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Luke Chapter 1

Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 14, 2014


Luke Chapter 1

I wanted to try something a little different in this book. I really want to write stories about the events and characters in Luke’s book describing the scenes and lessons. But my ministry is to teach people how to study the Bible on their own. I’ve always wondered how people did it. You know, how they knew how to look up texts and links between those texts. God blessed me with the opportunity to learn from some of the best. After writing a number of books on Bible study, I thought it was time to write a book with interesting stories and descriptions while throwing in a few lessons about how to study the Bible.

My back ground in Bible study is not formal. I learned a few details from a few people who were able to explain study methods. I found it difficult to find people who actually study their Bibles. Most people consider a casual reading, opening up to a few chapters at random, or following a read through the Bible in a year program was Bible Study. Others think going over some preprinted material is studying their Bible.

One of my main mentors has been Dr. Lee Gugliotto, author, teacher, and retired pastor. His online courses have been helpful beyond imagination. Not only have they been a real eye opener along the lines of Bible Study, but what people will do with that information. Very few people seem to have the interest and dedication to open their Bible, and use those simple rules of context we’ve learned. For me, it has become a life style. Something I have a great desire to share.

Of course once I dove deeper into God’s Word, God made sure He surrounded me with people at and near the same level, as well as a few at a much higher level. Of course there has always been people with an interest to learn more. Finding out what those people were ready for was discussed on those previous books, and of course we will cover details Jesus taught about how and when to reach people – on all levels.

In this book, I am going to provide a copy of the entire chapter with key words highlighted. This will help you to see how the author called attention to major and minor details. As we go through each chapter in detail, you’ll see why God arranged His inspired word in this particular way, which is consistent throughout the Bible. This can best be described as a Study on a Page. Now it’s time to take an unforgettable journey though Luke’s Gospel.

Luke 1:1-80 NLTse Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. (2) They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. (3) Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, (4) so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (5) When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. (6) Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. (7) They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. (8) One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. (9) As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. (10) While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. (11) While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. (12) Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. (13) But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (14) You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. (16) And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. (17) He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (19) Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! (20) But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (21) Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. (22) When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. (23) When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. (24) Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. (25) “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (26) In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, (27) to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. (28) Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (29) Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. (30) “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! (31) You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. (32) He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. (33) And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (34) Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (35) The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (36) What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. (37) For nothing is impossible with God.” (38) Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (39) A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town (40) where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. (41) At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (42) Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. (43) Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? (44) When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. (45) You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (46) Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. (47) How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! (48) For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. (49) For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. (50) He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. (51) His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. (52) He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. (53) He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. (54) He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. (55) For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” (56) Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home. (57) When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. (58) And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. (59) When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. (60) But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” (61) “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” (62) So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. (63) He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” (64) Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. (65) Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. (66) Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. (67) Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: (68) “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. (69) He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, (70) just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. (71) Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. (72) He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant– (73) the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. (74) We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. (76) “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. (77) You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. (78) Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, (79) to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (80) John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

I’m not sure how to approach this. For one thing, I’ve never seen a book like this, and I thought I would just write stories about Luke’s book, and add a few details about how to study the Bible. To really understand the study method I use, you have to see how key words are highlighted.

  • To Write a Perfect Account

    Luke 1:1-4 NLTse Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. (2) They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. (3) Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, (4) so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

    I love the way Luke begins his book. The first thing Luke pointed out was, “many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.” I know how he feels. A lot of books have been written about Jesus. Even in Luke’s day, books about Jesus were popular. You’ll notice Luke doesn’t bother going into detail about those other books. Some people think he is referring to the other three gospels. We don’t know that for certain. We can assume Luke may have read those other books, but Luke did not tells us, “They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples.” This statement leads us to believe Luke read those other books, and may have used them as references while writing His own book.

    Luke also goes into a small detail about how he gathered information. “Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” This shows us, Luke looked into claims from those other books, then decided to write a book of his own to set the record straight.

    We have no idea what other books Luke may have read. Other modern books cover some possibles. I prefer to stick to the Bible because I’ve found insurmountable proof the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I’ve found every detail we need to prove every point God considered important is backed up and proven with His Word. I see absolutely no reason to go outside of the Bible for any information. Well that’s true in 99% of all cases. There are a few little things we can use from other books to get an understanding of some of the events. As we progress through Luke’s Gospel, we’ll notice, Luke, nor any of the other gospel writers used any references from outside God’s scripture. As a matter of fact, as we progress through Luke’s Gospel, we will see a pattern established when scripture is quoted. God had a reason to write sixty six books with minimal references to other books. Those few references were to a few missing books written by other prophets or chronicles about the kings of Judah and Israel.

    Of course there are a lot of useful books available today. Many of them dwell on history. There is one thing I’ve found while attempting to use outside sources to gather historical data. It is almost impossible to find two historians who agree. One thing is for certain. Eyewitness accounts of history can be and are often biased. Some times it is biased based on personal views. Other times it is biased based on the fact the historians were employed by the king in charge. Most kings insisted only their victories were recorded. Kings didn’t want the world to remember their set backs and defeats.

    If we look at and consider how history is recorded today, no one can deny opinions are biased and often distorted. A historian who idolizes a current president will record his life and actions far differently than a historian supporting the other party. In short, whenever we go outside of the Bible, we have to consider the source. God may be on trial…. but the evidence is in. The universe has seen what the accuser is capable of. He is his own character witness. On the other side of that trial, God doesn’t mind being questioned. As a matter of fact, He welcomes questions. God already recorded the answers in His book. This is what I’ve found as undeniable evidence, God is God and the author of the Bible.

  • A Message Delivered by Gabriel

    Luke 1:5-22 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. (6) Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. (7) They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. (8) One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. (9) As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. (10) While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. (11) While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. (12) Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. (13) But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (14) You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. (16) And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. (17) He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (19) Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! (20) But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (21) Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. (22) When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.

    The first thing Luke gets into when he started his book was the date. This is important. We see authors specifying dates using a reigning king to establish a time line. Some time this can be confusing, like in the case of Herod.

    Learn the simple rules of context

    Study the Bible with Context

    Here is a Bible Study step you want to learn:

    I use a free Bible Study program called E-Sword. With this free program, you can add a number of free Bibles. One you have to download is called the KJV+. This is the version containing Strong’s numbers and works with the Strong Concordance, a very important Bible Study tool. In this example, I looked up the word Herod in the KVJ+, and looked at the Strong’s number to find it was the name of four kings in Jerusalem. One of the Bibles you may want to buy is the NLTse (New Living Translation, second edition).

    Since those four kings named Herod spanned a long period of time, this may seem confusing. All I can tell you is, if God didn’t see a reason to set the exact date at this time, it may not be important. Then again, having a pretty good idea of how God wrote His book, some specific dates take a bit of digging in the Bible. But I’ve always been able to find the answers in the Bible. As a matter of fact, in this case, checking the other gospels will reveal additional information about which Herod Luke referred to, as well as using other references to zero in dates. That is a detail you can study on your own. That way you’ll see for yourself how God’s Spirit will bring out unexpected details. Talking about unexpected details, doesn’t it seem a little strange Luke would begin his book with a story about Zechariah and his son John? This brings up a number of important Bible Study rules.

    Learn the simple rules of context

    Study the Bible with Context

     

    When something is unusual, it is time to pay attention.

    When God repeats Himself, it is time to pay attention.

    The introduction to a book and chapter establish its context.

    Also remember, the introduction and summation to chapters establish context and the main theme of the chapter.

  • Using a few general rules of context, we can take a close look at the beginning, or introduction to Luke’s book. Luke wants to assure his friend, and us, everything he recorded is true. We have to ask why Luke decided to begin his book with a story about Zechariah and his son. The gospel writers each had their own style of writing and used their own introductions. We’ll learn how the Bible explains why Luke used this story at the beginning of his book. You can use the same method to study the other gospels as well as other books in the Bible.

    Since we already recognized something strange, the obvious next step is to look at what is repeated. This takes a little practice and I would strongly suggest you pray after highlighting keys words and put the study away for a while. That’s when the answers will come. I use a simple method to pray and approach God’s throne for answers. I pray to have my sins forgiven, and ask to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood. I then ask to approach God’s throne to sit and learn at His feet. That’s when it’s time to listen. Once you approach the Infinite Teacher and God of the universe, it is time to listen. Once God gets started on a subject, be prepared to hear details you’ve never seen before. One of the details God pointed out was a new beginning. When I looked at the key words, I could see how birth and born stood out. That showed me how this story centered on a new beginning.

    Zechariah went through the usual preparations. He was washed and dressed in his white linen ephod with blue trim, a symbol of God’s law. Zechariah carried two small gold boxes. One was for the ashes, the other filled with a new supply of incense. Nothing seemed special about the day. It seemed Zechariah had done this a thousand times. The usual crowd gathered outside the temple to offer up petitions, prayer requests to God. Zechariah heard them all. Prayers never seemed to change. People always needed help and Zechariah was always happy to add them all to his prayer list. Every once in a while he would get personally involved. On a few occasions he was able to personally help people. Some times with funds, other times as a friend, to be there when they needed someone.

    Once the ashes were cleaned and the new incense lite, Zechariah watched it burn for a while. He watched the smoke raise up while remembering stories about how the smoke would drift up over the vail into the Most Holy potion of the Tabernacle. The ceilings were so high in Herod’s temple, Zechariah wondered if there would ever be enough smoke to reach the Most Holy. Zechariah felt an emptiness in his heart as he looked at the vail, knowing the ark was not there. Looking back to check the burning incense once more, Zechariah wondered why God answered some prayers, but not others.

    Suddenly the lights seemed to dim a bit. Zechariah looked away for an instant, then back at the incense he was responsible for just in time to see a faint, then a clear image of a figure standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. Zechariah never saw another person in the temple before. Especially not one tall enough to reach the ceiling. It took a while for Zechariah’s heart rate to return to something near normal. He had no idea what to do or say. After a while the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (14) You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. (16) And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. (17) He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

    The first thing the angel wanted to do was calm Zechariah. Then the angel assured Zechariah God heard his prayer. For a second Zechariah wondered which one. The last thing he expected was the answer the angel gave. The angel didn’t beat around the bush. Not only did he tell Zechariah his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son, but the angel told him what to name his son. Zechariah thought this was strange. Isn’t it the right of a father to name his son? Didn’t the angel know this would be his firstborn son? Didn’t the angel know it was tradition to name the firstborn son after the father, and train the child to carry on the father’s profession? Especially with the priesthood.

    The rest of the angel’s message confirmed Zechariah’s prayer for a son to carry on his legacy as a priest. Zechariah felt good to hear his son would bring joy by turning people to God. But Zechariah wasn’t sure about that spirit and power of Elijah. But is sounded good.

    The angel must have done a good job of comforting Zechariah, because, Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Imagine hearing the answer to a major prayer personally delivered by an angel from God. Then what happened? Zechariah questioned the good news. Why? Was Zechariah upset because he couldn’t name the baby? Did he really doubt the angel and the message? Something was wrong.

    Notice the angel didn’t try to second guess what Zechariah was thinking, or discuss the issue. The angel identified himself and his task. “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” The speed and direct way Gabriel delivered the message showed how angles work. They deliver messages, adding nothing, and we can trust, leave nothing out. Gabriel didn’t attempt to over explain the situation or enter into a debate. Zechariah opened his mouth and the wrong thing came out. Gabriel began the conversation with a word of comfort and ended it with a rebuke.

    This shows how angels follow orders from God as well as showing, when God communicates with us, there is a price to pay when doubt is allowed to set in. After all, when Pharaoh didn’t listen to the message Moses delivered, he had to pay the price. Why would God treat a priest any differently?

    The rebuke caught Zechariah by surprise. He suddenly noticed Gabriel was twice as tall as him. Zechariah began wondering what he was thinking when he questioned Gabriel. That’s when Zechariah realized, Gabriel delivered a series of important messages to Daniel, one of the greatest prophets in scripture. Zechariah realized Gabriel stood next to God’s throne. His mind was filled with a thousand questions. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. This was a price to high to pay. Zechariah had a chance to ask Gabriel all those questions he had about God. He could stand there and talk to Gabriel for days. But try as hard as he could, nothing came out. After a few minutes, Gabriel vanished.

    It was an experience Zechariah had to share. But when he came out of the temple, he still couldn’t speak. Zechariah began to add up the losses he faced by questioning God’s messenger. There were also a number of other details Zechariah had to think over. That’s one reason Zechariah lost his voice. To give him time and put him in a position to think about his life, and beliefs.

    When we look at key words Luke repeated, we see the words birth and born stand out. Examining the texts, we see Gabriel delivered a message about Zechariah’s son using words to deliver a message of hope, joy, peace, and unity. At the same time, we see Zechariah the priest loosing his voice. Of course there is a connection. This marked the end of the old priesthood and the beginning of a new priesthood. Not a new priesthood to God, but new to Zechariah’s generation. Notice how the word old is also repeated. The old was giving birth to something new.

    God has a way of revealing details like those when you take time to pray about the studies you work on. If nothing else, you can see how a person who actually prayers, and listens to God, will never run out of new details to share. People may claim they are safe. They may claim they can tell the difference between the right message and a wrong one. But can they really tell the difference between someone who prays and someone who copies information from another person? Once you learn to approach God’s throne and listen to details He has to share, you’ll have no trouble telling when you meet a person who has been in God’s presence, or on the other extremes, a person who never learned to leave this world when it comes to learning lessons from scripture.

    Learn the simple rules of context

    Study the Bible with Context

    Another important Bible Study rule is, when you see scripture quoted by an author, always look up the original texts. An inspired writer will only quote a small portion of scripture, just enough to point you back to the correct original texts. It’s your job to open up and read the original texts. And remember to check to introduction and summation for the chapter the original scripture it is located. This a a major feature of the Bible God uses to communicate with us. An easy way to locate the original texts is to use a chain reference in a Study Bible. Or you can use the TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) you can download and use with E-Sword, and other Bible computer programs.

    And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

    This prophecy is recorded in Malachi 4, which happens to be the perfect example to teach about context found in parallel chapters. Those are chapters, one with a prophecy and the other with its fulfillment. Since it is a short chapter, it will be easy to show how the introduction ans summation add more information to the New Testament chapter it is quoted in.

    Malachi 4:1-6 NLTse The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed–roots, branches, and all. (2) “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (3) On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (4) “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant–all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel. (5) “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (6) His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

    The first feature we see is the last line in Malachi 4. We can see Zechariah was the first one to experience this curse. Once we put the two together we see a sort of chemical reaction occur. People could guess from today to the the day Jesus returns about the curse in Malachi 4, but when we study using the general laws of context, we see how God’s Bible always explains itself. What did Zechariah do to deserve his curse? First, he questioned God’s messenger. Not just any messenger, but Gabriel, the angel we see active in other books of the Bible. Many say it was Zechariah’s doubt or lack of faith. You can add that to the list. How many people know anything about Elijah’s power we’re supposed to see in the last days?

    Another factor we see behind the scene is Zechariah’s desire to follow tradition. Zechariah wanted John to grow up to be just like himself. That was the last thing God wanted or needed. God needed someone He could bring up and train himself. God needed someone who would take His message and deliver it exactly the way it was designed. Zechariah was an old priest and stuck in his ways. Lines between truth and tradition were blurred. John had an important task. He had to prepare the world for Jesus’ ministry. So far, generations of priests all the way from Aaron in the wilderness to Zechariah during the Roman occupation failed. God needed a new plan, and the established priesthood proved they were not up to the task. Hence, the fulfillment of the symbol of a new birth.

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    Symbols always point to something far greater.

    Symbols can only be interpreted by God’s Word.

    Key words help to point to scripture explaining the meaning of a symbol.

    The meaning of a symbol is often explained within the chapter it is recorded.

    Symbols must always be interpreted within context.

  • Without a doubt, Luke repeated the words birth and born to draw attention to them. In this case they are used as a symbol. Since Luke used the symbol of a physical birth, and the fulfillment must be far greater, the symbol must point to a spiritual birth. Look at other words Luke repeated. The key words priest and old share a relationship once we link them to the new birth. It is not a physical birth, but a spiritual. The original prophecy explained everything long before Luke established the link between those key words, old, priest, and birth. “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

    What does the Sun of Righteousness point to? See how we would have missed that very important point if we just did a casual reading? This is what I mean when I wrote about what some people consider Bible Study and learning how God arranged His Word so information is found at just the right time.

    God has always worked with a predetermined structure. Timing has always been a large part of that structure. Before you finish this book, I hope you can begin to understand God’s timing which seems to be one of the most difficult subjects for people to understand and explain. For now we will cover one of the easiest concepts of God’s timing and you will see examples unfold throughout this book.

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    God’s timing is best explained using what we view as a linear, or strait, one dimensional time line. God of course has a different view of time. He knows nothing but eternity and has the power to see future events, as well as having a perfect memory of the past. Since we do not possess those qualities to the same degree as God, He arranged the Bible in a manner we should find easy to understand. The fulfillment of a prophecy represents one point on that linear time line. As we study, using the basic rules of context, we find events and lessons intersecting that point. In this example, John’s conception and birth are intersected by the prophecy in Malachi chapter 4. Some fulfillments have a number of lines intersecting their point in time. Each intersecting line teaches a lesson. Each line travels on an angle in its own associated time period. In this case, the symbol, Sun of Righteousness, covers the same time period in one aspect of time and adds much more to the lesson at hand at the particular time frame being studied. Try to remember how we use earthly time lines to record history, events, and lessons. God uses the same concept with lessons in the Bible intersecting the same point in time. In other words, God’s time line is used to collect a series of lessons on the same subject by using a series of prophecies, their fulfillment, and other stories occurring at that particular time. All of them converge on one point of time while each teaches a different aspect of the same lesson.

    The Sun of Righteousness points to the John’s message. It also points to Jesus’ ministry, here on earth, before His birth on earth, and His ministry in Heaven. As you can see, one intersecting line through a single point in earth’s history can add so much to our understanding. We can see the extent of that intersecting time line based on Malachi’s introduction to chapter 4. “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed–roots, branches, and all.” Some of the words point us to John’s ministry as well as Jesus’ earthly ministry, and beyond to the fulfillment of one phase of Jesus’ ministry in Heaven to the beginning of the next phase. To understand the spiritual concept of John’s birth and ministry, we have to observe the intersecting time line of Jesus’ ministry. This is one of God’s ways of explaining His concept of time.

    This also shows how important it is for us to progress only as fast as God’s Word and His Spirit lead. Believe me, I am so tempted to get into details about Herod, how he came to power, the Roman government, their concept of a Republic, how they revolutionized taxes, and how many of those details apply today. But it is far more important to stick to context.

    Another term to consider is, “healing in His wings.” What thoughts does this induce in your mind? Oh come on. This book wouldn’t be any fun to write or read if your not involved in the process. And one of the main goals is to get you involved in Bible Study and of course in connection with God’s Spirit. This is a time to pause and think about other stories in the Bible with the symbol wings. How does Malachi 4 help to understand those stories? Think about that for a moment. This book will also cover pauses Jesus used during His ministry to get those people around Him to think, and more importantly, open their minds and hearts up to God’s Spirit.

  • Elizabeth and Mary

    Luke 1:23-45 NLTse When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. (24) Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. (25) “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (26) In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, (27) to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. (28) Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (29) Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. (30) “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! (31) You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. (32) He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. (33) And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (34) Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (35) The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (36) What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. (37) For nothing is impossible with God.” (38) Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (39) A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town (40) where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. (41) At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (42) Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. (43) Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? (44) When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. (45) You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

    Luke does another strange thing in chapter 1. Notice how he instantly goes from Zechariah going home into a long explanation about the two women in the story, Elizabeth and Mary. What is Luke dong? He is fulfilling a portion of the prophecy from Gabriel by breaking away from Jewish tradition and writing a detailed account about two women?

    Why did Elizabeth go into seclusion when she got pregnant? You would think after spending a life in seclusion while she was barren, she would take advantage of her new found joy and socialize. After all, don’t a lot of women go out and visit to share their joy? What happens when they share their happiness? They get a lot of advice from every other mother. That wasn’t what God had planned. God wanted John to be special. That didn’t include all the restrictions from this world people face when following traditions. Gabriel told Zechariah, John needed special attention. That began before he was born.

    Elizabeth also felt a need to share her husband’s seclusion. She stayed by his side and shared his pain the best way she knew how. She had a lot of experience living in seclusion. To her it was life as usual. But now she had a new baby to look forward to. It was the beginning of a new life for Elizabeth.

    We know what Elizabeth faced when she was barren. There’s no reason to rely on stories people heard about Jewish culture or consult other books on the subject. God placed everything we need in His book. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” If that’s not enough, you can investigate other stories in the Bible, like Samuel’s mother at the beginning of 1 Samuel. Elizabeth was still an attractive woman in her old age, even though her favorite hobby was cooking for her husband and his friends. Like most women, Elizabeth tried to make up for shortcomings and build self confidence through other means. Zechariah had friends, but Elizabeth had no one in the priestly circle she could call a friend.

    Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a type of seclusion. They didn’t live in the center of Jerusalem, near the temple like other predominant priests. Because Elizabeth was barren, they moved to a secluded little town in the hill country, away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. Elizabeth often felt it was her fault Zechariah couldn’t advance in the priesthood. He was a well respected man, but stigmas have a way of holding back the best of men.

    Elizabeth thought the large meals she prepared would help people appreciate her. But the stigma of being barren was too much for them to over come. She often sat at the table with the other women feeling so alone. It was as if those other women had no regard for her feelings as they chatted about their families, especially new born babies, marriage arrangements for their older children, and everyday events. Elizabeth felt so left out. Like she had nothing in common with them.

    Elizabeth hated shopping. Women showed her a measure of respect in her home, which was lacking in public. The cold stares and whispers behind her back were more than she could bear. Everyone considered her cursed and wanted nothing to do with her. There were only a few priests living in the area, but there was no where to go to escape them. And Zechariah desired a home close to Jerusalem, so he could continue to serve in the temple where he felt closer to God.

    To make up for the lack of communication from the priestly circles she lived in, Elizabeth often traveled across town to the poor district where she continually ministered to those less fortunate them herself. She prayed for them, gave them gifts, and money when they needed it. But that did little to ease the pain in her heart or cure her loneliness, not to mention the constant guilt she felt by letting her beloved husband down.

    Prayer was a continual communication with God Elizabeth enjoyed. You’ll notice in these stories, Zechariah and Mary were visited by Gabriel. Looking ahead, we see Mary’s husband Joseph had dreams. Elizabeth had the best source of communication with God, day to day, minute to minute contact. Because her ministry involved helping people, she intently listened to God for ways to help people on her prayer list. And God was good, often giving her the right words to comfort them, send them to the right people for help, choosing the right gifts to help, and most of all, Elizabeth always knew when it was time to just sit and listen.

    Then Luke wrote about Gabriel’s visit with Mary. When you compare the two, Mary wasn’t much more confident in Gabriel’s message than Zechariah was. Mary was much younger than Elizabeth and was just engaged to Joseph. Engagement was just as important as a marriage. Reputations were at stake. Mary choose to marry Joseph and accepted his children as her own. She looked forward to one day having a child of her own, but figured she would leave that up to God. She had no idea God already had plans for her.

    Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” This was far different than the greeting Gabriel gave Zechariah. With Zechariah, Gabriel got right to the subject. Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. Imagine a little girl facing an angel. Did you ever think of what your reaction would be if an angel appeared in front of you? Of course Mary was a little confused and disturbed. Confused because she was humble and wondered why God would notice her. Disturbed because Gabriel appeared out of no where in all his splendor.

    Of course Gabriel tried to comfort her. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Once again Gabriel delivered his message without hesitating or pausing. He gave her a lot of information to process. She was favored by God. She will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Once again, God chose the name. Was it the fact God chose the names, or was it they weren’t ready for the news? Like Zechariah, Mary questioned Gabriel. “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Gabriel must have been thinking, “oh no not again.” This time Gabriel explained the process. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

    Up until now, Gabriel didn’t tell Mary anything out of the ordinary. Except for the fact, she was meeting with an angel, the conversation didn’t cover anything to stretch her beliefs. But that thing about having the power of the Most High overshadow her was a little strange. It’s a good thing Gabriel closed with, “nothing is impossible with God.” That seemed to clear up matters. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

    Mary’s response was completely different than Zechariah’s reaction. Gabriel didn’t hang around to answer any other questions. When we look at other gospels, we see Mary was also told about her aunt Elizabeth. So she went to visit her uncle Zechariah and aunt Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Gabriel did tell Zechariah the baby would be filled with God’s Spirit. Before he was born, John knew when he was in the presence of the Messiah. How could a baby know while much of the world missed the blessing? This shows how effective God’s Spirit is, as well as shows us how young children are able to learn and comprehend.

    Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Not only was John blessed with God’s Spirit, Elizabeth also had a close relationship with Him. When we see how Gabriel talked to Zechariah and Mary, but not Elizabeth, we have another one of those strange circumstances to consider. The only explanation could be, Elizabeth had such a close relationship with God’s Spirit. She had no problem understanding what was going on. She knew Mary was carrying God’s Son before Mary came through the door.

    So far we’ve seen a number of new beginnings, or spiritual births. Another word repeated through Luke 1, is the word angel. There are a limited amount of meetings with angels in the Old Testament. But Luke, and other gospels begin with a series of meetings with angels. Is God beginning a new phase in His plan of salvation? If we look forward in the New Testament, we find other instances where angles met with people, especially the disciples. Angles stood along side of the disciples when Jesus was taken up into the clouds. Angels also came to roll the stone away from Jesus tomb. An angel freed Peter from prison. We have some information on angles in the New Testament, but I’ve never looked at their role and how it increased since the announcement of Jesus’ birth.

    The gospels writers, especially Luke, introduce a new movement. The Old Testament is loaded with messages delivered by prophets, with only a few scattered accounts with angels. In the New Testament, we see an increase in angel’s participation in God’s plan of salvation, with very little written about prophets. That is with the exception of Jesus, the greatest prophet of all.

    John and the message he was given was a sign of a new birth while his farther, the old priest, was a symbol showing the end of the Levitical priesthood. Elizabeth experienced a new birth when she could finally put her problems behind her. John’s birth gave her a new lease on life. Mary also budded as a woman in a whole new way. She was leaving behind her childhood and entering womanhood with God.

  • Mary’s Prayer

    Luke 1:46-55 NLTse Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. (47) How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! (48) For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. (49) For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. (50) He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. (51) His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. (52) He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. (53) He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. (54) He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. (55) For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

    The interesting thing about this meeting, is how God put those two women together with something in common. Let’s not look at this meeting and pass over it like the world does. Let’s look at this based on the personal side of the characters involved. The Christian world has a way of downplaying woman’s roles in the plan of salvation. Obviously Luke disagreed. Otherwise he wouldn’t have jumped out of Jewish tradition at the beginning of his book. Especially after assuring everything he wrote was thoroughly investigated.

    Mary traveled miles alone. After meeting Gabriel, she knew she was protected. The long trip gave her time alone to think of how her life changed in an instant. Like any young woman, a thousand thoughts drifted through her head. She had thoughts of playing with her baby. Plans to set up all the little things every new baby will need. Mary had thoughts of playing with Little baby Jesus, and everything she would teach Him. She also thought about her short meeting with Gabriel and how a few minutes can change her life. Then of course she thought of sharing her news with Elizabeth.

    It may seem as a minor detail, but look how God planned things. After spending years listening to other women talking about their kids and plans, look who Elizabeth was able to share her excitement with, the mother of God’s Son. God may have made Elizabeth wait, but He sure made the wait well worth it.

    We can look at how Mary structured her prayer. “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! ” Mary begins much like David in a number of Psalms. Mary begins by praising the Lord. She then follows up by putting herself in her place, showing how dependent she is on God. “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Then much like David, Mary made a list of God’s power. “For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” Mary closed her prayer by listing a benefit and reminding us about God’s promises. “He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

    Mary and Elizabeth shared a connection with God’s Spirit. They felt much closer than aunt and niece, related only by blood. God’s Spiritual connection goes much deeper than human emotions can reach or words can describe. Mary expressed a part of that emotion in a prayer. In that prayer Mary expressed her love and respect for God. A God she knew is much greater than her, and has plans she cannot imagine.

    Mary’s main theme in her prayer centered around mercy. It is not only a very touching response for a new mother to express, but describes a part of the chemical change inside a mother’s body once cells begin to multiply and divide, forming a new living being.

  • Zechariah Can Speak

    Luke 1:56-55 NLTse Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home. (57) When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. (58) And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. (59) When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. (60) But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” (61) “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” (62) So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. (63) He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” (64) Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. (65) Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. (66) Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. (67) Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: (68) “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. (69) He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, (70) just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. (71) Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. (72) He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant– (73) the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. (74) We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. (76) “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. (77) You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. (78) Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, (79) to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (80) John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

    The first detail I noticed about this series of stories, is it consists of a series of prayers. Now we have to contemplate this according to the established main theme, a new birth. The old is passing away giving way to the new in this world. Not that God’s plans have ever changed. No. But to this world, we are passing away from the strangle hold of the enemy and death, onto the understanding of God’s promise of a new life.

    I always thought Mark was the author who moved quickly from one subject to another. But look at Luke’s book. Luke jumped right into the story about Zechariah and John’s conception. In it he mixed in the story of Mary’s meeting with Gabriel, and Jesus’ conception. Luke established a pattern.

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    When you see patterns forming, list them in a chart. Charts make it much easier to see the connection between related events and where they are leading.

    Luke has been presenting details in pairs.

    Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and Mary.

    Gabriel delivered messages about two new sons, John and Jesus.

    Two new mothers are involved, Elizabeth and Mary.

    We actually have three prayers, Elizabeth, Mary, and Zechariah.

    Once a pattern is established, and we see a break in it, this is an indication to pay attention. It often indicates a movement into a new event. Often a break in an established pattern leads into a sever warning, a wonderful promise, or fulfillment.

    But first we have to see how Luke lead into Zechariah’s prayer. Zechariah sat in silence listening to Elizabeth share hopes and dreams for the future. Not being able to speak left Zechariah in a position to observe Elizabeth’s reaction to an answer she had been praying about for a long time. Zechariah noticed, Elizabeth didn’t go outside the house much. Neither did she invite people over to share her joy. Mary was the only one she shared with.

    Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a simple home. A nice sized living room open to a large dining room, and a large kitchen in the back. The second floor had three bedrooms, their bedroom, another prepared as a guest room, and the third doubled as a study and storage room. Their home was much simpler than some of the lavish homes other priests in Jerusalem lived in. But it was what they liked and appreciated. The quite evenings and mornings were worth much more to Zechariah and Elizabeth than the glitter of the big city.

    In silence, Zechariah learned more about his wife than all those years they lived together. Zechariah could hear every word Elizabeth shared with Mary from anywhere in the house. His heart sunk inside of himself as he listened to Elizabeth share the pain she suffered for years without a child. It was an experience Mary would never have to endure. She was so thankful for that, as she sat quietly and listened.

    Zechariah intently listened to Elizabeth and Mary share their insights to the spiritual matter at hand, the births of their two sons. Mary shared everything about her meeting with Gabriel, that still seemed unclear. Elizabeth was Mary’s chosen mentor sent from God. Elizabeth shared what she heard from God. Mary didn’t understand how people talk to God, or listen, until Elizabeth explained the details. Being a priest, Zechariah had a copy of scripture written in Hebrew, and thoroughly checked to ensure it contained no errors. Zechariah and Elizabeth knew that would come in handy when it was time to train John.

    When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. Elizabeth welcomed the attention. It was something she had been praying for. Then God’s voice came to her again in the faint thoughts she knew would be easy to block out if she chose. God’s Spirit reminded her, John was given to her to serve the Lord. Elizabeth was instantly reminded of the story Samuel wrote about his mother and how she gave up Samuel at a young age to serve in the Tabernacle. It was time for Elizabeth to question God’s Spirit as she tried to associate the Tabernacle with the temple. God’s Spirit took her through the symbols in the Tabernacle one by one, pointing out how they pointed to the Messiah. Now it was time to add to those symbols with the verbal message John was going to carry. Those conversations with God gave Elizabeth a much warmer feeling inside than all those greetings and gifts she received from friends and relatives.

    When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. For years circumcision had been associated with the temple. Elizabeth knew there was something wrong with that teaching, but never bothered to investigate. She thought it had something to do with God’s people, the Jews. She was always taught circumcision was a sign the male child belonged to the family of Jews. But now she wasn’t sure. So Elizabeth prayed about it and was directed to one text. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. (Genesis 17:10-12 NLTse).

    As Elizabeth read on, she found Ismael was circumcised long before Isaac was born. The Jews didn’t consider anyone from Ismael’s line was a part of their descendants. So why was circumcision taught that way today? Elizabeth was certain of one thing. She would not have her son circumcised at the temple. She had Zechariah ask one of his friends to come to the house to perform the ceremony.

    Another tradition Elizabeth wouldn’t stand for was naming her son after his father. “No! His name is John!” She remembered what God told her and her husband confirmed. During what should have been a happy moment, conflict broke out. Her quests and relatives all knew how much Zechariah wanted a son to follow in his footsteps. Taking his name was part of the process, an important part of tradition. Elizabeth was not about to let tradition over come God’s Word.

    As she vehemently argued the point, Zechariah began to realize this was the first step to overcome tradition, so the truth about the Messiah could be clearly understood. Zechariah began to understand, the change had to begin with him.

    The family could not convince Elizabeth to accept and follow tradition, so they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. They were certain the old priest would be able to convince his wife to follow tradition. Zechariah motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” That was it. Zechariah surprised the entire audience when he didn’t back tradition. Especially a tradition that personally benefited him. Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

    Once we look at Zechariah’s prayer, we can see how he spent his time in silence. It was a popular Jewish belief, as well as a prophecy that showed the Messiah would come from Judah’s family line. The same line David came from.

    Those long hours spent alone in silence opened Zechariah’s eyes to the simplicity of God’s message. He began to see a clearer view of the Messiah. One few people saw. But a view confirmed by his wife. Zechariah looked back to see how Elizabeth served God and saw the contrasts to the work he did in the temple. Zechariah finally admitted those services in the temple were centered on making money to support the lavish life style of those priests. He knew it couldn’t continue. He knew it had to change. He knew it wasn’t what God intended. Zechariah realized, Gabriel promised change.

    Zechariah didn’t know what that change was, but he now had a new, clearer understanding of God and His plan of salvation. It wasn’t what he was taught would come, but his thoughts combined with Elizabeth’s warm and understanding touch confirmed it was God’s voice in his thoughts and visions.

    Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

    One more thing we need to do to make this study complete is to compare those prayers. This will allow me to introduce another important] Bible Study method.

    Learn the simple rules of context

    Study the Bible with Context

  • This is one Bible Study method many people are familiar with. It is refereed to as the 5 – W’s of Bible Study. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Each question is listed and answered. Make sure you stick to information in the Bible and do not add in outside reference material. Think of using this method to place God’s Word on trial. Think of yourself as cross examining God’s Word. Anything outside the Bible is circumstantial evidence and not allowed. This can take some digging, but as a general rule, answers are found by looking back a chapter or two. References can also be used from other books in the Bible.
  • This is going to be an unusual example based on the fact, we are going to use this method on three people and three prayers at the same time. But once you see this repeated three times, you’ll have no problem remembering this method and using it in your own studies. It is as if Luke designed the first chapter in his book, with divine inspiration, to be used as a study guide.

    Who:

    Zechariah, the old priest.

    Elizabeth his wife. Before this, barren and without children.

    Mary, the young engaged woman. Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s niece.

    What:

    Elizabeth praised God for taking away her disgrace of not having children.

    Mary said, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” She looked at the birth of her son as a new spiritual beginning, not only for herself, but the world. She reminded herself of her humble stature and saw that was one of the reasons God choose her. She was in a position to take orders and carry them out. She referred to herself as God’s servant. Mary pointed out a portion of God’s power and control in this world. Mary saw, she was fulfilling prophecy. “He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

    Zechariah began with a praise. “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.” He also saw, he was involved in the fulfillment of prophecy and it was much greater than himself. He directed his prayer first to Mary’s baby. “He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David.” Zechariah also tied his prayer into God’s promises to Abraham and saw how his son was going to be a prophet and accomplish much more than he was capable of.

    Mary’s prayer was much more detailed. She followed the same process in her prayer David used in a number of his Psalms. That doesn’t seem to be by accident, but to point to Jesus’ ancestry. Mary’s prayer was similar to Zechariah’s. Or Zechariah’s prayer was very much like Mary’s, since Mary prayed months before Zechariah regained his voice. Mary praised God, listed some of His powers, and included a reference to Abraham. Those two prayers show us God has been planning this a long time, in addition to showing His plan is much bigger than one nation.

    When:

    Elizabeth prayed as soon as she found out she was pregnant.

    Mary prayed as soon as she walked through the door and the message Gabriel gave her was confirmed by Elizabeth.

    It took more than nine months for Zechariah to catch onto what was happening. He didn’t seem to understand anything Gabriel told him, until he had some time to think it over. Zechariah prayed immediately after getting his voice back.

    Where:

    Elizabeth went into seclusion and prayed at home.

    Mary went to meet Elizabeth and prayed in her home.

    Zechariah prayed at his son’s circumcision. The first prayer in the presence of others.

    Why:

    This is the question sometimes the most difficult to answer and requires the most amount of prayer, because it most often has personal implications.

    Zechariah had lessons to learn. We all have lessons to learn. Luke told us, Zechariah held an important position in the temple priesthood and was a trusted figure. The same is true in the home where those prayers took place. God held Zechariah to a higher standard, because of his position and the fact, he had a greater access to scripture.

    Elizabeth may have prayed a selfish prayer, but the fact she didn’t have an encounter with an angel, or any particular dream or vision showed Elizabeth was receptive to God. As a matter of fact, Luke showed us how God used Elizabeth as a messenger, reassuring and helping to guide Mary, the confused, young niece.

    Mary was in the strangest predicament. She was young and naive. She needed guidance, and God supplied it. Mary looked at her pregnancy as a blessing. She accepted Gabriel’s message from God with little doubt. All her doubts and fears were wiped away the second Elizabeth confirmed the message.

    I hope you learned a little about studying the Bible in this first chapter. I have to admit, I had no idea Luke’s first chapter contained so much information about Bible Study until I began looking at this, highlighting key words, praying about it, and sitting down to write. In prayer, God gave direction and filled in details as I progressed from verse to verse.

    I hadn’t planned on this format, adding in Bible Study rules with a Bible to mark quick reference points. I did post those points to the Internet. And I should make a collection and post them to my website.

    The main intention of this book is of course to look into the life and character of the people in Luke’s book, using only the Bible as much as possible. But my ministry is to teach people to study their Bibles in their own, to draw into a closer relationship with God, Jesus, and the Spirit sent here to assist us.

    I have been working with some local pastors here in Milwaukee for some time, as well as Dr. Lee Gugliotto, who hosts a number of live, online Bible Studies for free. He is one of the few people I know, who are able to explain Bible Study in simple terms anyone can understand. We’ve spent hours on the phone, as well as in prayer, finding ways to introduce and teach Bible study using not only simple, but interesting formats.

    In the future, I hope to have opportunities to write stories in a more descriptive manner, dwelling on the dress, scenes, homes, local culture, and of course, personalities of the people, lessons, and parables Luke was so careful to record. In each chapter, I hope to share how much of the information was gather from the pages of the Bible. Forgive me if I don’t provide references for all the information about the cities, towns, villages, dress, customs, and beliefs mentioned in the stories. That would defeat the purpose, and turn this book into another reference source few people will read from cover to cover.

    The eBook format makes this project possible. You’ve seen how important color is in these studies. Color printing costs would price this book out of the reach of most people. I do hope you consider sharing, but only small portions of this book. I also hope you consider purchasing other books I’ve written. Here is a link to the website. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AdventBible

    My website contains a number of studies and stories and of course viewing is free. But not as detailed and complete as the books. https://adventbiblestudy.wordpress.com/

    If you want to join Dr. Lee Gugliotto’s free, live, online Bible Studies, here is the link with schedules:

    http://homechurchtv.org/

    The best news we could hear is from you. Leave a message on one of the websites and please, if this book has helped you, write a review on the Lulu book sales page.

    I also want to share a few programs and Android apps to enhance your eBook experience. Here is the link for a free eBook reader for a PC or laptop. http://www.adobe.com/solutions/ebook/digital-editions/download.html

    Here are the most useful and complete apps I’ve found for Android phones. Sorry iPhone users, I don’t have the link for you. But your phones are much faster on the Internet and I am sure you can find the same titles at your Apple Store.

    Here is the eBook reader Cool Reader:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.coolreader

    One more note. To get Cool Reader to operate on text to speech, go to Settings and click on Read Aloud. It has a headphone icon. That one took me a while to figure out.

    That program works best with the voice to text app Ivona.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ivona.tts

    I included the names of the programs in case they change the address. At the time, those are all free programs and apps. So happy reading and study whenever you can. God Bless.

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