From among the faithful in Israel, who had long waited for the coming of the Messiah, the forerunner of Christ arose. The aged priest Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth were "both righteous before God;" and in their quiet and holy lives the light of faith shone out like a star amid the darkness of those evil days. To this godly pair was given the promise of a son, who should "go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways."
Zacharias dwelt in "the hill country of Judea," but he had gone up to Jerusalem to minister for on week in the temple, a service required twice a year from the priests of each course. "And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord."
He was standing before the golden altar in the holy place of the sanctuary. The cloud of incense with the prayers of Israel was ascending before God. Suddenly he became conscious of a divine presence. An angel of the Lord was "standing on the right side of the altar." The position of the angel was an indication of favor, but Zacharias took no note of this. For many years he had prayed for the coming of the Redeemer; now heaven had sent its messenger to announce that these prayers were about to be answered; but the mercy of God seemed too great for him to credit. He was filled with fear and self-condemnation.
But he was greeted with the joyful assurance: "Fear not, Zacharias for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shat call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and shall be filled with the Holy Ghost....And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 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. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
The birth of a son to Zacharias, like the birth of the child of Abraham and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness.
(Through faith spiritual life is begotten, is a hard lesson to learn, it has been the downfall of many churches, many ministers and many people, even today with so much knowledge, people find it hard to believe that Christ will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot save ourselves, Christ saves us. We cannot change our lives, but He can and He will if we but ask Him too. He is even willing to give us counsel and direction even in the smallest things of life. He is a loving God and we must learn to believe His promises, and be filled with His Spirit and our life will be so much easier for us then if we try to do it all on our own. Believe me, I have spent a lifetime trying, not realizing that Christ will do for me what is required for my salvation and now that I understand this, I am leaving it in His hands to do whatever it takes to save me. It is so much easier this way. Wish I had understood this truth many years ago, a lot of heartache would have been avoided. If you are young, or even middle aged, don't wait till you are old before you let Christ take control of your life. If you have a testimony of how Christ has taken control of your life, please share it with me. It would mean so much. Grandma Joan} This chapter was based upon Luke, Matthew and Mark, if you want to look up the texts.