Birth of the King’s Herald
In history, every important person entering a city, a building was always preceded by a herald. The herald’s functions is tell the people those things they needed to know about the visiting VIP.
- In Buckingham Palace, the entry of the queen is preceded by the royal page announcing “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
- In the Supreme Courtroom, the entry of the highest judge is announced by the court bailer with a title like this: All stand to The Honorable (full name), Chief Justice of the United States.
In this advent story, the Lord inspired Luke (a New Testament author) to start his Gospel not with the birth of the King of kings but with birth of His herald.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea…
- Herod, known as Herod the Great, was the puppet king of the Roman Empire which had violently expanded it’s military control into the Middleeast. Herod was a typical despot of the time.
- Judea of the first century was inhabited mostly by the remnants of Israel that had returned from 75 years of exile in Babylon. The Judeans or the Jews then had survived 400 years of servitude to other nation states then to finally under Roman control.
…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.
Again, does this sound familiar to the story of Abraham and Sarah? Well, it should. In the Bible, there are no coincidences.
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.
What would be special about John?
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
This baby will grow up to live a way of holy discipline that is hard for many to follow. In the Old Testament it was called the Law of the Nazirites.
Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the LORD, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. ‘All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. ‘All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.”
Now, we come to his task.
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
You would think that Zacharias would have jumped and danced, but instead…
Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.
Like the story of Abraham and Sarah, God kept His word.
Luke 1:24-25; 57-66
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
That is a very good question. This child will grow up to be the most unusual herald of them all. His name was…