Intro: God has not spoken to His people for 400 years. The last words God spoke were in the form of a promise and a curse. "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord and He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." Notice the last word was curse. When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit at the greeting of Mary the first word uttered was "Blessed" God who at sundry times and in diverse ways spoke to the Fathers, is about ready now to speak to man once in His final and complete revelation of Himself through His Son.
I. WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS WHEN GOD BEGAN TO SPEAK AGAIN?
A. "There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea."
1. Herod was an Idumean, a decedent of Esau. We read in Genesis that Esau hated his brother Jacob. This hatred had continued throughout the centuries.
2. Herod was known as Herod the great. Great not because of his person but because of his buildings.
a. He has left his mark through the Holy land in his magnificent building projects of which, many still exist to the present day.
b. The building was mostly done through slave labor, but remain a marvel to the present day.
3. Herod had been appointed King of Judea by the Roman senate by the suggestion of Mark Anthony.
4. Herod had proved his battle skills in his wars against the Arabs, and he brought the land into subjection to Rome.
5. He was shrewd, cunning and cruel. He was small of stature, and had a paranoia of someone seeking to depose him. He executed his wife and many of his sons, thinking they were plotting against him. It was a common saying that it was safer being a pig than Herod's son.
B. "A priest named Zacharias."
1. The religious forms still prevailed, but for the most part, the priesthood and the religious system were corrupted as is obvious when Jesus came against the scribes and the Pharisees of His day. The high Priesthood was controlled by the family of Annas who was a Saducee who were the materialists of that day. He thus had turned the religious system into a money making venture.
2. Zacharias was righteous before God and walked in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.
C. At a time in the history when the people of God were ruled by an Idurrean King who was an appointee of the Roman government, when their religious structure was corrupted by materialism, God chose to break His long silence and speak once again.
II. LOOKING AT THE MAN TO WHOM THE ANGEL CAME.
A. Zacharias, his name means Jehovah remembers. Perhaps his parents at his birth were discouraged at the tragedies that had befallen the nation. Several had suggested that Jehovah had forgotten His people.
1. His wife was also a descendant of Aaron. A priest could not marry someone who was not of the tribes of Israel, but if he married someone from the tribe of Levi, that was considered even better.
2. Together they walked blameless before the Lord in the commandments and ordinances.
3. They were both advanced in years, and were childless.
a. This was considered a curse in that culture.
b. It was legal grounds for divorce.
4. He was serving in the temple according to his division.
a. His division was that of Abijah.
b. In those days all the descendants of Levi were priests, there were far too many for all of them to serve on a full time basis so they would serve for one week, twice a year, the rest of the time they would be occupied in other work.