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(Luke 1:5-25)
*Introduction* – Luke 1:5: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea.”
It is a small phrase, but it is fraught with meaning.
These were dark days in Israel.
They had been under Roman bondage for more than 60 years.
Israel dreamed of deliverance, but there was no indication things would change any time soon.
God spoke uniquely to Israel as His chosen people, but now God had gone silent for more than 400 years.
Hope was in short supply.
But all was about to change.
Appearances to the contrary, God, as always, was right on time – about to enter human history in a manner no one would have ever imagined.
The silence was about to be broken.
Luke records in verse 78: “the sunrise shall visit us from on high.”
But the whole manner of the sunrise is unprecedented and unanticipated.
It involves people and methods that were unimaginable to the religious elite.
God’s ways are not our ways.
The result in first century Israel was that many individually found their Messiah and Lord and Savior, but the nation as a whole missed Him.
They rejected and killed their deliverer – their Messiah.
That did nothing to thwart God’s ultimate plan, but it did spell condemnation for those who missed Him.
Luke wrote this gospel so Theophilus, and we as well, not miss God’s redemptive plan.
It teaches us about God’s ways and God’s message.
We start with Zechariah, through whom God broke the silence.
He exemplifies the kind of person God uses in some remarkable and startling ways.
He was Forgettable*
That’s an interesting start, isn’t it?
We see it right away in verse 5: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah.
And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
This was Herod’s time, not Zechariah’s.
Herod made the headlines.
No one would have dreamed that Zechariah was more important than Herod – but he was!
Herod the Great died shortly after Jesus was born, but his legacy cast a giant shadow over 100 plus years of Jewish history from the time he gained power in 37 BC until Rome destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.
Herod is mentioned only twice in Scripture (here and in Matt 2) – other Herods (Antipas, Agrippa, Philip and Archelaus) are his sons – but Herod dominated this era.
His father gained a political appointment from Julius Caesar to rule Palestine.
Herod was politically astute and curried favor with Caesar Augustus who named him king of Judea in 37 BC.
He consolidated military power by ruthlessly killing the families of previous rulers, drove all enemies out of Palestine and became, under Rome, an absolute monarch.
However, Herod was an Idumean -- a descendant of Esau.
His Jewish constituency, sons of Jacob, hated being ruled by a son of Esau.
Herod, therefore, was desperate to ingratiate himself to the Jews.
He married Mariamne, a nice Jewish girl from a prestigious Jewish family.
A prodigious builder, he curried favor with public projects all over Palestine – building whole cities, like Caesarea Maritime, Herodium and others.
He built hippodromes and sporting arenas, and public buildings, many of which remain to this day.
But, aside from two palaces for himself, the pinnacle of his building was the temple in Jerusalem finished long after his death.
It was known as Herod’s temple, renowned for its beauty.
It had been 46 years in building during Christ’s ministry with 14 yet to go.
But Herod had a dark side.
He started well, but became increasingly ruthless, and merciless.
Paranoia gave way to insanity.
He murdered his own beloved wife in response to false rumors that she had been unfaithful, her brother, her mother, and 3 of his own sons.
No wonder upon hearing of someone “born King of the Jews” (Mt 2:2), he ordered the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem.
He ordered the killing of several prominent Jews at the time of his death to insure mourning in Jerusalem.
Herod was the headline maker.
But when God spoke after 400 years, it was not to Herod – nor was it to the corrupt Roman appointed high priest, Annas.
God by-passed the obvious and chose a little-known and suspect priest – suspect because he and his wife had no children, usually taken as a sign of divine displeasure.
They didn’t even live in Jerusalem.
But it was to this humble, country priest that God broke His silence.
Completely forgettable.
A nobody.
Except – that’s who God chose.
He chose a nobody – because God uses nobodies!
Zechariah’s name means “God remembers” and Elizabeth means “His oath.”
They were common names.
But it was no accident that God chose a couple whose combined names mean “God remembers His oath.”
Twice a year Zechariah, made his way from the Judean hills, to Jerusalem for a week of priestly duty.
But he was just one of 20,000 other priests.
He was leader of nothing -- a nobody.
Forgotten by the world – but remembered by God.
God remembers faithful people, and chose to use forgotten Zechariah to get things moving again.
Aren’t you glad God uses nobodies?!
Now, let’s pay a visit to the village of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee in late AD 25.
Several fishing vessels come ashore and the men begin to unload their catch.
They reek of fish and sweat and sea water.
The language is a little salty as well.
They are bringing to market the catch of the day, drying their nets on nearby rocks, thinking no further than doing the same thing next day.
They expect nothing more out of life – ever.
I say, See those 4?
Over the next 40 years, those guys are going to turn the Roman empire on its ear.
Their activities are going to reach the attention of the emperor himself and the faith they help establish is going to far outlive the Roman empire.
Simon, Andrew, James and John are going to change the world.
You’d have replied, “You’re crazy!
Are you kidding me?
Those guys?
It’s not possible.
They are nobodies!”
Exactly – nobodies – and therefore perfect for the Master’s use.
God used nobodies all the way through Scripture?
Abraham was a Gentile nobody living a comfortable upper middle class life in Ur – until God chose him and made promises to him like He made to no one else in history.
Abraham’s part?
Father a child at age 100, when he was too old so God got the glory.
God chose a nobody to kick it all off and made him into somebody – a father of nations.
When God sent Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel from Jesse’s family, Samuel got enamored with the looks the oldest brother, but God reminded him in I Samuel 16: 7 “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.
For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
God chose David, the youngest and least likely to succeed in his own family just to look at the boys.
God takes nobodies and slays giants with them.
There were a lot of nobodies in God’s arsenal.
Jacob was a 77-year-old momma’s boy, a cheat and liar, when God chose him, changed his name to Israel and named a nation after him.
Gideon was shaking with fear, and God made him one of the great military commanders in history.
Mary was a forgettable teen-ager when she bore the Messiah.
Matthew was a hated tax collector; Jonah was bitter runaway; Simon was a political radical; Balaam was an unbeliever, and his donkey was – well he was a donkey.
Nobodies all – and God used them every one.
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