Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 1:15

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Abstinence, Total;   Angel (a Spirit);   Barrenness;   Children;   Elisabeth (Elizabeth);   Gabriel;   Holy Spirit;   John;   Joy;   Nazarite;   Prophets;   Temple;   Vision;   Wine;   Zacharias (Zechariah);   Zeal, Religious;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Thompson Chain Reference - Abstinence;   Emptiness-Fulness;   Greatness, God's;   Holy Spirit;   Honour-Dishonour;   Social Duties;   Spirit;   Temperance;   Temperance-Intemperance;   Total Abstinence;   True Greatness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Nazarites;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Elisabeth;   John;   Nazarite;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Elizabeth;   Gabriel;   Grapes;   John the baptist;   Nazirite;   Zechariah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Abortion;   Angel;   Holy Spirit;   Jerusalem;   John the Baptist;   Miracle;   Vision(s);   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Angel;   Union Hypostatical;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Baptism, Christian;   Drink, Strong;   John the Baptist;   Nazarite;   Wine;   Zacharias;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Herod;   Juttah;   Mary, the Virgin;   Nazarite;   Tongues, Gift of;   Wine;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Annunciation;   Gabriel;   Holy Spirit;   Incense;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   John;   Luke, Gospel of;   Mother;   Nazirite;   Strong Drink;   Temple of Jerusalem;   Zacharias;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gabriel;   John the Baptist;   Possession;   Vision;   Wine and Strong Drink;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Curse;   Deaf and Dumb;   Drunkenness;   Drunkenness (2);   Holiness Purity;   Holy Spirit (2);   Hymn;   John the Baptist;   Nazirite;   Nazirite ;   Spirit ;   Trinity (2);   Zacharias ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Elisabeth ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Gabriel;   Theophilus;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elisabeth;   Nazarites;   Smith Bible Dictionary - John the Baptist;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Consecration;   Eating;   Fulness;   John the Baptist;   Vinegar;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - John, the Baptize;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Baptism (Non-Immersionist View);   Drink, Strong;   Drunkenness;   John the Baptist;   Liquor;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - John the Baptist;   Nazarite;  
Unselected Authors

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Luke 1:15. He shall be great in the sight of the Lord — That is, before Jesus Christ, whose forerunner he shall be; or he shall be a truly great person, for so this form of speech may imply.

Neither wine nor strong drinkσικερα, i.e. all fermented liquors which have the property of intoxicating, or producing drunkenness. The original word σικερα, sikera, comes from the Hebrew, שכר shakar, to inebriate. "Any inebriating liquor," says St. Jerome, (Epis. ad Nepot.)" is called sicera, whether made of corn, apples, honey, dates, or any other fruits." One of the four prohibited liquors among the East Indian Moslimans is called sikkir. "Sikkir is made by steeping fresh dates in water till they take effect in sweetening it: this liquor is abominable and unlawful." HEDAYA, vol. iv. p. 158. Probably this is the very liquor referred to in the text. In the Institutes of Menu it is said, "Inebriating liquor may be considered as of three principal sorts: that extracted from dregs of sugar, that extracted from bruised rice, and that extracted from the flowers of the madhuca: as one, so are all; they shall not be tasted by the chief of the twice-born." Chap. xi. Inst. 95. Twice-born is used by the Brahmins in the same sense as being born again is used by Christians. It signifies a spiritual regeneration. From this word comes our English term cyder, or sider, a beverage made of the fermented juice of apples. Leviticus 10:9.

Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost — Shall be Divinely designated to this particular office, and qualified for it, from his mother's womb-from the instant of his birth. One MS., two versions, and four of the primitive fathers read εν τη κοιλια, IN the womb of has mother - intimating that even before he should be born into the world the Holy Spirit should be communicated to him. Did not this take place on the salutation of the Virgin Mary? - and is not this what is intended, Luke 1:44? To be filled with the Holy Ghost, implies having the soul influenced in all its powers, with the illuminating, strengthening, and sanctifying energy of the Spirit.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/luke-1.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

2. Birth of John the Baptist foretold (Luke 1:5-25)

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest. Because all male descendants of Aaron were priests, there were, even in Old Testament times, too many priests for the amount of work to be done. David therefore divided them into twenty-four divisions, and each division served for two weeks each year. Zechariah belonged to the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5; cf. 1 Chronicles 24:1-19). (All priests would be required for duty during the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, which together would account for the remaining four weeks of the year; cf. Exodus 23:14-17.)

Each morning and each evening one priest was chosen by lot to go into the temple and burn incense while the people outside prayed. Priests valued this duty as something they would probably do only once in a lifetime; but for Zechariah the joy of the occasion was mixed with personal disappointment, as his own prayers had not been answered. He and his wife Elizabeth had prayed for many years that God would give them a child, but they were still childless (Luke 1:6-10).

While Zechariah was carrying out his priestly duties, God showed him that his prayers would now be answered. Elizabeth would have a child, to be named John, who would become a special messenger from God to his people. He would be equipped by God’s Spirit for his ministry, and he would live under the restrictions of a person set apart for God (Luke 1:11-15; cf. Numbers 6:1-8). John’s task was to call the people of Israel to repentance. If they responded to his preaching, they would be united in spirit with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and would be ready to welcome the Messiah (Luke 1:16-17; cf. Malachi 4:5-6).

Although Zechariah had the faith to pray, he did not have the faith to believe the answer to his prayer. As a chastisement for his lack of faith, he became dumb for a period (Luke 1:18-22). God did not, however, withdraw his promise. When Zechariah’s time of service at the temple was over, he returned to his home, and soon Elizabeth became pregnant (Luke 1:23-25).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/luke-1.html. 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.

Great in the sight of the Lord ... is a far different thing from being great in the sight of men, the vicious and unprincipled Herod the Great, just mentioned, being a classical example of the latter type of "greatness."

No wine nor strong drink ... This prohibited, not merely wine, but all intoxicants, and supports the view that John the Baptist like Samuel, Samson, and the Rechabites in the Old Testament, was a Nazarite for life (Numbers 6:1-21); however, as Ash noted, "Some facets of the Nazarite vow are not specified here (e.g., allowing the hair to grow)."[16] The type of ascetic piety exhibited by John had its proper place in the purpose of God; although John, strictly speaking, was not in the kingdom, because he preceded it. Nevertheless, God used him, particularly in the manner of his life style contrasting so dramatically with that of Jesus.

It is impossible to avoid the significance of the contrast in this verse between intoxicating "spirits" which John would renounce and the "Spirit" who would be in him, filling him, even from his mother's womb, and for his whole life. The same contrast was evident on Pentecost when the apostles were not "drunk with wine" but filled with "the Spirit." Paul wrote, "And be not drunken with wine wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Strong drink is an unqualified curse upon the earth; and, although Christ did not require the kind of abstinence which marked the life of John the Baptist, drunkenness is forbidden, as well as any association with a drunkard (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/luke-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Shall be great - Shall be eminent, or distinguished as a preacher.

In the sight of the Lord - Greek, “before the Lord.” That is, shall be “really” or “truly” great. God shall regard him as such.

Shall drink neither wine - The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the common drink of all classes of the people. See the notes at John 2:11. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite, Numbers 6:3. It was because John sustained this character that he abstained from the use of wine.

Strong drink - It is not easy to ascertain precisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The art of distilling was discovered by an Arabian chemist in the 9th or 10th century; but distilled liquors are not used by Arabians. They banished them at once, as if sensible of their pernicious influence; nor are they used in Eastern nations at all. Europe and America have been the places where this poison has been most extensively used, and there it has beggared and ruined millions, and is yearly sweeping thousands unprepared into a wretched eternity. The “strong drink” among the Jews was probably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs, and the juice of the palm, or the lees of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Many of the Jewish writers say that by the word here translated “strong drink” was meant nothing more than old wine, which probably had the power of producing intoxication. See the notes at Isaiah 5:11.

Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost ... - Shall be divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be “filled” with the Holy Spirit is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by his influence. In this place it refers:

  1. To the divine intention that he should be set apart to this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother’s womb, Galatians 1:15.
  2. It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:5, and with the Messiah himself, Psalms 22:9-10.
  3. Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Bibliographical Information
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/luke-1.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

15. For he shall be great He confirms what he said about joy, for John had been selected for a great and extraordinary purpose. These words are not so much intended to extol his eminent virtues as to proclaim his great and glorious office; as Christ, when he declares that among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist, (Matthew 11:11,) refers less to the holiness of his life than to his ministry. What follows immediately afterwards, he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, must not be understood to mean that John’s abstemiousness was a singular virtue, but that God was pleased to distinguish his servant by this visible token, by which the world would acknowledge him to be a continual Nazarite. The priests too abstained from wine and strong drink, while they were performing their duties in the temple, (Leviticus 10:9.) The same abstinence was enjoined on the Nazarites, (Numbers 6:3,) until their vow should be fulfilled. By a striking mark God showed that John was dedicated to him to be a Nazarite for his whole life, as we learn was also the case with Samson, (Jude 13:3.) But we must not on this ground imagine that the worship of God consists in abstinence from wine, as apish copyists select some part of the actions of the fathers for an object of imitation. Only let all practice temperance, let those who conceive it to be injurious to drink wine abstain of their own accord, and let those who have it not endure the want with contentment. As to the word σίκερα, I fully agree with those who think that, like the Hebrew word שכר, it denotes any sort of manufactured wine.

He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost These words, I think, convey nothing more than that John would manifest such a disposition as would hold out the hope of future greatness. By disposition I mean not such as is found even in ungodly men, but what corresponds to the excellence of his office. The meaning is, the power and grace of the Spirit will appear in him not only when he shall enter upon his public employment, but even from the womb he shall excel in the gifts of the Spirit, which will be a token and pledge of his future character. From the womb, means from his earliest infancy. The power of the Spirit, I acknowledge, did operate in John, while he was yet in his mother’s womb; but here, in my opinion, the angel meant something else, that John, even when a child, would be brought forward to the public gaze, accompanied by extraordinary commendation of the grace of God. As to fullness, there is no occasion for entering into the subtle disputations, or rather the trifling, of the sophists; for Scripture conveys nothing more by this word than the pre-eminent and very uncommon abundance of the gifts of the Spirit. We know, that to Christ alone the Spirit was given without measure, (John 3:34,) that we may draw out of his fullness, (John 1:16;) while to others it is distributed according to a fixed measure, (1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:7.) But those who are more plentifully endued with grace beyond the ordinary capacity, are said to be full of the Holy Ghost. Now, as the more plentiful influence of the Spirit was in John an extraordinary gift of God, it ought to be observed that the Spirit is not bestowed on all from their very infancy, but only when it pleases God. John bore from the womb a token of future rank. Saul, while tending the herd, remained long without any mark of royalty, and, when at length chosen to be king, was suddenly turned into another man, (1 Samuel 10:6.) Let us learn by this example that, from the earliest infancy to the latest old age, the operation of the Spirit in men is free.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/luke-1.html. 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Luke, the author of this third gospel, was called by Paul the apostle "the beloved physician." There is some speculation that his patron was a man by the name of Theophilus. In those days physicians were often slaves. And there are some who theorize that Luke was Theophilus' personal physician and servant. Whether or not that be so is only a matter of speculation, and thus, worthless to delve into.

Luke was a Greek. And he is the only Gentile to have the privilege of placing scripture in that holy canon of scripture, which we recognize as inspired of God. And there are two New Testament books that are ascribed to Luke. Of course, the gospel according to Luke and then the Acts of the apostles, which he begins again addressing himself to Theophilus saying, "The former treatise have I made onto thee, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach" ( Acts 1:1 ).

There are some who say that the word Theophilus is not actually a person at all, but just the word in Greek, Theophilao is "lover of God". And so that Luke is actually addressing his letter to the lovers of God. However, the people were usually named after hopes or aspirations or whatever of their parents, and there is no real reason to believe that Theophilus was not an actual person. In fact, being addressed as the most excellent Theophilus indicates that he was actually a ruler in the Roman Empire, as that is a title that is given to men who had a ruling position within the Roman Empire.

Luke introduces the gospel to Theophilus in the first four verses of chapter one.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in an orderly fashion those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them onto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had a complete understanding of all of these things from the very first, to write unto thee an orderly progression, most excellent Theophilus. That you may know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed ( Luke 1:1-4 ).

So Luke here declares that he has heard the message from those persons who were actually the eyewitnesses to these things. Now Luke, no doubt, interviewed personally Mary, in order that he might get a complete understanding concerning the circumstances that were surrounding the birth of Jesus. Luke, being a doctor, would be interested in various aspects that bordered on the medical profession. And it is obvious that he received the information of chapters one and two directly from Mary. And so from his interview with Mary and his questioning of Mary, he got the information for chapters one and two. And the information in these two chapters is not found in detail like this in the other gospels. He had heard Peter and John and those who had been with Jesus, those who were eyewitnesses, he heard their stories, as they told of their relationship with Jesus and of the work and the ministry that Jesus preformed. And then he, no doubt, questioned them more thoroughly to get a more complete understanding. And having what he feels to be a complete understanding of the story, he then proceeds to write to this man Theophilus, in order that he might realize the certainty of those things that he had heard.

Now Luke begins then the actual story of the gospel of Jesus by dealing with the birth, first of all, of John the Baptist, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

And so there was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth ( Luke 1:5 ).

So immediately we are introduced to the persons that will be involved in the first part of his narrative here.

Zacharias of the tribe of Levi, making him then one of the priests. He was of the family of Abirim. His wife was also of the tribe of Levi. She was a descendent from the family of Aaron. Now at this particular time in Israel, there were around 20,000 descendents from Levi, male descendents, involved in the priesthood. And in as much as it was, of course, impossible for all 20,000 to serve continually in the temple, each family had their turn to serve, and they served twice during the year for one-week periods. And when it was the turn of your family to serve, they would cast lots to determine what particular aspect of the service you would be engaged in. And maybe once in a lifetime the priest would have his lot to fall upon the offering of the incense before the altar of incense before the Lord. This was usually just a once in a lifetime; one day in your life you get this glorious privilege of going in with the incense before the altar of incense to offer it before the Lord for the people. And so this was surely a significant and a special day for Zacharias, who during the time that he was serving there, the lot fell on him for this particular task.

Now we are told concerning Zacharias and Elisabeth that:

They were both righteous before God, [they] walked in all of the commandments and the ordinances of the Lord blameless ( Luke 1:6 ).

Two beautiful, righteous people who are quite insignificant as far as the world is concerned. People who loved the Lord, people who walked with the Lord, people you would have never heard about, unless they had been so involved in the story of Jesus Christ. The people, because of their involvement, we are told of them.

Now we are also told that:

They had no child, because Elisabeth was barren; and they were both now well stricken in years ( Luke 1:7 ).

That is, the years had taken their toll; they were bent over. They had become feeble. And the idea of well stricken in years is that of feebleness as the result of age.

In that culture it was considered a curse for a woman not to bear a child. And it was legal grounds for divorce. Had Zacharias desire to put away Elisabeth because of her inability to bear children, no one would have questioned him. It would have been accepted by everybody. But, no doubt, there was a tremendous love that they shared together, and they shared this grief and this sorrow together that they were unable to have children.

Now it came to pass, that, while he was fulfilling the priest office before God in the order of his course ( Luke 1:8 ),

They had the priestly orders, and this was one of the weeks that he had to come in for his particular duty of service.

According as was the custom of the priest office, his lot fell that he might burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord ( Luke 1:9 ).

And you can imagine the excitement of this old man, probably the only day in his life. And he probably had given up by now ever having the opportunity of burning incense. When the lots were drawn, his was that lot to burn the incense before the Lord that day.

And the whole multitude of people were praying outside at the time of incense ( Luke 1:10 ).

Now they would go in before the altar of incense, and they would take this little golden bowl that had burning coals that had been taken from the altar where they had offered the sacrifice. The lamb was offered in the morning and in the evening. And they would take the coals from the altar, put it in this little golden bowl, and then they would put the incense on top. And they would go in swinging this little incense burner before the altar incense, and the smoke, the sweet smelling smoke, would ascend up, and it was a beautiful symbolism of how God receives the prayers of His people. Our prayers that we offer to God arise before God as a sweet smelling odor, pleasant, beautiful.

In the book of Revelation, chapter 5, when the lamb takes the scroll out of the right hand of Him who is sitting upon the throne, John said, "And the twenty-four elders came forth with their little golden bowls, full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints, and they offered them before the throne of God" ( Revelation 5:8 ).

Now you remember that when God gave to Moses the instructions for building the tabernacle, and all of these furnishings, and the methods of worship were established, the Lord told Moses over, and over, "Now be careful that you make it exactly according to plan." And the reason why he was to make it exactly according to the plan that was given to him was because this whole thing was a model of what is in heaven. If you want to know what the heavenly scene, the throne of God and all looks like, you can study the tabernacle. And it was a model of heavenly things. So, as the priest on earth would take this little golden bowls and fill them with incense and the incense would arise as the prayer, a sweet smelling savor before God, so in heaven. Chapter 5 of Revelation, we see it fulfilled in the heavenly scene, as the twenty-four elders offer their little golden bowls full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.

So a beautiful symbolism there. And so in offering the incense before the altar of incense, which was in the inner court of the temple, in the holy place, not the holy of holies--only the high priest went in there once a year, but the holy place which was just outside of the holy of holies.

And while he was there, the multitude of people were waiting outside. Because it was then customary when he came out to place the blessing of God upon the people. It was a special occasion, and the people would wait for the priest to come out and give them this blessing.

And there appeared onto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said onto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard ( Luke 1:11-13 );

What prayer? For years he had been praying, "Lord, please give me a son." It really gives to us encouragement for persistence in prayer. He didn't give up. Even though he was now old. Well stricken with years. He was still praying, "Oh, Lord, I'd love to have a son."

thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name, Johanam ( Luke 1:13 ).

Which means the Lord is gracious. It is shortened to John, but the full name is actually Johanam.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the side of the Lord, and he shall drink neither wine, nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [that is the Messiah] in the spirit and in the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord ( Luke 1:14-17 ).

Now the last word of God to man prior to this was in Malachi, the fourth chapter. And the last word of God to man was in Malachi 4:5 ,"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

That was the last word of God to man in the old covenant period, prior to the angel meeting Zacharias there at the altar of the Lord. And it is interesting though the Lord has been silent for four hundred years, that very promise, which was the last promise of the old testament, is the first word of the Lord in the new testament, which is the fulfillment of that prophesy, which is about to take place, as this child that will be born, will go forth in the spirit and in the power of Elijah.

Now there is a lot of confusion as regards to John the Baptist, and the prophesy of the coming of Elijah. In John's gospel we are told that as John was baptizing at the Jordan River, the Pharisees came out and they demanded of him his authority, and who gave him the authority to do these things. They said, "Are you the Messiah?" He said, "No." They said, "Are you Elijah?" He said, "No." "Then who are you?" He said, "I am just the voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His path" ( John 1:20-23 ).

And yet, here the angel of the Lord tells his father that he will be going forth in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah.

Now the confusion exists in the fact that there were two comings of the Messiah. The first coming that we find recorded here in the gospel. The second coming for which we presently wait. And even as Elijah will appear before Jesus comes again. So John the Baptist came in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah. And if a person is able to accept it, he was the fulfillment of that promise of Elijah coming before the Lord, to cause the hearts of the children to turn to their fathers, and their fathers to their children.

So the confusion lies in the fact that there are two comings of the Messiah, as well as the two comings of Elijah, both of them to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

He shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He was to be as a Nazarene. Not drinking wine or strong drink, but filled with the Holy Spirit, from his mother's womb.

In a little bit we will be studying where Mary, when she received word that she was to be the instrument through which the Messiah was to be born, went to this little village of Juda, the home of Elisabeth, who at that point was six months pregnant. And when Mary walked in and greeted Elisabeth, Elisabeth felt the baby leap in her womb, and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

So at that time, no doubt, John was also filled with the Holy Spirit, a prenatal experience, which is quite interesting indeed. Even from his mother's womb.

Now though Zacharias had been praying that he might have a son, the prayers had not really been prayers of faith anymore, just of a hardly even a glimmering hope. Because when this angel told him that he was to have a son, he didn't believe it. And he challenged the angel.

Zacharias said onto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is well stricken in years. And the angel answering said onto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I've been sent to speak to thee, and to show thee this glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season ( Luke 1:18-20 ).

It is interesting to me that we so often put such great emphasis upon our faith that God will do a certain thing. As though God is almost impotent apart from man's faith, to operate, or to work. But here with Zacharias, the angel said, "Alright, you want a sign? You're not going to be able to speak until the day the child is born, because you didn't believe."

The things that God is going to perform, whether you believe it or not, God is going to do it. Your unbelief will not stop the work of God. It will not hinder the purposes of God. And so many times they put heavy trips on us. You know, as though God's work is totally responsible upon my hanging in there and believing, and I feel so guilty because maybe I failed God, and thus, people are lost, or whatever, because I failed God. No, God's purposes shall stand, whether I believe it or not. You see, your believing or not believing doesn't really hinder the work of God. He is going to do what He is going to do, in spite of us. And that's sort of comforting, because I'd hate to think that God's work depended on me and my faithfulness.

You remember when the children of Israel were threatened with extinction because of Haman's getting the king to sign the degree that all the Jews were to be put to death on a certain day. And Mordecai sent a message to Esther that she should go in before the king and plead the cause of her people. And she responded, "You just don't do that, that's not the protocol of the court. Even as his wife I can't go in there anytime I want to see him. I can't go in there unless he calls me in. And if anyone would there to go in before the king, not being called, you're putting your own life in jeopardy. Because if he doesn't raise the scepter, they'll put you to death immediately. And so Mordecai sent an answer back, "Do you think that if this degree goes through that you're going to escape? How do you know, Esther, but what God didn't bring you to the kingdom for just this purpose?" And then he said, "If you altogether fail, then their deliverance will arise from another corner." God is going to deliver His people. His purposes are going to stand. God is going to deliver His people. But you will lose out completely.

Now God's work is going to be done. You may lose out on those rewards and blessings that you could have experienced, had you've been faithful. But your unfaithfulness is not going to stop that which God has purposed to do.

And so here is Zacharias, filled with unbelief. "How can I know this? I am old man, my wife is an old woman. What do you mean I am going to have a son?" " I am Gabriel."

The last appearance of Gabriel to our knowledge on the earth was about a little over five hundred years prior to this particular event, when Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel and gave to Daniel one of the clearest prophesies concerning the time of the coming of the Messiah. It was Gabriel who said unto Daniel that there are seventy sevens determined upon the nation of Israel, to finish the transgression, to make an end of iniquity. To bring in the everlasting righteousness. To anoint the most holy place. To complete the prophetic picture. And no one understand from the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, to the coming of the Messiah, the prince, will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. The walls should be built again in troublous times. And after the sixty-nine sevens will the Messiah be caught off, and receive nothing for Himself, and the people will be dispersed.

And so this amazing prediction of the time of the coming of the Messiah was given by none other than our friend Gabriel. Sort of a timeless fellow, because now it's over five hundred years later, and he shows up on the scene again. Probably looking as young and fresh as ever. Announcing now to Zacharias that his wife Elisabeth was to bear the son, which was to be the forerunner of the Messiah, as he will go forth in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah to fulfill the prophesy of sending the messenger before the face of the Lord.

It would appear that as God has set in order the things of the universe, that He probably placed Gabriel as the overseer in charge of the details of getting His Son into the world. Preparing the people on the earth, preparing Mary, because it was Gabriel who appeared to Mary. Preparing here Zacharias. It would seem that he has a hard time keeping secrets. He appeared five hundred years earlier and spilled the beans to Daniel of a time that the Messiah would be coming. And so here he is again, some five hundred years later. It will be interesting to meet Gabriel, looking young and fresh as ever, as he is one of those special angels that God has committed great responsibilities to. And I for one am quite anxious to meet Gabriel. Now, I don't expect him to sit on my bed and pet my dog. And for you who have read that book, you know what I am talking about.

Now the people waited for Zacharias, [They were waiting outside for that blessing from the priest.] and they marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and so they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and he remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house ( Luke 1:21-23 ).

So, because they only served for a week at the time. In just a few days he left there, Jerusalem, and went to Judea, which is nearby Jerusalem, actually.

And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and she hid herself for five months, saying, Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach from among men ( Luke 1:24-25 ).

Her inability to bear children caused her to be a reproach. But the Lord, she says, has taken that away.

And in the sixth month [the same fellow] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin who was espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary ( Luke 1:26-27 ).

Three terms we need to deal with: engaged, espoused, and married. A person could become engaged when they were two years old, because for the most part, marriage was by arrangement. So parents would get together, they would be friends. You have a pretty little girl, your friends would have a nice little boy, and we're friends with each other, why don't we have your son marry my daughter? And we make the arrangements. And so here these little kids, they are four years old, walking around saying, "Well, we're engaged." Because the arrangements had been made by their parents that they would have each other as husband and wife. They felt that decisions as important as marriage should never be left to the capriciousness of youth. They felt that young people didn't have enough wisdom to choose their mates.

Now as they became older, and usually they were married by the age of fifteen or sixteen years old. And as they became older, one year before they had the marriage ceremony, they entered into a period known as espousal, where they were as though they were married, in that they were committed completely to each other, but there was never a consummation of the marriage during this period of time. However, once they entered into the period of espousal, they were considered married to the extent that if the fellow wanted to break it off, he had to actually get a divorce, even though the marriage at this point had never been consummated.

So Mary and Joseph were in this period of espousal. Where they were totally committed to each other and to the marriage of each other, and yet, the marriage was not to be consummated until the ceremony at a later time.

And so, "To the virgin who was espoused," she was in this period of the one year before the actual consummation of the marriage, "to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."

And the angel Gabriel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at what he was saying, and thought in her mind what kind of a greeting is this. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jehoshua ( Luke 1:28-31 ).

Which in Greek is Jesus, but in Hebrew Jehoshua, which means, Jehovah is salvation.

Now you remember in Matthew's gospel when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, and he was really troubled by it, because they were espoused. He thought he might just give her a bill of divorcement, put her away privately, because if he would her expose her publicly she'd be stoned to death. And the angel of the Lord came to Joseph at night and said, "Fear not to take Mary as your wife. That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and thou shalt call His name Jehoshua" ( Matthew 1:20-21 ). So both Mary and Joseph were instructed by the angel of the Lord in the naming of Jesus. But when he told Joseph, "Call his name Jehoshua," he said, "For He shall save His people from their sins."

So the name is extremely significant because it expresses the mission of Jesus, and that is bringing God's salvation to men. Jehoshua, the Lord is become our salvation.

Then the angel Gabriel went on to say,

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of His father David ( Luke 1:32 ):

And, of course, throughout the Old Testament prophesies, there was that promise that the Messiah would sit upon the throne of David, to order it, and to establish it in righteousness and in judgment, from henceforth, even forever.

And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end ( Luke 1:33 ).

In the book of Revelation, again, that glorious song that Handel has put to music, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords, forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah."

So the angel is telling about the eternal reign of Jesus Christ.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? ( Luke 1:34 )

Now there is a vast difference between the question of Zacharias and the question of Mary. Zacharias was questioning the word of the Lord. Mary was only asking information on the procedures. "How is this to be, seeing I know not a man?" Hers was not the question of doubt. Hers was only an inquiring question as to the manner by which it should be fulfilled. She believed. And that is pointed out a little later as Elisabeth said, "Blessed art thou who hast believed the words that the Lord spoke to thee."

She believed the word that the Lord spoke to her. However, she didn't know by what process it was to be fulfilled, and that really was her question. "How is this going to be, seeing I am a virgin, I know not a man?"

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy one which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month of her pregnancy, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her ( Luke 1:35-38 ).

There is sometimes within the Protestant circles, perhaps a backlash to that position that the Catholics have sought to place Mary in as the intercessor, and even some today, the co-redemptress, and there is that backlash among Protestants, oftentimes, to sort of put Mary down. However, as the angel said unto her that she was highly favored, that the Lord was with her and she was blessed among women. Surely when God chose an instrument by which to send His Son into the world, I am certain that He chose an instrument that He has thoroughly prepared. And I believe that Mary must have been one of the most beautiful of character of any woman who has ever lived. And I think that we can demonstrate this actually in the text. That she was a extremely unique individual.

Now remember it is possible that at this point she was only about sixteen years old. And yet, there is such a depth of character that is demonstrated in her. And it begins right here as when the angel tells her all of these remarkable, unusual things that are bound to create problems, as they did with Joseph her espoused husband, she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." With other words, she submitted herself to the purpose of God. "Here I am, let the Lord do as He pleases in my life." That kind of commitment. And I am just intrigued. And Mary is another one that I want to meet. What an unusually remarkable person. Surely the most blessed of any woman who has ever lived.

Now culturally it was the dream, the hope, the desire of every Jewish girl to be the instrument through which God would send the Messiah into the world. And thus, many young Jewish girls, when they had a boy born to them, would call his name Joshua. Hoping that maybe God would use that child to be the instrument of His salvation. And that was a reason, one of the reasons why being barren was considered such a curse. You have no opportunity to be the mother of the Messiah if you are barren. And that was the hope of every young Jewish girl to be the instrument that God would use, the dream, the hope. And with Elisabeth being barren, she had lost that hope. And, of course, everyone who was barren, they would lose the hope. "Oh, I can't be the instrument." And that was a very disappointing thing to them, to feel, "I can't be the instrument that God uses to accomplish His purpose."

Oh, that we would be concerned about being the instrument though which God accomplishes His purposes. Today, the Drews are very interesting people. They have an interesting religion that really they don't even know what it is. In the Drews religion, it's a break off from the Moslems, but only their priests know what they believe; the people don't know what they believe. And the priest does the whole religious bit for them. They know they are Drews, and they know that this is their religion and all, but only the priests know what it's all about. And they know what they believe, but the people don't. And many of the men, though, are priests. And as you go through the Drews' villages today, you will see these men wearing these pants with these large pouches in the front. For one of the things that the Drews do believe is that when the Messiah comes, He will be born of a man. And so going through their villages, and it's fascinating to go through the Drews' villages, and see these huge baggy pants in the front, these sacks that hang down in the front, and these man wear these in case they are the one that God chooses to send the Messiah through him.

In other words, they are they ones that get pregnant with the Messiah, and so they are prepared for it by wearing these pants with these large baggy things in the front. They are all set for their pregnancies. They already got their maternity clothes.

But such was the hope of every young girl in Israel. And the fulfillment of that hope came to one, a young girl from Nazareth. A beautiful young girl in character and spirit named Mary.

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, to the city of Juda; and she entered into the house of Zacharias, and she greeted Elisabeth ( Luke 1:39-40 ).

That word saluted is an old English word, and it actually means greeted. In the marriage ceremony they used to say, "You may now salute your bride." But during World War II, too many of the guys were not really understanding the old English word salute, and so it's now something that you say, "You may now kiss your bride."

So she entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elisabeth.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the [greeting] salutations of Mary, that the baby leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as I heard the voice of your greeting sounding in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believes: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord ( Luke 1:41-45 ).

I suppose that this would be an appropriate place to talk about abortion.

There was John the Baptist six months along, and yet, there was some kind of a recognition, for when Mary spoke, he responded it to it in the womb.

We are told that as the child is in the womb, that it begins to understand and to recognize voices. That you pregnant mothers should talk to your child. For if you are talking to them while you are still pregnant, they will be comforted by your voice after they are born, because they have learned to recognize it. More and more are we discovering interesting facets of that fetal development. And here at six months with John there was that capacity to leap for joy in his mother's womb when he heard the voice of Mary.

Now remember she is speaking by the Holy Spirit. And thus, we have the word of the Holy Spirit that the child leaped for joy, at the word of Mary.

We talked a little bit this morning about what factors are considered in determining what is right and what is wrong in our present society. And the effect that the philosophy has had upon our entire culture. The idea that the morees determine in a society what is accepted and unacceptable behavior. What is good, what is bad, what is right, and what is wrong. And in this particular philosophical determination, if enough people within a society began to practice a certain thing, it becomes then socially acceptable, or it becomes good, or becomes right, because that is determined by the mores of the society itself. Accepting that God does not exist, because it has to come from a totally humanistic base. God does not exist. And therefore, there is no godly standard for right or wrong. And in as much as there is no goodly standard for right or wrong, right or wrong is determined strictly by the practices, the mores of a particular society. And the sociologists will show that there are societies where the father has nothing to do with the children. And so in that society it is perfectly alright as the uncle takes the father role within the home. There are societies where they have a plurality of wives, or a plurality of husbands. And because it's the accepted practice of the society, no one thinks wrong of it or thinks it's bad or evil, and because the mores determine what is right and what is wrong. So you get enough people doing something, and suddenly it becomes right. And so we get enough abortions, killing millions of innocent babies, but it's alright because it has become part of the mores. No one is supposed to say anything against it.

I have a hard time handling my emotions around a child. I become foolish. I try to come to their level a bit to communicate with them. I am so fascinated with children. I love children so much. I love little boys, and I love little girls. And to me there is nothing more enjoyable than communicating with children. Seeing their responses. I love to study their faces. I love to study their habits. I love to study just children. I can hold them and just look at them for hours on end, watching them, watching the changing expressions and all. I love to see them develop and grow. That is why I have such tremendous difficulty with child abuse. Where an adult would deliberately abuse a little child. Hurt it, damage it, beat it, destroy it. And unfortunately, it is a rising, increasing problem in our society.

In fact, in L. A. County this year there have been more murders of infants than any time in the history of L. A. It's at record heights. Babies that are beaten to death, they are drowned, or suffocated, abused. It's reached record proportions this year. And I have such difficulty with this. My body begins to recoil. I have to put it out of my mind, because I just can't think about to long, it just affects me too deeply. But I wonder if much of this isn't attributed to the fact that we've began to put a cheaper value on life by the legalizing of abortion. You see, it's alright to abuse the child, as long as it hasn't been born yet. But if it is alright to abuse that child because it really doesn't understand much, it hasn't been born yet, then I wonder if the next step, it, well, it doesn't really understand too much of what's going on, so what difference does it make if you abuse the child? Because it doesn't really know or understand much yet. Whether or not that has anything to do with it, all I know is that with cheapening of the value of life, it seems to be following through all the segments of our society. And I think that we have some extremely dangerous sociological implications that will arise, from some of these humanistic, liberal legislative decisions that are being made. And I only say that to warn you. I don't think we're going to have to deal with it too long. I don't think God will allow things to go on much longer; I would be very shocked if He does.

All I can say, if I was the Lord, I would have closed it down a long time ago.

Now Elisabeth said onto her,

Blessed is she that believed ( Luke 1:45 ):

Mary believed.

for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said ( Luke 1:45-46 ),

And here we now get an insight into the beautiful depth of this young girl, as she began to just worship the Lord.

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. For his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. For he hath shown strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He's helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; And as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever [in a reference to the promise of God to Abraham, that through thy seed all nations of the earth will be blessed]. And Mary stayed with her for about three months ( Luke 1:46-56 ),

Probably until the time that John was born.

and then she returned to her own house ( Luke 1:56 ).

Probably stayed to help during this period of pregnancy.

Now she speaks here, beginning with verse Luke 1:51 , of the revolution that God creates. First of all, "He has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts." And so the first revolution is really an individual revolution of God scattering the proud. The second, "He put down the might from their thrones, and exalted them of low degree." And then thirdly, "Filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty," an economic revolution.

Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had shown great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eight day they came to circumcise the child; they called him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, Not so; he shall be called Johanan [God is gracious]. And they said unto her, There is none of your family that is called by that name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him to be named. He asked for a writing tablet, and he wrote, saying, His name is John [or Johanan]. And all of them marveled ( Luke 1:57-63 ).

Now when a woman was in labor, the neighbors would begin to gather, they would bring their musical instruments, and they would bring food and they prepare for a great party when the child was born. And when the child was born, and they would say, "It's a boy," the musicians would start playing, and they all dance, and they would have a big party. If when the child was born, and they said, "It's a girl," they take their musical instruments, fold them up, and go home.

In those days it was considered a great blessing to have a boy born in the home. But girls were sort of disregarded. It took really the teachings of Jesus Christ to elevate women to their proper level. Placing upon them that glory, honor that they deserve.

You women should be extremely thankful for Jesus Christ. All you have to do is go into a culture where the gospel of Christ has not had a strong influence, and look at the role of the woman, and you will appreciate more and more what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Look at the Bedouin society, look at the Indian culture, look at the culture of those people in New Guinea. Read the book, Lords of the Earth, it's a tremendous sociological insight into the culture of the New Guineans before the coming of Christianity. You'll really appreciate what Jesus Christ has done, in His elevation of womanhood, to its beautiful, proper place.

Now as soon as he had written on the tablet, his name is John,

His mouth was opened, and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke, and praised God. And fear came on all those that dwelled about them: and all of these sayings were noised abroad throughout all of the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What kind of a kid is this going to be? For the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit ( Luke 1:64-67 ),

Now Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary greeted her. Now Zacharias is filled with the Holy Spirit,

and he prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people ( Luke 1:67-68 ),

Blessing God for, first of all, the fact that God has visited His people. Jesus Christ is God, manifested in the flesh. And through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as he is prophesying, the first declaration is that God, the Lord God of Israel, has visited His people. "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God. The same was in the beginning with God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" ( John 1:1-2 , John 1:14 ).

He visited His people. But the purpose of His visit was redemption. He was visited and redeemed His people. Jesus, in announcing His purpose, declared, "For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" ( Luke 19:10 ). Redemption, the purpose of the coming of Christ. The Lord has raised up a power of salvation. The horn was always symbolic of power. And so He's raised up the power to salvation in the house of His servant David.

Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe" ( Romans 1:16 ).

The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness, but unto us who are saved, thereby it is the power of God.

Oh, blessed be God. He has visited His people. God has come to bring redemption, to give power for salvation through the house of His servant David.

As he spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets, which have been since the world began ( Luke 1:70 ):

Recognizing that the prophesies concerning the Savior, concerning the Messiah, have been in existence from the beginning of men's existence from the beginning of the fall, actually from the time of the fall, when God said to the woman, "Cursed be the serpent. Crawl upon the earth." But then He said that the seed of the woman will bruise his head. That sin would be destroyed by the seed of the woman. Blessed be God, He has brought now the power of salvation. He has redeemed through the seed of the woman, through the virgin-born child.

For God is performing the mercies that he has promised to our fathers, and he is remembering his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to our father Abraham ( Luke 1:72-73 ),

"Through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

That he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear ( Luke 1:74 ),

Salvation is more than being saved from. Yes, God has delivered us from the hand of our enemy, but He has saved us for the purpose that we might serve Him, without fear.

In holiness and in righteousness ( Luke 1:75 )

Now both holiness and righteousness have as their root idea that of being right. But holiness is a rightness of character, whereas righteousness is a rightness in conduct. But the one springs out of the other. Holiness is the root. Righteousness is the fruit that springs forth from the root. The difficulty that so many people have today is their endeavor to be right without holiness. But ultimately, any endeavor to be right will break down, for there is no motive strong enough to maintain righteousness, other than holiness. You've got to be pure at the core. You've got to have the holiness, the right attitude, if you are to have the right actions or activities.

And so it is God's purpose, first of all, that we walk before Him, or serve Him in holiness. That God does that work within our heart, changing our character, our life, in order that we might also serve Him in righteousness.

The Pharisees had a system of righteousness apart from holiness, and it was total failure. And Jesus remarked on the failure. He said, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you're not going to enter the kingdom of heaven" ( Matthew 5:20 ). So to the disciples that must have been one of the most shocking statements that Jesus had ever made. Because who was more right, who did the things more right than did the Pharisees? And yet, unless your righteousness exceeds those, you're not going to make it, Jesus said. Why? Because theirs was a righteousness without holiness. It wasn't from the heart. Their attitudes were stinking according to Jesus.

"The outside you're like a whitened sepulchre, but inside dead man's smelly bones. The outside of the platter is all clean, but the inside of the cup is filled with vermon. You may clean the outside, but the inside you have a righteousness without holiness, totally unaccepted. And unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees, you are not going to make into the kingdom of heaven." Because you have to have a righteousness that springs from holiness. The holiness of character. And God's purpose that we serve Him in holiness and in righteousness,

all the days of our life ( Luke 1:75 ).

And now addressing the child. This is a prophecy concerning the one that the child is to go before, but concerning the child himself, little John lying there.

And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest ( Luke 1:76 ):

Jesus said, of all the prophets born of woman, there hasn't been a greater one than arise than John. "Thou shalt be called the prophet of the Highest."

for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation onto his people, by the remission of their sins. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the sunrising from on high hath visited us [Or the dayspring, or the sunrising, or the rising of the sun], to give light to those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace [again referring to Christ] ( Luke 1:76-79 ).

God, by His tender mercy, has sent the sunrise from on high to visit us, that He might give us light, for those who are sitting in darkness, and in the shadows. That He might guide our feet in the way of peace. Peace with God.

And so the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his showing onto Israel ( Luke 1:80 ). "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/luke-1.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

A. The announcement of John the Baptist’s birth 1:5-25

There are striking parallels to this account in the Old Testament. Zechariah and Elizabeth were similar to Abraham and Sarah, to Jacob and Rachel, to Elkanah and Hannah, and to Samson’s parents. In each case there was a divine announcement of the birth of an unusual child.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-1.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. The angel’s announcement to Zechariah 1:8-23

"It seems indeed most fitting that the Evangelic story should have taken its beginning within the Sanctuary, and at the time of sacrifice." [Note: Ibid., 1:144.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-1.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Joy would replace fear in Zechariah’s heart and spread to his wife and then to all Israel. The coming of Israel’s predicted Messiah would be a joyous event according to the Old Testament. The theme of joy is prominent in Luke’s Gospel.

The cause of joy would be John’s spiritual greatness. The same angel also announced that Jesus would be great without qualification (Luke 1:32). Thus there was a connection between the roles of John and Jesus. The phrase "in the sight of" the Lord indicates God’s choice and approval. It translates a Greek word, enopion, which only Luke among the synoptic writers used. It appears 35 times in Luke and Acts. [Note: Martin, p. 204.] John used this word once, in John 20:30.

"Filling [with the Holy Spirit] is a general Lucan term for presence and enablement." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 98.]

The connection between control by drink and control by the Holy Spirit occurs elsewhere in Scripture (Ephesians 5:18). It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine if John was to be a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-12) or simply devoted to God. The priests were to refrain from strong drink before serving in the sanctuary (Leviticus 10:1-4; Leviticus 10:9-11). There are no other specific indications that John was a Nazirite, though he may have been. His ascetic lifestyle was similar to that of many prophets, particularly Elijah (Luke 1:17; 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4).

"John’s greatness is not found in his choice of lifestyle, but in the fact that in understanding his calling, he pursues it fully and carries out God’s will faithfully. John’s style will be different from that of Jesus. God does not make all people to minister in the same way. That diversity allows different types of ministry to impact different kinds of people." [Note: Idem, Luke, pp. 53-54.]

The Holy Spirit’s influence in his life was unusual for someone living in Old Testament times. Normally the Holy Spirit empowered people selectively and temporarily then. Luke had a special interest in the Holy Spirit’s enabling ministry that surfaces frequently in his writings (cf. Luke 1:35; Luke 1:41; Luke 1:67; Luke 2:25-27; Luke 3:16; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:1; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18; Luke 10:21; Luke 11:13; Luke 12:10; Luke 12:12; and many times in Acts).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-1.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord,.... Of Jehovah, the Father; with whom, what is highly esteemed among men, is oftentimes an abomination; and of the Lord Jesus Christ, before whom he was to go, and who pronounced him a prophet, and more than a prophet, and even greater than any born of women, Matthew 11:9 and of the Lord, the Spirit, with whom he was filled from his mother's womb: he was great, not in birth and blood, in worldly riches and grandeur, but in gifts and grace, in his work, office, and usefulness, and in the esteem of God, and even of men too:

and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; which were forbidden the Nazarites, Numbers 6:3 where the Jews, by "wine", understand "new wine"; and by "strong drink", old wine: so all the "three Targums", of Onkelos, Jonathan ben Uzziel, and the Jerusalem, paraphrase the words there, "from wine new and old, he shall separate himself"; and they allow strong drink to a Nazarite, that has no wine in it: their canon r runs thus,

"three things are forbidden a Nazarite, defilement, and shaving, and whatever proceeds from the vine, whether fruit, or the refuse of fruit; but strong drink made of dates, or dried figs, and such like, is free for a Nazarite; and the strong drink which is forbidden him in the law, is strong drink made of mixture of wine.''

But the Hebrew word, שכר, and which is here retained by the evangelist, signifies s any sort of liquor, which is inebriating, whether it is made of fruits, or honey, or what not. The Jews had no such strong drink as ours, which we call beer or ale; but they speak of the strong drink of the Medes, which they say was an inebriating liquor, made of barley t:

and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb; or "whilst in his mother's womb", as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it: like Jeremiah, he was sanctified, set apart, and ordained to be the prophet of the Highest, before he came out of his mother's womb; and was then under such an influence of the Spirit of God, as to leap in it for joy, at the salutation of the mother of Christ to his, Luke 1:41 and very early appeared to have the extraordinary gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, qualifying him for his work.

r Maimon. Hilch. Nezirut, c. 5. sect. 1. s R. David Kimchi in Sepher Shorashim, rad. שכר t Misn. Pesach. c. 3. sect. 1. & Jarchi, Maimom. & Bartenora in ib.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:15". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-1.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Appearance of an Angel to Zacharias; The Birth of John Foretold; The Unbelief of Zacharias.


      5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.   6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.   7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.   8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,   9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.   10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.   11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.   12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.   13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.   14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.   15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.   16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.   17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.   18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.   19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.   20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.   21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.   22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.   23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.   24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,   25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

      The two preceding evangelists had agreed to begin the gospel with the baptism of John and his ministry, which commenced about six months before our Saviour's public ministry (and now, things being near a crisis, six months was a deal of time, which before was but a little), and therefore this evangelist, designing to give a more particular account than had been given of our Saviour's conception and birth, determines to do so of John Baptist, who in both was his harbinger and forerunner, the morning-star to the Sun of righteousness. The evangelist determines thus, not only because it is commonly reckoned a satisfaction and entertainment to know something of the original extraction and early days of those who afterwards prove great men, but because in the beginning of these there were many things miraculous, and presages of what they afterwards proved. In these verses our inspired historian begins as early as the conception of John Baptist. Now observe here,

      I. The account given of his parents (Luke 1:5; Luke 1:5): They lived in the days of Herod the king, who was a foreigner, and a deputy for the Romans, who had lately made Judea a province of the empire. This is taken notice of to show that the sceptre was quite departed from Judah, and therefore that now was the time for Shiloh to come, according to Jacob's prophecy, Genesis 49:10. The family of David was now sunk, when it was to rise, and flourish again, in the Messiah. Note, None ought to despair of the reviving and flourishing of religion, even when civil liberties are lost. Israel enslaved, yet then comes the glory of Israel.

      Now the father of John Baptist was a priest, a son of Aaron; his name Zacharias. No families in the world were ever so honoured of God as those of Aaron and David; with one was made the covenant of priesthood, with the other that of royalty; they had both forfeited their honour, yet the gospel again puts honour upon both in their latter days, on that of Aaron in John Baptist, on that of David in Christ, and then they were both extinguished and lost. Christ was of David's house, his forerunner of Aaron's; for his priestly agency and influence opened the way to his kingly authority and dignity. This Zacharias was of the course of Abia. When in David's time the family of Aaron was multiplied, he divided them into twenty-four courses, for the more regular performances of their office, that it might never be either neglected for want of hands or engrossed by a few. The eighth of those was that of Abia (1 Chronicles 24:10), who was descended from Eleazar, Aaron's eldest son; but Dr. Lightfoot suggests that many of the families of the priests were lost in the captivity, so that after their return they took in those of other families, retaining the names of the heads of the respective courses. The wife of this Zacharias was of the daughters of Aaron too, and her name was Elisabeth, the very same name with Elisheba the wife of Aaron, Exodus 6:23. The priests (Josephus saith) was very careful to marry within their own family, that they might maintain the dignity of the priesthood and keep it without mixture.

      Now that which is observed concerning Zacharias and Elisabeth is,

      1. That they were a very religious couple (Luke 1:6; Luke 1:6): They were both righteous before God; they were so in his sight whose judgment, we are sure, is according to truth; they were sincerely and really so. They are righteous indeed that are so before God, as Noah in his generation, Genesis 7:1. They approved themselves to him, and he was graciously pleased to accept them. It is a happy thing when those who are joined to each other in marriage are both joined to the Lord; and it is especially requisite that the priests, the Lord's ministers, should with their yoke-fellows be righteous before God, that they may be examples to the flock, and rejoice their hearts. They walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. (1.) Their being righteous before God was evidenced by the course and tenour of their conversations; they showed it, not by their talk, but by their works; by the way they walked in and the rule they walked by. (2.) They were of a piece with themselves; for their devotions and their conversations agreed. They walked not only in the ordinances of the Lord, which related to divine worship, but in the commandments of the Lord, which have reference to all the instances of a good conversation, and must be regarded. (3.) They were universal in their obedience; not that they never did in any thing come short of their duty, but it was their constant care and endeavor to come up to it. (4.) Herein, though they were not sinless, yet they were blameless; nobody could charge them with any open scandalous sin; they lived honestly and inoffensively, as ministers and their families are in a special manner concerned to do, that the ministry be not blamed in their blame.

      2. That they had been long childless,Luke 1:7; Luke 1:7. Children are a heritage of the Lord. But there are many of his heirs in a married state, that yet are denied this heritage; they are valuable desirable blessings; yet many there are, who are righteous before God, and, if they had children, would bring them up in his fear, who yet are not thus blessed, while the men of this world are full of children (Psalms 17:14), and send forth their little ones like a flock,Job 21:11. Elisabeth was barren, and they began to despair of ever having children, for they were both now well stricken in years, when the women that have been most fruitful leave off bearing. Many eminent persons were born of mothers that had been long childless, as Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, and so here John Baptist, to make their birth the more remarkable and the blessing of it the more valuable to their parents, and to show that when God keeps his people long waiting for mercy he sometimes is pleased to recompense them for their patience by doubling the worth of it when it comes.

      II. The appearing of an angel to his father Zacharias, as he was ministering in the temple, Luke 1:8-11; Luke 1:8-11. Zechariah the prophet was the last of the Old Testament that was conversant with angels, and Zacharias the priest the first in the New Testament. Observe,

      1. How Zacharias was employed in the service of God (Luke 1:8; Luke 1:8): He executed the priest's office, before God, in the order of his course; it was his week of waiting, and he was upon duty. Though his family was not built up, or made to grow, yet he made conscience of doing the work of his own place and day. Though we have not desired mercies, yet we must keep close to enjoined services; and, in our diligent and constant attendance on them, we may hope that mercy and comfort will come at last. Now it fell to Zacharias's lot to burn incense morning and evening for that week of his waiting, as other services fell to other priests by lot likewise. The services were directed by lot, that some might not decline them and others engross them, and that, the disposal of the lot being from the Lord, they might have the satisfaction of a divine call to the work. This was not the high priest burning incense on the day of atonement, as some have fondly imagined, who have thought by that to find out the time of our Saviour's birth; but it is plain that it was the burning of the daily incense at the altar of incense (Luke 1:11; Luke 1:11), which was in the temple (Luke 1:9; Luke 1:9), not in the most holy place, into which the high priest entered. The Jews say that one and the same priest burned not incense twice in all his days (there were such a multitude of them), at least never more than one week. It is very probable that this was upon the sabbath day, because there was a multitude of people attending (Luke 1:10; Luke 1:10), which ordinarily was not on a week day; and thus God usually puts honour upon his own day. And then if Dr. Lightfoot reckon, with the help of the Jewish calendars, that this course of Abia fell on the seventeenth day of the third month, the month Sivan, answering to part of May and part of June, it is worth observing that the portions of the law and the prophets which were read this day in synagogues were very agreeable to that which was doing in the temple; namely, the law of the Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-27), and the conception of Samson, Judges 13:1-25

      While Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, the whole multitude of the people were praying without,Luke 1:10; Luke 1:10. Dr. Lightfoot says that there were constantly in the temple, at the hour of prayer, the priests of the course that then served, and, if it were the sabbath day, those of that course also that had been in waiting the week before, and the Levites that served under the priests, and the men of the station, as the Rabbin call them, who were the representatives of the people, in putting their hands upon the head of the sacrifices, and many besides, who, moved by devotion, left their employments, for that time, to be present at the service of God; and those would make up a great multitude, especially on sabbaths and feast-days: now these all addressed themselves to their devotions (in mental prayer, for their voice was not heard), when by the tinkling of a bell they had notice that the priest was gone in to burn incense. Now observe here, (1.) That the true Israel of God always were a praying people; and prayer is the great and principal piece of service by which we give honour to God, fetch in favours from him, and keep up our communion with him. (2.) That then, when ritual and ceremonial appointments were in full force, as this of burning incense, yet moral and spiritual duties were required to go along with them, and were principally looked at. David knew that when he was at a distance from the altar his prayer might be heard without incense, for it might be directed before God as incense,Psalms 141:2. But, when he was compassing the altar, the incense could not be accepted without prayer, any more than the shell without the kernel. (3.) That is not enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if our hearts do not join in the worship, and go along with the minister, in all the parts of it. If he burn the incense ever so well, in the most pertinent, judicious, lively prayer, if we be not at the same time praying in concurrence with him, what will it avail us? (4.) All the prayers we offer up to God here in his courts are acceptable and successful only in virtue of the incense of Christ's intercession in the temple of God above. To this usage in the temple-service there seems to be an allusion (Revelation 8:1; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 8:4), where we find that there was silence in heaven, as there was in the temple, for half an hour, while the people were silently lifting up their hearts to God in prayer; and that there was an angel, the angel of the covenant, who offered up much incense with the prayers of all saints before the throne. We cannot expect an interest in Christ's intercession if we do not pray, and pray with our spirits, and continue instant in prayer. Nor can we expect that the best of our prayers should gain acceptance, and bring in an answer of peace, but through the mediation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession.

      2. How, when he was thus employed, he was honoured with a messenger, a special messenger sent from heaven to him (Luke 1:11; Luke 1:11): There appeared unto him an angel of the Lord. Some observe, that we never read of an angel appearing in the temple, with a message from God, but only this one to Zacharias, because there God had other ways of making known his mind, as the Urim and Thummim, and by a still small voice from between the cherubim; but the ark and the oracle were wanting in the second temple, and therefore, when an express was to be sent to a priest in the temple, an angel was to be employed in it, and thereby the gospel was to be introduced, for that, as the law, was given at first very much by the ministry of angels, the appearance of which we often read of in the Gospels and the Acts, though the design both of the law and of the gospel, when brought to perfection, was to settle another way of correspondence, more spiritual, between God and man. This angel stood on the right side of the altar of incense, the north side of it, saith Dr. Lightfoot, on Zacharias's right hand; compare this with Zechariah 3:1, where Satan stands at the right hand of Joshua the priest, to resist him; but Zacharias had a good angel standing at his right hand, to encourage him. Some think that this angel appeared coming out of the most holy place, which led him to stand at the right side of the altar.

      3. What impression this made upon Zacharias (Luke 1:12; Luke 1:12): When Zacharias saw him, it was a surprise upon him, even to a degree of terror, for he was troubled, and fear fell upon him,Luke 1:12; Luke 1:12. Though he was righteous before God, and blameless in his conversation, yet he could not be without some apprehensions at the sight of one whose visage and surrounding lustre bespoke him more than human. Ever since man sinned, his mind has been unable to bear the glory of such revelations and his conscience afraid of evil tidings brought by them; even Daniel himself could not bear it, Daniel 10:8. And for this reason God chooses to speak to us by men like ourselves, whose terror shall not make us afraid.

      III. The message which the angel had to deliver to him, Luke 1:13; Luke 1:13. He began his message, as angels generally did, with, Fear not. Perhaps it had never been Zacharias's lot to burn incense before; and, being a very serious conscientious man, we may suppose him full of care to do it well, and perhaps when he saw the angel he was afraid lest he came to rebuke him for some mistake or miscarriage; "No," saith the angel, "fear not; I have no ill tidings to bring thee from heaven. Fear not, but compose thyself, that thou mayest with a sedate and even spirit receive the message I have to deliver thee." Let us see what that is.

      1. The prayers he has often made shall now receive an answer of peace: Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard. (1.) If he means his particular prayer for a son to build up his family, it must be the prayers he had formerly made for that mercy, when he was likely to have children; but we may suppose, now that he and his wife were both well stricken in years, as they had done expecting it, so they had done praying for it: like Moses, it sufficeth them, and they speak no more to God of that matter,Deuteronomy 3:26. But God will now, in giving this mercy, look a great way back to the prayers that he had made long since for and with his wife, as Isaac for and with his, Genesis 25:21. Note, Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given in. Prayers made when we were young and coming into the world may be answered when we are old and going out of the world. But, (2.) If he means the prayers he was now making, and offering up with his incense, we may suppose that those were according to the duty of his place, for the Israel of God and their welfare, and the performance of the promises made to them concerning the Messiah and the coming of his kingdom: "This prayer of thine is now heard: for thy wife shall shortly conceive him that is to be the Messiah's forerunner." Some of the Jewish writers themselves say that the priest, when he burnt incense, prayed for the salvation of the whole world; and now that prayer shall be heard. Or, (3.) In general, "The prayers thou now makest, and all thy prayers, are accepted of God, and come up for a memorial before him" (as the angel said to Cornelius, when he visited him at prayer, Acts 10:30; Acts 10:31); "and this shall be the sign that thou are accepted of God, Elisabeth shall bear thee a son." Note, it is very comfortable to praying people to know that their prayers are heard; and those mercies are doubly sweet that are given in answer to prayer.

      2. He shall have a son in his old age, by Elisabeth his wife, who had been long barren, that by his birth, which was next to miraculous, people might be prepared to receive and believe a virgin's bringing forth of a son, which was perfectly miraculous. He is directed what name to give his son: Call him John, in Hebrew Johanan, a name we often meet in the Old Testament: it signifies gracious. The priests must beseech God that he will be gracious (Malachi 1:9), and must so bless the people,Numbers 6:25. Zacharias was now praying thus, and the angel tells him that his prayer is heard, and he shall have a son, whom, in token of an answer to his prayer, he shall call Gracious, or, The Lord will be gracious,Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 30:19.

      3. This son shall be the joy of his family and of all his relations, Luke 1:14; Luke 1:14. He shall be another Isaac, thy laughter; and some think that is partly intended in his name, John. He shall be a welcome child. Thou for thy part shall have joy and gladness. Note, Mercies that have been long waited for, when they come at last, are the more acceptable. "He shall be such a son as thou shalt have reason to rejoice in; many parents, if they could foresee what their children will prove, instead of rejoicing at their birth, would wish they had never been; but I will tell thee what thy son will be, and then thou wilt not need to rejoice with trembling at his birth, as the best must do, but mayest rejoice with triumph at it." Nay, and many shall rejoice at his birth; all the relations of the family will rejoice in it, and all its well-wishers, because it is for the honour and comfort of the family, Luke 1:58; Luke 1:58. All good people will rejoice that such a religious couple as Zacharias and Elisabeth have a son, because they will give him a good education, such as, it may be hoped, will make him a public blessing to his generation. Yea, and perhaps many shall rejoice by an unaccountable instinct, as a presage of the joyous days the gospel will introduce.

      4. This son shall be a distinguished favourite of Heaven, and a distinguished blessing to the earth. The honour of having a son is nothing to the honour of having such a son.

      (1.) He shall be great in the sight of the Lord; those are great indeed that are so in God's sight, not those that are so in the eye of a vain and carnal world. God will set him before his face continually, will employ him in his work and send him on his errands; and that shall make him truly great and honourable. He shall be a prophet, yea more than a prophet, and upon that account as great as any that every were born of women,Matthew 11:11. He shall live very much retired from the world, out of men's sight, and, when he makes a public appearance, it will be very mean; but he shall be much, he shall be great, in the sight of the Lord.

      (2.) He shall be a Nazarite, set apart to God from every thing that is polluting; in token of this, according to the law of Nazariteship, he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink,--or, rather, neither old wine nor new; for most think that the word here translated strong drink signifies some sort of wine, perhaps those that we call made wines, or any thing that is intoxicating. He shall be, as Samson was by the divine precept (Judges 13:7), and Samuel by his mother's vow (1 Samuel 1:11), a Nazarite for life. It is spoken of as a great instance of God's favour to his people that he raised up of their sons for prophets, and their young men for Nazarites (Amos 2:11), as if those that were designed for prophets were trained up under the discipline of the Nazarites; Samuel and John Baptist were; which intimates that those that would be eminent servants of God, and employed in eminent services, must learn to live a life of self-denial and mortification, must be dead to the pleasures of sense, and keep their minds from every thing that is darkening and disturbing to them.

      (3.) He shall be abundantly fitted and qualified for those great and eminent services to which in due time he shall be called: He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb, and as soon as it is possible he shall appear to have been so. Observe, [1.] Those that would be filled with the Holy Ghost must be sober and temperate, and very moderate in the use of wine and strong drink; for that is it that fits him for this. Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit, with which that is not consistent, Ephesians 5:18. [2.] It is possible that infants may be wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, even from their mother's womb; for John Baptist even then was filled with the Holy Ghost, who took possession of his heart betimes; and an early specimen was given of it, when he leaped in his mother's womb for joy, at the approach of the Saviour; and afterwards it appeared very early that he was sanctified. God had promised to pour out his Spirit upon the seed of believers (Isaiah 44:3), and their first springing up in a dedication of themselves betimes to God is the fruit of it, Luke 1:4; Luke 1:5. Who then can forbid water, that they should not be baptized who for aught we know (and we can say no more of the adult, witness Simon Magus) have received the Holy Ghost as well as we, and have the seeds of grace sown in their hearts? Acts 10:47.

      (4.) He shall be instrumental for the conversion of many souls to God, and the preparing of them to receive and entertain the gospel of Christ, Luke 1:16; Luke 1:17.

      [1.] He shall be sent to the children of Israel, to the nation of the Jews, to whom the Messiah also was first sent, and not to the Gentiles; to the whole nation, and not the family of the priests only, with which, though he was himself of that family, we do not find he had any particular intimacy or influence.

      [2.] He shall go before the Lord their God, that is, before the Messiah, whom they must expect to be, not their king, in the sense wherein they commonly take it, a temporal prince to their nation, but their Lord and their God, to rule and defend, and serve them in a spiritual way by his influence on their hearts. Thomas knew this, when he said to Christ, My Lord and my God, better than Nathanael did, when he said, Rabbi, thou are the king of Israel. John shall go before him, a little before him, to give notice of his approach, and to prepare people to receive him.

      [3.] He shall go in the spirit and power of Elias. That is, First, He shall be such a man as Elias was, and do such work as Elias did,--shall, like him, preach the necessity of repentance and reformation to a very corrupt and degenerate age,--shall, like him, be bold and zealous in reproving sin and witnessing against it even in the greatest, and be hated and persecuted for it by a Herod and his Herodias, as Elijah was by an Ahab and his Jezebel. He shall be carried on in his work, as Elijah was, by a divine spirit and power, which shall crown his ministry with wonderful success. As Elias went before the writing prophets of the Old Testament, and did as it were usher in that signal period of the Old-Testament dispensation by a little writing of his own (2 Chronicles 21:12), so John Baptist went before Christ and his apostles, and introduced the gospel dispensation by preaching the substance of the gospel doctrine and duty, Repent, with an eye to the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, He shall be that very person who was prophesied of by Malachi under the name of Elijah (Malachi 4:5), who should be sent before the coming of the day of the Lord. Behold, I send you a prophet, even Elias, not Elias the Tishbite (as the LXX. has corruptly read it, to favour the Jews' traditions), but a prophet in the spirit and power of Elias, as the angel here expounds it.

      [4.] He shall turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, shall incline their hearts to receive the Messiah, and bid him welcome, by awakening them to a sense of sin and a desire of righteousness. Whatever has a tendency to turn us from iniquity, as John's preaching and baptism had, will turn us to Christ as our Lord and our God; for those who through grace are wrought upon to shake off the yoke of sin, that is, the dominion of the world and the flesh, will soon be persuaded to take upon them the yoke of the Lord Jesus.

      [5.] Hereby he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, that is, of the Jews to the Gentiles; shall help to conquer the rooted prejudices which the Jews have against the Gentiles, which was done by the gospel, as far as it prevailed, and was begun to be done by John Baptist, who came for a witness, that all through him might believe, who baptized and taught Roman soldiers as well as Jewish Pharisees, and who cured the pride and confidence of those Jews who gloried in their having Abraham to their father, and told them that God would out of stones raise up children unto Abraham (Matthew 3:9), which would tend to cure their enmity to the Gentiles. Dr. Lightfoot observes, It is the constant usage of the prophets to speak of the church of the Gentiles as children to the Jewish church, Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 60:4; Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 66:12. When the Jews that embraced the faith of Christ were brought to join in communion with the Gentiles that did so too, then the heart of the fathers was turned to the children. And he shall turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that is, he shall introduce the gospel, by which the Gentiles, who are now disobedient, shall be turned, no so much to their fathers the Jews, but to the faith of Christ, here called the wisdom of the just, in communion with the believing Jews; or thus, He shall turn the hearts of the fathers with the children, that is, the hearts of old and young, shall be instrumental to bring some of every age to be religious, to work a great reformation in the Jewish nation, to bring them off from a ritual traditional religion which that had rested in, and to bring them up to substantial serious godliness: and the effect of this will be, that enmities will be slain and discord made to cease; and they are at variance, being united in his baptism, will be better reconciled one to another. This agrees with the account Josephus gives of John Baptist, Antiq. 18. 117-118. "That he was a good man, and taught the Jews the exercise of virtue, in piety towards God, and righteous towards one another, and that they should convene and knit together in baptism." And he saith, "The people flocked after him, and were exceedingly delighted in his doctrine." Thus he turned the hearts of fathers and children to God and to one another, by turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. Observe, First, True religion is the wisdom of just men, in distinction from the wisdom of the world. It is both our wisdom and our duty to be religious; there is both equity and prudence in it. Secondly, It is not possible but that those who have been unbelieving and disobedient may be turned to the wisdom of the just; divine grace can conquer the greatest ignorance and prejudice. Thirdly, The great design of the gospel is to bring people home to God, and to bring them nearer to one another; and on this errand John Baptist is sent. In the mention that is twice made of his turning people, there seems to be an allusion to the name of the Tishbite, which is given to Elijah, which, some think, does not denote the country or city he was of, but has an appellative signification, and therefore the render it Elijah the converter, one that was much employed, and very successful, in conversion-work. The Elias of the New Testament is therefore said to turn or convert many to the Lord their God.

      [6.] Hereby he shall make ready a people prepared for the Lord, shall dispose the minds of people to receive the doctrine of Christ, that thereby they may be prepared for the comforts of his coming. Note, First, All that are to be devoted to the Lord, and made happy in him, must first be prepared and made ready for him. We must be prepared by grace in this world for the glory in the other, by the terrors of the law for the comforts of the gospel, by the spirit of bondage for the Spirit of adoption. Secondly, Nothing has a more direct tendency to prepare people for Christ than the doctrine of repentance received and submitted to. When sin is thereby made grievous, Christ will become very precious.

      IV. Zacharias's unbelief of the angel's prediction, and the rebuke he was laid under for that unbelief. He heard all that the angel had to say, and should have bowed his head, and worshipped the Lord, saying, Be it unto thy servant according to the word which thou hast spoken; but it was not so. We are here told,

      1. What his unbelief spoke, Luke 1:18; Luke 1:18. He said to the angel, Whereby shall I know this? This was not a humble petition for the confirming of his faith, but a peevish objection against what was said to him as altogether incredible; as if he should say, "I can never be made to believe this." He could not but perceive that it was an angel that spoke to him; the message delivered, having reference to the Old-Testament prophecies, carried much of its own evidence along with it. There are many instances in the Old Testament of those that had children when they were old, yet he cannot believe that he shall have this child of promise: "For I am an old man, and my wife hath not only been all her days barren, but is now well stricken in years, and not likely ever to have children." Therefore he must have a sign given him, or he will not believe. Though the appearance of an angel, which had long been disused in the church, was sign enough,--though he had this notice given him in the temple, the place of God's oracles, where he had reason to think no evil angel would be permitted to come,--though it was given him when he was praying, and burning incense,--and though a firm belief of that great principle of religion that God has an almighty power, and with him nothing is impossible, which we ought not only to know, but to teach others, was enough to silence all objections,--yet, considering his own body and his wife's too much, unlike a son of Abraham, he staggered at the promise,Romans 4:19; Romans 4:20.

      2. How his unbelief was silenced, and he silenced for it.

      (1.) The angel stops his mouth, by asserting his authority. Doth he ask, Whereby shall I know this? Let him know it by this, I am Gabriel,Luke 1:19; Luke 1:19. He puts his name to his prophecy, doth as it were sign it with his own hand, teste meipso--take my word for it. Angels have sometimes refused to tell their names, as to Manoah and his wife; but his angel readily saith, I am Gabriel, which signifies the power of God, or the mighty one of God, intimating that the God who bade him say this was able to make it good. He also makes himself known by this name to put him in mind of the notices of the Messiah's coming sent to Daniel by the man Gabriel,Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21. "I am the same that was sent then, and am sent now in pursuance of the same intention." He is Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, an immediate attendant upon the throne of God. The prime ministers of state in the Persian court are described by this, that they saw the king's face,Esther 1:14. "Though I am now talking with thee here, yet I stand in the presence of God. I know his eye is upon me, and I dare not say any more than I have warrant to say. But I declare I am sent to speak to thee, sent on purpose to show thee these glad tidings, which, being so well worthy of all acceptation, thou oughtest to have received cheerfully."

      (2.) The angel stops his mouth indeed, by exerting his power: "That thou mayest object no more, behold thou shalt be dumb,Luke 1:20; Luke 1:20. If thou wilt have a sign for the support of thy faith, it shall be such a one as shall be also the punishment of thine unbelief; thou shalt not be able to speak till the day that these things shall be performed," Luke 1:20; Luke 1:20. Thou shalt be both dumb and deaf; the same word signifies both, and it is plain that he lost his hearing as well as his speech, for his friends made signs to him (Luke 1:62; Luke 1:62), as well as he to them, Luke 1:22; Luke 1:22. Now, in striking him dumb, [1.] God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God's word. Hence we may take occasion to admire the patience of God and his forbearance toward us, that we, who have often spoken to his dishonour, have not been struck dumb, as Zacharias was, and as we had been if God had dealt with us according to our sins. [2.] God dealt kindly with him, and very tenderly and graciously. For, First, Thus he prevented his speaking any more such distrustful unbelieving words. If he has thought evil, and will not himself lay his hands upon his mouth, nor keep it as with a bridle, God will. It is better not to speak at all than to speak wickedly. Secondly, Thus he confirmed his faith; and, by his being disabled to speak, he is enabled to think the better. If by the rebukes we are under for our sin we be brought to give more credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain of them. Thirdly, Thus he was kept from divulging the vision, and boasting of it, which otherwise he would have been apt to do, whereas it was designed for the present to be lodged as a secret with him. Fourthly, It was a great mercy that God's words should be fulfilled in their season, notwithstanding his sinful distrust. The unbelief of man shall not make the promises of God of no effect, they shall be fulfilled in their season, and he shall not be for ever dumb, but only till the day that these things shall be performed, and then thy lips shall be opened, that thy mouth may show forth God's praise. Thus, though God chastens the iniquity of his people with the rod, yet his loving kindness he will not take away.

      V. The return of Zacharias to the people, and at length to his family, and the conception of this child of promise, the son of his old age.

      1. The people staid, expecting Zacharias to come out of the temple, because he was to pronounce the blessing upon them in the name of the Lord; and, though he staid beyond the usual time, yet they did not, as is too common in Christian congregations, hurry away without the blessing, but waited for him, marvelling that he tarried so long in the temple, and afraid let something was amiss, Luke 1:21; Luke 1:21.

      2. When he came out, he was speechless,Luke 1:22; Luke 1:22. He was now to have dismissed the congregation with a blessing, but was dumb and not able to do it, that the people may be minded to expect the Messiah, who can command the blessing, who blesseth indeed, and in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. Aaron's priesthood is now shortly to be silenced and set aside, to make way for the bringing in of a better hope.

      3. He made a shift to give them to understand that he had seen a vision, by some awful signs he made, for he beckoned to them, and remained speechless,Luke 1:22; Luke 1:22. This represents to us the weakness and deficiency of the Levitical priesthood, in comparison with Christ's priesthood and the dispensation of the gospel. The Old Testament speaks by signs, gives us some intimations of divine and heavenly things, but imperfect and uncertain; it beckons to us, but remains speechless. It is the gospel that speaks to us articulately, and gives us a clear view of that which the Old Testament was seen through a glass darkly.

      4. He staid out the days of his ministration; for, his lot being to burn incense, he could do that, though he was dumb and deaf. When we cannot perform the service of God so well as we would, yet, if we perform it as well as we can, God will accept of us in it.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Luke 1:15". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/luke-1.html. 1706.