Tag Archives: birth of Christ

The Silence of Zachariah

The book of Malachi marks the end of the Old Testament. Yes, we have the apocryphal accounts of the Maccabees and the Jewish revolt, but Malachi marks the end of the prophets and then for 400 years God is silent. God is silent until Zachariah entered the Holy of Holies, at which time Zachariah is struck dumb, i.e. rendered silent.

Let’s take a look at that, and let’s pay careful attention to the reason why Zachariah was forced silent, because God did it for a very special reason.

Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

“Of the course of Abia” means that Zachariah was not just a normal Levite; he was the son of Aaron.

You can read in 1 Chronicles 23 where David divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups. The eighth group being Abia. Eight, in biblical numerics, being new beginnings, and we are going to have a new beginning here.

You have to understand that the sons of Aaron were different from the rest of the Levites. God had given them several jobs that only they were to perform (it’s a study in and of itself), and they were the only ones allowed to go into the Holy of Holies. They also had several special duties that only they were allowed to perform. It was the job of the rest of the Levites to help to make sure that the sons of Aaron could do their jobs. Now let’s look at numbers 18:1 and tell me if that doesn’t get your Christian gears turning.

Numbers 18:1 And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father’s house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.

Okay, let’s head back to Luke.

Luke 1:6 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.

Now, the reason that they were old was because the priesthood, as it was at that time, was also old.

Luke 1:8 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.

Meaning that he was alone in the Holy of Holies.

Luke 1:11 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.

The name John means God, or Yah, is a gracious giver. And He is a gracious giver because He is about to give us the last levitical priest.

Luke 1:14 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.

Remember how I brought up Malachi at the start of this article? Well this is the reason: because that was the last promise God gave before going silent.

Malachi 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. (5) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: (6) 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.

Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

Okay guys, just for the record, if an angel of the Lord shows up and tells you something is going to happen, tells you that your prayers are answered, don’t ask stupid questions.

Luke 1:19 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 shew 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.

Now, up until this time, Zachariah was a pretty good ‘ol boy. I mean, how many of us could it be said to be “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”? So I don’t want to beat up on Zachariah too much, but we have to understand the parallel God is giving us. Israel had turned from God. The book of Jeremiah tells us that He divorced Israel, and since the book of Malachi had been silent. Ever since Moses complained to God saying that he wasn’t good at speaking, Aaron and his sons have been speaking for God. God wants us to know that He had silenced them.

Luke 1:21 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.

Now, for the sake of this article, let’s jump down to verse 57.

Luke 1:57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. (58) And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. (59) And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. (60) And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. (61) And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. (62) And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

This is interesting to note because John wasn’t going to be like any of his other kindred. He was the sign of something new, but he was also the symbol of all that came before. All the Law and the prophets that paved the way and told us of the coming of Jesus, just as John the Baptist was the man that made the path straight for Jesus. Can you see the parallel?

Luke 1:63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. (64) And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. (65) And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. (66) And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. (67) And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, (68) Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (69) And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (70) As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: (71) That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (72) To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; (73) The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, (74) That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, (75) In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. (76) And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; (77) To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, (78) Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, (79) To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (80) And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

So we see that, even with the silence of Zachariah, God has a purpose. Just as He had a reason for John to come from old parents, to show John came from the old covenant. And He had a reason for Jesus to come from a young virgin: to show that, with Jesus, everything is made new, and that the greater covenant is ours if we will only accept it. He has a purpose for you, me, and everyone else, and it’s up to us to look for that purpose. To seek Him and His wisdom.

God Bless

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Behold a Virgin shall Conceive Part 3

We began this series by examining the word virgin in Isaiah 7:14, and continued by looking at the historical aspects surrounding the verse, and finally, we are going to tie this all together as to why this chapter is about not only the Messiah, but also why there had to be two advents.

To do this, we have to actually back up to chapter 6, which begins with Isaiah seeing the Lord, to Whom he cries out:

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

He is, no doubt, thinking of when Moses was allowed to see only the hinder parts of God least he die.

Isaiah 6:6-7 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: (7) And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

This could be a study in and of itself, but for the sake of brevity just note that his sins are forgiven.

Isaiah 6:9-10 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

God told Isaiah that they would not understand. Understand what? Well, the next several chapters, especially chapters 7-14, if not all of what He would say, but it is particularly important to note that Jesus tells us that this is part of the first advent. Observe:

Matthew 13:10-16 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Isaiah 6:11-12 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (12) And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

This means that they are going to be taken all away, and they are not going to understand until AFTER their return. They still have not returned, not all, and certainly not the House of Israel, that is to say the ten northern tribes.

Take special note of this final verse of the chapter:

Isaiah 6:13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

This translation really doesn’t cover what the Bible is saying here because we don’t eat teil trees or oaks, as they are deciduous trees, and the word eaten, here, is more along the lines of “used up,” not “consumed”. What it is really saying is that the trees (note there are two trees for both the houses of Israel and Judah) are going to shed their leaves, and their substance will be in them, just like how a deciduous tree moves it’s sap, etc., down into the roots (remember the root of Jesse?) to survive winter or a dry season.

“So the Holy Seed shall be the substance thereof.” This is the exact same seed God spoke about, and has been protecting, way back since the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

And that, my friends, is the first prophecy concerning Jesus Christ.

This brings us back to chapter 7.

Isaiah 7:3 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;

When God gives us a specific place and specific people, it’s time to open those eyes. A fuller’s job was to cleanse impurities from cloth or wool, and the fuller’s field is where they did their work. So, why did God tell him to speak to Ahaz here? It was to let us know that all the crud is going to get scrubbed, that is to say the wickedness and sinful behavior will be removed. If we then pair that location with Isaiah’s son, Shearjashub, which means, “a remnant will return,” it gives us the message that Israel shall return after they are cleansed.

Isaiah had two sons (that we know of), and this is the only place this son is mentioned. His other son, Mahershalalhashbaz, which means, “hastened-booty speedy spoil,” is only mentioned at the beginning of chapter 8. Most students of the Bible recognize that the second child, Mahershalalhashbaz, is the sign promised to Ahaz, and that the name itself (given by God in Isaiah 8:1) tells us how the Assyrian will come.

Isaiah 8:3-4 And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. (4) For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

What most people read over is:

Isaiah 8:18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.

That is “children,” plural. This means both children, and Isaiah (which means, “Yahaveh’s Salvation.”) himself. What does that mean if we put all of this together? It means, “From Yahaveh’s Salvation (Isaiah) comes two children, Shearjashub and Mahershalalhashbaz.” This tells us that God’s salvation plan has two parts, and if we pay attention, we will know that means two advents. That is why John asked:

Luke 7:19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

He didn’t ask if we should look for another because he didn’t know who Jesus was at this point: he had already baptized Him, and the Holy Spirit announced who He was. He asked because he knew that God’s salvation plan had TWO parts.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

These verses do not describe Mahershalalhashbaz. That child was only the type to prove the words of Isaiah were true. I didn’t really want this article to turn solely into a post about the two advents (I feel that should be a topic in a of itself). I began by just wanting to address some of the criticisms that the word, “virgin,” receives, and it has turned into all of this. I hope you have learned something worth-while, and it has caused you to look deeper into His word for yourself. I can’t help but close with these two verses:

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

This is the first advent.

Zechariah 9:10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.

This is the second advent.

Until next time, May God bless you and keep you.

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Behold a Virgin shall Conceive Part 1

Critics like to attack the book of Matthew, and they usually begin those attacks in the very first chapter.

Matthew 1:21-23 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (22) Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

For Christians we call these verses to mind every year, and it becomes a large bedrock of our faith. Others will say that the prophecy he is referring to doesn’t use the word virgin, nor is it speaking about the Messiah.

When I began this post I thought that I was going to just going to look at the prophecy it comes from:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,

and examine the Hebrew word that the King James Bible translates as ‘virgin’ and leave it at that, but it would seem that God wouldn’t let me stop there and what began as a single article has grown into what will be probably three or four.

So without further ado, let’s pull up the word virgin in Isaiah 7:14:

H5959  עַלְמָה  ‛almâh
al-maw’
Feminine of H5958; a lass (as veiled or private): – damsel, maid, virgin.

So what’s the problem? Clearly virgin is on the list of possible translations right? It is, but there is a group of Hebrew scholars that say it shouldn’t mean virgin, but rather it should be a young girl or woman. Now if that’s true, then why was it ever translated virgin? Good question. The claim is that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), completed probably around the 3rd century, used the Greek word for virgin instead of young woman, and that it was the Septuagint that Matthew referenced to compose his gospel. So, they say that Christians have been using the wrong translation ever since. A point which I feel is rendered moot when you consider the Septuagint was translated by 70 or more Hebrew Scholars that didn’t have any Christian influence since it was translated 2-300 years before Jesus was born.

Where does that leave us? First if you think about it, even if the word meant young unmarried woman or maid, it would almost certainly imply she is a virgin. But let’s not just say that because Hebrew scholars will say that, if it meant virgin, it would have used the word ‘bethulah,’ which leaves us with the fact that, if you grab from Christian sources, you will find many reasons (some good and some bad) as to why the word should be ‘virgin,’ and if you grab from Jewish sources (some good and some bad) you will find a myriad of reasons why ‘almah’ doesn’t mean virgin.

For now let’s back up from the word a bit and look at the context.

Isaiah 7:10-14 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, (11) Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. (12) But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. (13) And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? (14) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz refuses and God says He is going to give one anyway. Right? So think on this a moment. God says there is going to be a sign, whether Ahaz wants one or not, which must mean this sign is pretty important. It would also mean that the sign would be special. Correct? In the book of John, when God gives us a sign, He raises the dead. When He wanted to give Egypt a sign, He split the Red Sea. So here, when God wants to give a special sign, He says that a woman will give birth? I don’t know about you guys, but it doesn’t seem to me that a woman giving birth is very earth-shattering.  I mean, I don’t want to make it sound that I think the miracle of birth isn’t special, but it isn’t rare. It happens every few seconds.

That being said, chapter 8 gives us the birth of Mahershalalhashbaz (which means hasten-booty speed spoil) who God names. This is probably the real reason that they used the word, almah, and not ‘bethulah,’ because the first child wasn’t born from a virgin, and that child didn’t complete everything given in the prophecy (we will cover more on this in the next post), whereas the second, Jesus of Nazareth, did.

The next segment is where things really start to get interesting because you see that “A virgin shall conceive” isn’t the prophecy, not really. It is the sign God would give so that we would know that the prophecy in Isaiah 7 was not only true, but that we would have the time frame of the whole thing. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

 

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Who were the Shepherds Tending their Flocks?

When I was a child I couldn’t wait to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. The best part is when Linus declared that he can tell Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about and then wrapped his blanket about his head and stepped out onto the stage to speak these words:

Luke 2:8-12 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The scene is heartwarming and certainly the focus is on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but today I want to look at the reason the angel came to the shepherds in the first place. I have no doubt that you have heard many sermons on how the shepherds were the lowest of the low during this period of history. That God goes to those that are downtrodden, etc, which is true– shepherds at this time were the poorest class of people. They were so poor that many had long ago sold their lands just to get by and paid to graze their sheep, but that only scratches the surface of what the scripture is telling us.

Christ is the chief shepherd and will be returning with a rod of iron. Before leaving, He said to Peter in the 21st chapter of John, “Feed my Sheep,” documenting to us that God not only uses shepherds as an analogy for those that look over the people, but that He has shepherds to this day. This is much like when David left the flock with a caregiver, when his father sent him to see about his brothers, and he found them all cowering on a hill as Goliath defied the armies of the Living God.

This isn’t only New Testament stuff:

Numbers 27:15-20 And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, (16) Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, (17) Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd. (18) And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; (19) And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. (20) And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.

The job of the shepherd is to keep the children from falling into sin. Alas, we know that, by in large, they did not do their job.

Zechariah 10:2 For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.

God isn’t happy with shepherds that don’t do their job. It is why judgment begins at the pulpit.

Zechariah 11:17 Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

But the angel came not to idol shepherds; he came to those few shepherds that were tending to their flocks. Symbolically this is the remnant. Which were not at the temple in Jerusalem, but out in the fields working, much like John the Baptist would be doing in just a few short years.

Romans 11:1-5 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (2) God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, (3) Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. (4) But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. (5) Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Now comes the question: why at night? Is it because we can see stars at night? Sure, but really it is because, before Christ came, the world was in darkness and they were still standing in the shadow of the law.

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Christ came to those that were waiting for Him, even when they couldn’t see everything. and even if they didn’t understand everything. The same will be true on His second advent, for He will come like a thief in the night.

Matthew 25:31-34 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Remember that Christ is inside of us, and while He is away, it is our job to be the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Those shepherds, to whom the angel came, didn’t have the light of the world yet, but you do, so shine that light. Shine that light, and not just during this holiday season, but everyday. For, this world is a dark place, but putting the light of Christ out for all to see will not only warm your heart, it will help others to find the way.

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