AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH December 19, 2010       

A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith    



Luke 1

Christmas is coming. Some 2000 years ago, Christ was coming. Now, His return is drawing near. The international mouths speak ever more brashly concerning Israel, the restoration of Jerusalem to which, is part of the necessary prelude to Christ's return (Luke 21:25, Zechariah 12-14). UN people talk of new sanctions against it because it dares to build in its much reduced bit of Palestine, the rest of the League of Nations promise having been scamped, scavenged or donated to others. Some want - Foreign Minister Rudd for example - inspection of its atomic weaponry, as if it were not in the midst of a proposition for genocide these 40 years, and a nation at war by the devisings of others, and the UN had not been as inimical as conceivable during that time, with many Arab and Islamic members, but one only from Israel. Does one trust the hand that does not hesitate to bind one's hands and empower those bent on devastation, even one's enemies ? How could this be so!

Similarly, there was one only when Christ came, and the notion that the removal of that One would be a relatively simple coup, appeared to occur to Herod, as we have seen: but God being against him, he missed that One! One is too many when God is for you, against your enemies. One Israel, as one site God has specified for various purposes, most of which have already flourished, though the consummation in Christ is yet to come (Zechariah 12:10, Ezekiel 36-37), it is enough. Whatever is suffered, one thing is always sure, God will not suffer His word to be broken, and if need be, many will be broken who insist on breaking it, lords of creation who did not even bother to create it themselves, though they seek to rule it, and rule out the word of God, whether for confusion or corruption or both. Those things gather like a violent storm; but what of the time when He first came ?

When Jesus first came to this earth, there were great dealings with his mother concerning Him, as with John the Baptist's mother, Elizabeth and father, Zechariah. Faith was surging like Niagara, but there was one flaw.


Jesus and John, Zechariah and Mary 

Zechariah was a priest, During his duties, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him, announcing his coming son as a forerunner to the Messiah (as foretold in Isaiah 40:3). He was to prepare the ways of the Lord, who as in Isaiah 40:11 is seen taking the lambs in His arms (cf. Matthew 19:13ff.). It was to begin with a birth to come, but both the priest and his wife were old. Such a son after so long was now to come to them ? "How shall I know this ? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years ?" queried Zechariah. His problem was not HOW the child would be born, a physical  matter, but one of knowledge. How could he KNOW that this event would come ?

But had he not just been told! Faith may not always comprehend but can  apprehend, and it was a time to realise that this biblical forecast was about to be fulfilled in his very own family and his long-delayed son, coming when his age made it seem profoundly unlikely. But how likely was it that Israel would escape Egypt, or that God would so love this world, that seeking not judgment but its salvation, He would act at the deepest possible personal level for its deliverance! With God, all things are possible, but with doubt, difficulties are certain. 



They certainly came! Zechariah's query implied that he did not KNOW what he had just been told, which implies doubt and lack of trust. For this, he was given a barrier to speech. As he was slow to hear, so he would be slow to speak, and in fact would be dumb till the birth of the child came (Luke 1:13ff.). This appears clearly a warning from God to those would be living when John the Baptist did his ministry, not to be slow to believe,  for it merely cripples to  do  so (Acts 5:32).  



When John was born, then, Zechariah's speech returned as he confirmed the name of the babe. So it is well  to get on with things, and then the power is present to  do so.

Elizabeth, in the interim, while the babe was growing in her womb, met Mary who had at that time received her own information on the babe soon to be  in her own womb (Luke 1:28-35). The Holy Spirit would overshadow her and the child would therefore be called the Son of God. Mary had her own question. "How can this be since I do not know a man ?"
she queried (Luke 1:34). She received no rebuke, to parallel that to Zechariah. Why is this so ?

She simply enquired for information about the MEANS of the event, since  clearly the normal method of conception was absent. This not having at that point been told her, there was no transgression. Information is to the point if you are  to participate in a divine event. It was then that the famous narration concerning divine conception was given, as in Luke 1:35. The angel proceeded to inform her further. Clear questioners without doubt are more likely to receive clear answers without even asking, once the attitude is established and the atmosphere is right! (Psalm 18:26 - 'With the pure, You will show Yourself pure.") Let us all then be diligent in waiting on the Lord with expectation, not cavil.

Elizabeth your relative is already 6 months on the way in gestation, she  was told, her conception coming in old age - another thing notable, though not to the same level. With God, the angel added, "nothing will be impossible."

Actually, this is true in two ways: nothing, as the commencement of all things, is impossible, since what is total non-existence has nowhere for anything to come  from; hence, in the beginning GOD. Secondly, and here more to the point, since God INVENTED ways, He is by no means limited to them. An author may invent one character, and so far from this limiting his work, it is rather the testimony that many more, of various desired kinds, may be to come.  So when God acts in one way, so far from being limited by this, He can innovate, moderate or incarnate. There are no limits with God, except His will and His word, and as to the former, there are no forces or limits which can be imposed on it (cf. Isaiah 14:27, 40:14ff.), while as to the latter, He has magnified it above all His name (Psalm 138:2), having spoken from eternity into time.

Thus when Elizabeth found Mary visiting her, with the divine babe now in her womb, there was a minor eruption: it was the leaping of Elizabeth's babe, John, now well-advanced in gestation, at the presence of Mary with Christ in her womb. Elizabeth was at this time filled with the Holy Spirit. A sort of commissioning wave went forth, as if via the babe's presence, even pre-natally, Christ were bringing a telling inspiration to John who would serve as forerunner, announcer and testimony for Him, when His time came (cf. John 1:29). 




Elizabeth then, before  Mary's magnificat - her praise to God at His use of her to be the mother of such a babe as this (NOT the mother of God, of course, but of the incarnate format which He chose to take), made a sparkling announcement. It was this. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." After all, her own babe had just leapt in the near presence to this same divine babe! Her eyes were opened, just as her womb had been, late in her old age. She marvelled even that the mother of "my Lord" should visit her.

Strength and empowerment with the Spirit of God came with this association, to be one of great historical moment in due course. She announced what had just happened in her own womb, when the babe leapt, at the greeting from Mary.

"Blessed," said she, "is she who believed,

for  there will be a fulfilment

of those things which were told her from the Lord."

Faith in divine dealings of blessing, is always pre-requisite. Without faith, you cannot even please God (Hebrews 11:6), far less glorify Him as you ought. Through faith marvels may be wrought (Hebrews 11, Mark 11:23, 14:12), if it is inspired by His word, His near presence and His commission, and not a mere pretence for self-aggrandisement, vengeance or the like. You see this also in John 15:7:

Abide in Him and have His words abide in you, and ask in His name and it will be done. It is in a way like an electric grid: have the installation and the power, and results may be astounding. Of course, if you don't believe in electricity, doubtless there will be no great concern about its means! If you do not really believe that with God nothing is impossible that He wants, and His wants are clear in the Bible in the largest dimensions, then doubtless you will not prepare in prayer as you might! Again, it is well always to be prepared,  as you see with Zechariah!

Both Elizabeth and Mary are here seen operating at the level of lively faith, in God, His power, His faithfulness, His speech, its accuracy and adequacy; and He is operating as in the leaping of the babe, in a circumstantial way, to confirm these issuances of His will. In each case, the babe is to be murdered in manhood. In both of these men, when grown, there is to be a testimony to echo over the centuries, a work so wonderful that endless praise and response will be evoked by it; and in the case of Christ, the death is to be a sacrificial atonement for sin, on His part as God incarnate.

We too must be willing to sacrifice. We cannot redeem our brethren (Psalm 49), but we can redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16). We cannot ransom sinners (Christ does that - Matthew 20:28), but we can make of our own lives a living sacrifice to God, both in praise and in service (Romans 12:1-2). It is imperative not to be vague, but to know what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17). Faith must act: be agent then, and not actor. Know your lines and live them! Remember Paul's word to the Philippians (1:21), "For me to live is Christ!"

It may lead to your violent death, or long service as with the apostle John. Each day should start as if with an embrace with the Lord, an awareness in spirit of His presence, as Elizabeth was made aware when her babe leapt in the womb, just as with enquiry as Mary made, He is sought; but not with frank questions of doubt, as Zechariah began to breach.

So John the Baptist began his sprinkling or affusion ministry . Thus Ezekiel 36:25 indicates the sprinkling mode for the new covenant, and sprinkling is the normal mode (Hebrews 9:13-14,21, Leviticus 17, 4) in cleansing, just as it is that specified in prophecy; while Hebrews 9:10 in the midst of the cited sprinklings, mentions what in Greek is a summing of  'baptisms'. Of course as in Pentecost, the baptism of the Spirit was a touching of their heads with flame, but there is nothing of immersion in such ceremonies (cf. John 13:10), for the physical is merely a symbolic servant to the spiritual (cf. I Peter 3:21), as Peter makes clear so very robustly, as indeed did Christ before that, to Peter! (John 13:8-12).

It is, as I Peter indicates,  transformation of the heart in faith in the Redeemer who lives, which matters; and so comes the dynamic arising from that, for which devotion must continually be ready, whether for patient work as that of Zechariah, or the most dramatic, as with John!

By faith, the Gospel has traversed the earth, inundated whole countries, taken hold of the tongue of Empires (Roman under Constantine and of course Great Britain), surged into history to bring revivals and concourses of faith, and early to  awaken a believing remnant, even in Israel, birth-place both for Christ and the Christian Church. In some of these nations, new generations have come to cut the cords and let themselves out to become as if meaningless in a meaningful world, voided to them as a result of their disruption, as the glory of almighty God, which is true and necessary, the wonder of His creation and the work of regeneration, were merely some kind of exotic idea or emotional attainment! So they shrink.

Now the tide is going out. Much that was strong (especially USA and Britain, once amongst the most powerful nations ever), is drifting as foretold; but the world and its peoples have assuredly heard the Gospel, in depth, over history. Thus, as Christ prescribed, so it has been done (Matthew 24:14) - and great are the works that have been performed in history in His name (John 14:12). As time before His return winds up, and the death-rattle of departing nations is increasingly heard, and the world worries (as foretold, Luke 21), let us then be ready for His return, as many were for His first coming in Israel. Accordingly, this land of Israel is now menaced, as likewise foretold for this period, and this in spectacular manner (Zechariah 12:1-9).

Indeed,  those in particular who try to heave it away must be ready too, to find what the Lord will to about them, which is not small; for this is also foretold before His all-powerful return and deliverance for the fulfilment of His promises, whether in national premises, such as were the site for His birth (Micah 5, 7), or His international rule, the prelude to the winding up of history on earth (Psalm 2, 110, 72, Isaiah 11:1-10, Habakkuk 2:14, Malachi 4:1, Matthew 25:21, I Corinthians 15:22, Revelation 5:10, 20:1-10), and indeed, of the earth itself (Matthew 24:35, Revelation 21:1-4, II Peter 3). The premisses of God become the premises of man. He rules.

Let Zechariah's slowness speak to you; let Mary's immediacy also speak; let the power of the Lord in the babes, speak to the ears and  hearts of men and women; for the testing time is arriving, the artifices and wiles of the devil in the international sphere are contriving apace. Let there be neither conniving with this, nor fear of His non-arriving. The hour is near. The way is clear. Therefore believe and act in it, as you abide in the Lord and His word abides in you. Great is the Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed are those who wait patiently upon Him (cf. Isaiah 64:5, Psalm 27:14). Wait for it, wait for Him, for He will surely come (Habakkuk 2:3, Acts 1:7ff., Revelation 22:20, II Peter 3:19).

Great is the Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed are those who wait patiently upon Him (cf. Isaiah 64:5, Psalm 27:14). Wait for it, wait for Him, for He will surely come (Habakkuk 2:3, Acts 1:7ff., Revelation 22:20, II Peter 3:19).

Consider the relish found in Mary and Elizabeth as God drew near to them; ponder the reason for this, in coming divine events in which by faith they were amazingly featured; and contemplate the resolution of their strange beginnings in these spheres of service, in the wonders of the prophet, John the Baptist, to the fulfilment of which one of them helped bring him by her service as he grew (Elizabeth), just as the other prepared for the Son of God in His physical format, for the work of atonement, alone acceptable to God the Father for every one and anyone who receives Him.

But who is He whom they receive ? It is this Missive of Truth, this Messenger (Malachi 3-4) of the Covenant, Jesus Christ, this Captor of sin in the cross, this Victor over the grave (Isaiah 25:8), this Author of salvation and Author and Finisher of the Faith. SALVATION (not the buck this time), STOPS HERE, which is where it began; for He is Alpha and Omega,  and from Him come those waters of spiritual life which do not cease to flow in the believer's heart, but rise up and spring eternally (John 4:14).

Thirst for the truth ? Respond with relish here. Thirst for peace ? Find resolution here. Delight in reality ? Find reason here. Seek your God ? This is the station, get out of the train of thought and stop at this, the station of destiny, Jesus Christ the Lamb slain, the King of Kings, the Lord of glory, in whom there is that comfort which comes through Him from the Father, and is the testimony of the God of all comfort (II Corinthians 3:3-7, Matthew 22:27ff.).