Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Bible Study


This year we are going to enjoy and benefit from the Wednesday evenings of December by studying the Word together from the book of Luke, Chapter 1, concerning the events immediately before and leading up to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Savior of the world.

In a simple approach to study we will no doubt learn some history and many relevant principles which will apply to our lives today. You may wish to keep a pen and paper ready to write those points which God reveals to you. These evenings together will no doubt prove to be valuable times as we study the word together.

So, without further conversation, let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 1. I will dispense with the general greetings of Luke contained in the first 4 verses of chapter 1. Not because these are unimportant or without merit, but more that they have little to do with this season we are approaching in which we rehearse and celebrate the Christmas story.

Suffice it to say that of all the writers of the books of the Bible, Luke was perhaps the most studied and academically capable of producing a well researched and well documented argument. This is not the first letter which Luke writes to defend this Gospel of Jesus as Messiah. Luke’s credibility and approach to truth is unimpeachable by any standard and gives great support to the whole counsel of God’s Word.

By the way, Luke was not a disciple of Jesus as was Matthew or John and he is not even a Jew but rather a Gentile. In fact, Luke is the only Gentile writer of the New Testament or perhaps for the whole bible as many understand. He was a beloved physician by profession, one who was converted and became a disciple and follower of the Apostle Paul who felt compelled to search out the truth and write an account of the same.

Lest I digress, allow us to turn and begin now in verse 5.

Luke 1 NKJV
5 ¶ There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, 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 to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 "He will also go before Him in the spirit and 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."
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20 "But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

Supporting Information:

Herod – (Hero) Herod the Great appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40BC – died 4BC.

Jacob’s Prophecy:
Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

Shiloh refers to Messiah. For the first time since being established, the scepter has departed from Judah and Herod, a Roman, is now the recognized King --- It is now time for Messiah to come.

Judea = He shall be praised. This is the southern kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

Zacharias = Remembered by God.

Abijah = Possessor/Worshipper of God. One of and the eighth course of the 24 courses of priests, sons of Aaron.

Aaron = Light Bringer

Elisabeth = Oath of God

John = Jehovah is a gracious giver

Gabriel = Man of God

It was not an act of sin that had kept Elizabeth barren. Sometimes the answer to the question, “What am I doing wrong?”, is “nothing!”

We must keep praying.

There is more support in the Bible for rolling dice or drawing straws than for raising hands to vote. Zacharias lot of which one of the four courses of priestly duties he would do was determined not by the ‘luck of the draw’, but rather by the ‘God of the draw’. To burn incense was the most favored and special course of duties.

The priest enters the Holy Place and offers incense to carry the prayers of God’s people upward to heaven. Without a priest, who is the mediator between God and man, to offer sacrifice, the people have no access to God.

It had been 400 years since an angel or prophet had been heard in Israel and 500 years since this same angel, Gabriel, had appeared to Daniel and given him the understanding of the coming Messiah.

Gabriel also told Daniel in Daniel 10:12 that he had come to him because of Daniel’s continual prayers. The same thing was told Zacharias … Gabriel mentioned that his prayer was heard.

God still speaks to people who regularly attend church and pray.