Breaking God's Silence - Part 1
February 12, 2017 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:
Topic: Godliness Verse: Luke 1:5–1:7
“Breaking God’s Silence”
Theme: The Gospel results in the transformed lives of those redeemed through the work of Christ.
I. The Remnant Displaying God’s Faithfulness – Luke 1:5-7
A. The Resistance to the Remnant – Luke 1:5a
- The Gospel of Luke launches its account of the life and work of Jesus Christ with an understated reference to the tumultuous world into which Jesus was born.
- Luke simply states: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest …”
- Paul, Luke’s mentor and partner in ministry declared that God sent His Son into this world at the “fullness of times” – cp. Galatians 4:4.
- Those times were indeed troubling – as the Roman Empire ruled with absolute sovereignty over the then known world; the Jews being governed specifically by a “king” endued with power by the Romans named “Herod.”
- “Herod” was an exceptional historical figure – with debauchery characterizing every area of his life.
- He is identified as a non-Jew, and “Idumean” by birth – meaning that he was a descendent of Edom or Esau and not Jacob, the “other” some of Isaac who sold the birthright to Jacob and had the blessing stolen by Jacob.
- He was appointed as the tetrarch of Galilee in 47 BC, but due to an invasion of Palestine by the Parthians in 40 BC, Herod fled to Rome where he convinced the Senate that since he was from the region and understood the people, he ought to be installed as the undisputed ruler.
- Rome agreed and made him the king of the Jews – giving him an army to secure his rule.
- It took him three years to consolidate his power, stamped out all rebellion, and established order under his authority – something that he ruthlessly maintained until the time of his death.
- He was very politically savvy – even marrying a woman named Mariamne, who was from a wealthy and influential Jewish family.
- He was renowned for a variety of public works and construction projects that notably improved the lives of the Jewish people – including a famous port in Caesarea, the Temple in Jerusalem, the fortress at Masada.
- He lowered taxes several times and instituted a social program to feed the poor during a severe famine prompted some within the religious community to ally with him, becoming known as the Herodians.
- Toward the end of his life, he turned very dark – believing that practically everyone was against him and threatened his rule: He murdered his wife Mariamne and several of their sons; Mariamne’s mother, brother and several others he felt were conspiring against him. This paranoia climaxed just before his death when he slaughtered all the children in Bethlehem due to the report of the Magi that they were there to visit the newborn “king of the Jews” – cp. Matthew 2:16. Herod’s obsessions prompted God to direct Joseph to take Jesus down to Egypt to avoid vulnerability to the hostility of Herod.
- Herod will die just after the fulfillment of the prophecies given in our text regarding the birth of Jesus.
- In addition, the religious environment in Israel was dominated by a corrupted High Priesthood who were likewise empowered by Rome.
- The Temple had become a place of entrepreneurial corruption by means of traders and money-changers.
- The Pharisees dominated the “blue-collar” religious environment with their hypocrisy and legalism.
- The Sadducees were the political class, the intellectuals, who repudiated the notion of the supernatural.
- The general population of Israel was disheartened, discouraged, and disillusioned as they hopelessly trudged through their lives under the fakery of faith and rapacious Romans.
- With all of this, the day was dark without hope – God allowing things to get bleak just prior to the dawning of grace through the gift of His Son.
- Righteousness was scarce as godliness was enveloped by a pagan Gentile world and a secularized religious community.
- All of this would be understood to those who originally read the opening words of this Gospel.
B. The Righteousness of the Remnant – Luke 1:5b-7
- It was not the result of privilege – Luke 1:5b
- Yet the faithfulness of God was displayed by the preservation of a very slight, yet profound remnant of righteous souls who feared God, relied upon His promise and anticipated the faithfulness of God to His Word to provide a Redeemer.
- We are immediately introduced to a sample of that remnant – “… there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah …” “Zacharias” [Ζαχαρίας] – means “The Lord remembers” – and adequately describes the faith of this godly man – that He believed that God had not forgotten His promise to redeem Israel. Such a faith is a description in the OT of saving faith – cp. Romans 4:3 a quote from Genesis 15:6. He was a man whose name aptly described his personal confidence in the Lord and his reliance was on the Lord and NOT on the fact that he was “a priest … of the division of Abijah.” Although being “a priest” was a sacred responsibility as well as a highly respected position, Zecharias did not rely upon his privileged role as what was a “claim to fame” in the eyes of the Lord. He was assigned the duty of fulfilling the priestly duties as part of the “division of Abijah” – one of 24 divisions of the priesthood that rotated in their performance of the temple duties, serving two weeks out of the year – cp. 1 Chronicles 24:3ff. The text doesn’t tell us that he was of the sons of “Abijah” – only of the “division of Abijah” since not all of the priestly families returned after the dispersion, and the four divisions that did return were redistributed in the original 24 divisions to resume the ministry as originally designed – cp. Ezra 2:36-38. The privilege of being a priest did not serve as the basis for his relationship with the Lord – even as many of the priests were corrupt and ultimately proved to be the enemies of Jesus Christ.
- Zacharias was married to a woman who equaled him as a follower of the Lord – “and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” As we discovered with her husband, “Elizabeth” was also a godly follower devoted to the Lord. Her name “Elizabeth” [Ἐλισάβετ] – means “My God is an Oath” – relating the faithfulness of God’s Word. Her name likewise describes the quality of her faith and is explained by means of God’s faithfulness through grace and not by her privileges – either as a priest’s wife, or a priest’s daughter – “from the daughters of Aaron.”
- These two were a unique, bright light amid extreme decadence and darkness – being evidences of the grace of God that brings sinners into reconciliation with the holy God.
- Every person who has ever been saved today or yesterday, has been saved in the same way – through personal faith in the Deliverer provided by God for the forgiveness of our sins, enabled by the grace of a Sovereign Lord.
- It was not the result of performance – Luke 1:6
- Note that these two were both described with highest regard: “They were both righteous in the sight of God.”
- There is only one way that such a statement can be made – they were justified through faith in the One promised by God.
- Luke describes them as “righteous” [δίκαιοι] – a term that describes a state unknown apart from a work of grace – cp. Romans 3:10.
- The additional statement that it is “… in the sight of God” [ἐναντίον] - establishes that this is not the mere obligatory or external conformity to the requirements of the Law, but a state of being accomplished through the imputation of His own righteousness – cp. Romans 10:1-3.
- They realized that they fell far short of the expectations of the Lord established by the Law and were, by the grace of God, aware of their need for the cleansing mercy of God – Romans 3:20.
- Their confidence was not in their own performance, but on the provision of God through the promised Redeemer.
- It was not the result of perfection – Luke 1:7
- Luke further describes them: “… walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
- Their inner righteousness, imputed by the grace of God, resulted in external manifestation of genuine piety.
- The reference to their “walking …” [πορευόμενοι] – establishes their behavior as a manner of life – not merely incidental flashes of righteousness.
- It could just as easily have been translated – “conducting themselves blamelessly …” [ἄμεμπτοι] - describes a state where there were “no handles” or outstanding accusations that could be made about their violation of the law.
- Their conduct was consistently springing from the internal state of righteousness – not that their conduct made them righteous internally! “in all the commandments” [ἐντολαῖς] – a reference to the mandates of the Law. “… and requirements of the Lord” [δικαιώμασιν] – the additional expectations as to what is right or just.
- These qualities were demonstrations that God had worked in their lives and had quickened them to faith in the provisions of God for their salvation – their sanctified lives places the work of grace in their lives on display.
- This faithfulness was despite the reproach that their barrenness had produced – “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.”
- This made their sanctification even more remarkable – having lived many years through hardship, heartache, and humiliation in their culture.
- Thus, their faithfulness was not the result of their having perfect, trouble-free lives; they were challenged and imperfect, yet completely devoted to the One who had given them everything by haven reconciled them to Himself.
- They were representatives of others who were part of the faithful remnant who looked for the coming of the Messiah as a Deliverer in fulfillment of the Promise of God.
II. The Revelation Declaring God’s Faithfulness – Luke 1:8-17
A. The Answer to Their Prayers – Luke 1:8-14
B. The Announcement of the Prophet– Luke 1:15-17
III. The Response Doubting God’s Faithfulness – Luke 1:18-25
A. The Forfeiture of Privelege – Luke 1:18-23
B. The Favor of Providence – Luke 1:24-25
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