest of Luke chapter 1.  The lack of the miraculous in this passage makes it easier to relate to for today than what follows in the rest of the chapter and beyond.  For the careful reader, one would note that this passage affirms the reality of suffering in this world.  No doubt since suffering is a reality in this life various forms of the problem of evil have been brought up even among Christians.  And yet this passage reveal two individuals who are faithful to God even as things don’t go their way–and the presence of evil that surrounds them.

Note the following:

1.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a time where the wicked reign (v.5a)

2.) Zechariah and Elizabeth own life was far from being ideal (v. 7a)

3.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and know the experience of being elderly (v. 7b)

1.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a time where the wicked reign (v.5a)

PASSAGE:In the days of Herod, king of Judea,”

Who was King Herod?

He was a very cruel man .  Extraordinary brutal.  Even within his own family, he executed several of his own sons whom he suspected of plotting against him, along with his favorite wife, the Hasmonean Mariamne (or Miriam).  The Roman emperor Augustus said of him: “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”  AND HERE WAS THIS EVIL MAN RULING–EVEN OVER THOSE WHO WERE GODLY.

How long did he reign wickedly for?

The “days of Herod” would have spanned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. (Fitzmyer, 322).

2.) Zechariah and Elizabeth own life was far from being ideal (v. 7a)

PASSAGE: But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren,” 

But they had no child

Culture had a higher premium of having kids back then than today.  Biblically children was a blessing from the Lord and yet they did not have any.

“…because Elizabeth was barren,

Reason why they were childless is given here.  Being “barren” must be understood in their Old Testament background of what it means, in which it can be seen as the worst thing to happen to a married woman.   One can think of Genesis 30:1 of Rachel two choices to Jacob of having children or she will die and 1 Samuel 1:6 of Hannah being maligned (Hendriksen, 67).

One can imagine people using Psalm 113:9 to judge someone who is barren (Hendriksen, 67).  Yet is there legitimate grounds to say this?

In the Greek, “Elizabeth” has an article before it and thus “the Elizabeth “This verse echoes other godly women in the Bible who were barren such as Sarah (16:1), Rebecca (Genesis 25:21), Rachel (Genesis 30:1), Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2), Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2).  The significance of the article is that it points to the fact that this is the same Elizabeth previously mentioned in verse 6 as being Godly who is also the same one here that is sterile.  The significance here is that sometimes even godly people have things happen to them that we might say, “Is it fair?”

3.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and know the experience of being elderly (v. 7b)

Passage: and they were both advanced in[j]years” 

Old age is a cruel affliction to humanity.  Think of frail human bodies.  Frail human spirits.  Nursing homes.  Think of cruel, mean, sad looking faces of those who are pass their primes.  Think of accomplished men and women, whose days and glory have been long past and significance have been forgotten or no longer appreciated–who are viewed by others and their own adult childrens as, well children–or worst, they have deterioted to being ACTUALLY acting and talking like children.  In more words that the existentialists and Nhilists can poetically describe, old age can be a cruel lot to afflict those who haven’t been taken away yet.

And yet surprisingly, this couple, with much afflictions and suffering were described by Luke as being godly (v.5b-6)

there was a priest named [g]Zacharias, of the division of[h]Abijah; and he had a wife [i]from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

What gives?

Why didn’t Zecharias gave up, submit his ex-Christian testimony and sell books with titles like “Diaries of an Ex-Minister”?  I’m embellishing here-but you should get the point: this couple was old, faithful to God and yet suffering was very real to them.  What was it that gave them the hope within them to go on?  What reason could they give?

What is the reason for their hope?

1.)  Their hope is based upon the fact that God does focus upon the Godly

One must not miss the point that Luke 1:5-7 is about the godly.  The implication of this is huge: There is a big contrast between the terrible king and this pious priest, and I think it shows that God’s view of history is not just only upon famous people who are recognized by the world as movers and shakers but instead upon those who are faithful to Him.  For those of us who are His people, He cares and watches out for us.  King Herod is only mentioned incidentally here.  Their relationship with God along with God’s focus upon them must have been a sweet and powerful comfort, in which despite years of ongoing violence around them and affecting them as well, Zecharias and Elizabeth still followed God; and followed God through their old age and having no children.

2.) Their hope is based upon the fact that God Kept His Word

They lived with the motivation that God kept His promises.

It seems this old couple focused on God’s promises in their lives by the significance of their names

Zecharias means “God Remembers”

Elizabeth means “God is an Oath” that is, with the idea of God being absolutely reliable (Hendriksen, 65).

God’s promise can be seen in history and providence: “Zacharias, of the division of[h]Abijah;

It is some kind of division of priests in which there were 24 division with each serving at the temple for a one week duration twice a year (Hendriksen, 65).

Translated as “Abijah,” it refers to the eighth division out of the 24 division of priests serving the temple.

The fact that there were still priests in Israel was because of the faithfulness of God to His promises to bring back Israel from the Babylonian captivity.

The Christian apologist must not downplay or forget the importance of God’s Word being fulfiled in the role of encouraging believers for the hope that they have within them whether it’s the study of Messianic prophecies, other historical prophecies being fulfilled and the study of the doctrine of God’s providence and role in History.  Of course, the framework for the study of historical apologetics must be thoroughly biblical.

CONCLUSION

Most Christian apologist can recite 1 Peter 3:15, the apologist’s “Constitution:”

 but [c]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being readyto make a [d]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [e]reverence;

But the apologist must not forget contextually the verse before it,

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [a]are blessed. And do not fear their[b]intimidation, and do not be troubled

1 Peter 3:15 is situated in the context of believers suffering and persecuted.  How appropriate would it be that Zecharias and Elizabeth be a model for the Christian apologist to own up to the hope that we have, live it out and bear witness God’s testimony and power in the midst of evil around them, suffering, and things not going our way.

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