Becoming Strong in Spirit

Week 7 | Section 8a,b,c

Becoming Strong in SpriitHow delighted Elizabeth and Zechariah must have been when their son was born, not only for the joy of having a child but because of their confidence of what he would be. Indeed, that is the pivotal word in our reading today – ‘be’. Our actions are tied to our being, and our being to the purposes of God. Most certainly Elizabeth and Zechariah were familiar with the saying, “raise up a child…(Prov. 22:6)” and John fulfilled his calling perfectly. May each of us have such a clear understanding of our relationship with God that we abandon any vain activity, embrace our identity as children of the covenant, and then our role in God’s master plan. May we take so seriously our duty as parents and spiritual parents that we make disciples and also point the way to the Savior, tell others of God’s mercy, grace and the horn of our salvation.

Luke 1:57-66 | Section 8a

57 Now the time that Elizabeth should give birth was fulfilled,1 and she gave birth to a son.2 58 Her neighbors and her relatives3 heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 On the eighth4 day, they came to circumcise5¯6 the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 His mother answered,7 “Not so; but he will be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 They made signs8 to his father, what he would have him called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.”9 They all marveled. 64 His mouth was opened immediately,10   and his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 Fear came on all who lived around them, and all these sayings were talked about throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, “What then will this child be?”11¯12 The hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:67-79 | Section 8b13¯14¯15¯16

67 His father, Zacharias, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people; 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation17 for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old), 71 salvation18 from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show mercy19 towards our fathers, to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to Abraham, our father, 74 to grant to us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies,should serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. 76 And you, child, will be called a prophet20 of the Most High,for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation21 to his people by the remission of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God,whereby the dawn from on high will visit us, 79 to shine22 on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:80 | Section 8c

80 The child23was growing,24 and becoming strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his public appearance to Israel.25

Group Dialog:

  1. What experiences have you had in which God has interrupted your routine, answered a prayer
  2. How has the wider community helped develop your faith thus far? Were your parents or god-parents active in that process?
  3. What traditions have been a “marker” helping you keep the faith and continue to grow spiritually?
  4. What role would you like to take in helping others mature spiritually?

Learning Objectives:

Obedience in faith, being-God’s child, God’s plan of redemption & reconciliation, the will of God, God’s promises, prophesy, circumcision and traditions, raise up a child, discipling others

Study Notes:

  1. Nine months has passed (see week 4)
  2. Just as the angel Gabriel had prophesied, Elizabeth and Zecharias had a son Luke 1:13-14, Luke 1:36 .  Sometimes prophecies take hundreds of years to be fulfilled, such as the ones about the Messiah, and his Forerunner (John).  And sometimes prophecies happen quickly, as in this case.  (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The immediate family and those who would gather and respond to John’s message of repentance would benefit from this event. Besides the ongoing impact for the generation after generation of hearers of the word, this prophecy and fulfillment gives hope that God is in this, and to bring divine capability and equipping to Elizabeth and Zechariah as they now raised their son – John – for a divine purpose.
  3. Many lived there in Hebron in the hill country of Judea (Joshua 21:11), some were from the line of Aaron, others from the tribe of Judah.
  4. There was an ordinance of circumcision (Genesis 17:12 and Phil 3:5) initiated because of the commandment God gave to Abraham. It was to be a sign and ceremony to cleanse the infant from original sin and mark or remind the child that they belong to God, the people of God. Jewish tradition favors ten people to be present as witnesses to the circumcision, the faithfulness of the parents and the identity of the child as God’s own. This is akin to god-parents during baptism.
  5. (2Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 3:1-29, esp 24) and Irenaeus taught that the Law has a testing and evidentiary function. Obedience to it proves and provides evidence of faith and herein Luke shows us the righteousness of Zechariah and Elizabeth that he told us about (Luke 1:6).
  6. 1) Jewish proselytes were circumcised at any age. 2) While the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness they neglected circumcision. However when Joshua led them into Canaan he circumcised all the men (some of whom were about forty years old).
  7. Once again it is Luke the Gospeller who is given the opportunity and inspiration to note the irregular wife/mother’s voice to speak the baby’s name.  She thus honors and respects her husband, whose responsibility it would otherwise have been to make sure the baby’s name was given as John.  After all it was to Zechariah that the prophecy regarding the name was uttered in the first place.  If Elizabeth had not spoken up, then her husband would have failed in his God-given task.
  8. There is a school of thought based on the translation of siopao in Luke 1:20 that it is best translated “you will be silent” meaning, your world will be silent, neither hearing nor speaking. Despite the references in translation to being “speechless” and no other reference to being “deaf”, too, this might explain why the neighbors had to make use of signs to gain Zechariah’s attention here.  Otherwise, would they not just have said, “Zechariah!  Is this what you want?”   And again, otherwise, we are left with a head nod from the relatives and neighbors, like somebody giving a greeting without actually waving.
  9. Ioannes in Greek (gk. ē-ō-ä’n-nās) but this couple would have given him the Hebrew name Yochanan or Ye-hochanan, the name that Gabriel the angel told Zachariah to give the child. It’s meaning is “Yehovah is a gracious giver” or “God is gracious”. The name is altogether appropriate as its meaning and the gracious gift God had given them. However for traditions sake, the objection might have come because Zacharias was not related to the Sadducean high priest by the same name. Another form of the name could have been Yehochanan – derived from Yeho (Name of the Lord) and –chanan (grace or favor). John was not a family name for Zacharias but it was a common name among the Hebrew people (1 Chronicles 26:3. 2 Chronicles 17:15; 23:1. Ezra 10:28. Nehemiah 12:13, 42) or Yohanan (2 Chronicles 28:12. Ezra 10:6. Nehemiah 6:18).
  10. Quickness (swift obedience and action) is often the response of the person who has been disciplined by God, and of those who have felt separated from him. God’s discipline is designed to produce more fruit (Romans 5:20). Now set free, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies (truth telling).
  11. Note the emphasis on being, not doing. This is characteristically Hebrew thought one that we see reflected in Socratic teaching and more importantly in the words of Scripture that “what comes out of a man is born from within”.
  12. Judaic traditions during childhood. – Education of precepts and values began at home with the teaching and telling of Old Testament stories of the Israelite and Hebrew people. Synagogue study began at the age of six or seven. Most every village had a school and if a student was to pursue his studies he would be sent to the Scribal “college” where the great Rabbis taught. Customarily the father would teach his son some honest craft.
  13. The song of Zacharias, sometimes called the Benedictus, begins to provide an answer to the question asked by his friends and relatives in verse 66: “What kind of child will this be?” The song of Zacharias, like the song of Mary in verses 46-55, has traditionally been named after the first word in the Latin: Benedictus, which means “Blessed.” Luke the song of Mary, the song of Zacharias, focuses on the Messiah which is to come, the redemption He will bring, and how the son of Zacharias, John, will prepare the way for this Messiah.
  14. Like the Magnificat, there is objective to be gained in the praise. In 1:68-75, Zechariah praises God for the salvation that is to come through the Messiah, and in 1:76-79,  he prophecies that his newborn son will be the prophet who will prepare the way for this Messiah.
  15. This is a song of redemption for Zacharias as well. Up until this point in the narrative, he has been portrayed in a negative light, as one who doubts the word from God through Gabriel even though he had every reason to believe it. He has now had nine months to be alone with his thoughts, and the words almost certainly reflect what he has learned during this period of silence. Aside from containing numerous allusions to the Psalms and the Prophets, the words he speaks echo Mary’s song of faith, as well as the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2. The similarity to Hannah’s prayer is especially appropriate since Zachariah’s son will prepare the way for the Messiah, the King of Israel, just as Hannah’s son, Samuel, prepared the way for King David.
  16. Even though Zachariah is prophesying about two different individuals, Luke has recorded his song in a chiastic form which reveals the central point Zachariah is making. He believes the Abrahamic Covenant is finally coming true.  Studying a chiastic structure can often help one gain a greater sense of what is being proclaimed or said.

    A 68 – Visited by God
    B 69 – Horn of Salvation
    C 70 – Prophets since the world began
    D 71 – Salvation from Enemies
    E 72 – Mercy promised to fathers
    << and then in reverse>>
    E 73 – Covenant to father Abraham
    D 74 – Salvation from Enemies
    C 76 – Prophet of the Highest
    B 77 – Knowledge of Salvation
    A 78 – Visited by Dayspring

    (Verses 75 and 79 do not fit into the chiastic, but that is because these verses conclude the section about Jesus and John respectively.)

  17. Psalm 18:2 a name of God, symbolizing strength.
  18. For the adherents of second temple Judaism there was no separation between personal, community, and national salvation and restoration. It was still tribal and G_d was there God. While Zachariah may have been thinking about the social conditions of Israel, God was examining the soul of his people and his bride (Ezekiel 36:26). Israel is suffering under Roman occupation, and fears that their judgement (for lack of obedience) is not too far away. Now, if this baby John should be the prophet Elijah come again, (Mal. 4:5,6; John 1:21) then perhaps worse things would soon come. But because of the promises and covenant Israel is looking to YHWH to rescue their nation and release them from affliction trusting that God will preserve a ‘remnant of his inheritance’ (Micah 7:18). See also: Ps. 106:10 and Mal. 2:17-3:2
  19. See also Ps. 105:4,45; 106:45 and Mic. 7:20
  20. John’s epitaph, Whereas Jesus is the Son of the Most High (32, 35).See also Mal 3:1, Isaiah 40:3-5, Is. 60:1-2
  21. This is a Hebrew idiom for the “experience of salvation”, but indeed John made people aware of their sins and the need for salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
  22. the Light of Salvation is for both Gentile and Jew (Isaiah 42:7, John 8:12) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  23. Judaic traditions during childhood
  24. This statement summarizes thirty years of preparation, of which we know very little. What is known comes from this verse alone. It says John grew and became strong in spirit, which refers to being filled, or controlled, by the Spirit. Luke goes on to record that John was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. Tradition holds that John spent some time living in the Qumran community (those who produced the “Dead Sea Scrolls”) being educated by them. His primary place of preparation for ministry was in the desert, a place of solitude. This was true of many of the great prophets of Israelite history (e.g., Moses), and reminds the reader of the prophets about John that he would be a voice of one crying in the wilderness (3:4; Isa 40:3).
  25. Luke’s summary statement “is reminiscent of Gen 20:21; Judges 13:24-25, where similar summaries of childhood and youth are given. It also anticipates the similar, but more developed, and therefore superior, report of Jesus’ maturation in 2:40-52, and the summary of the growth of the ‘Word of God’ in the Acts of the Apostles’ (Green 1997:120).

By Greg Troxell

Disciple, entrepreneur and catalytic leader. Advocate of the sharing economy. Ministering to youth, new Christians, and equipping the saints. Developing the Emotivational practice. Founder of