5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
It was a suitable and happy arrangement that the forerunner of Christ should be provided from a related family. When men are allied both "in the flesh and in the Lord," the union has double power and sweetness.
Zacharias was a priest, of the course of Abijah, the eighth of the twenty-four courses into which the Aaronic families were divided by David for purposes of service by rotation (1 Chron. xxiv). His wife Elizabeth was also "of the daughters of Aaron." We may realise in this circumstance the unity and harmony of God's plan in working out His purpose upon earth.
Aaron's family were chosen at the beginning to act the part of God's representatives in the midst of Israel. For many generations they had sustained this position; and now, as a new shoot in the heart of the old growth, leading to a new flowering of the divine work in the earth, a branch of that same family (just before the Aaronic priesthood is set aside) is chosen to furnish a man to go before the face of the Lord in the new manifestation, to prepare his way before him.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
Luke ... says "it came to pass" [around 40 times cp Matt 6x, Mark 4x and John not at all] ... a form of speech admitting of their occurring at any time.
Luke was not an eye-witness, but a reporter of the testimony of eye-witnesses; and though, in this, he was used and guided by the Spirit of God as much as the eye-witnesses were, his narrative is that of a collector of information, and not that of a spectator.
When the action of inspiration is understood, there is no difficulty in this. Inspiration uses and limits (or as we may say "revises") the natural when it employs it, but does not obliterate it.
It keeps it in such form and in such channels as are suitable to its own purpose, but it does not interfere with the nature of the agent it employs. It does not change a reporter of what other men saw and heard into an eye-witness, though subscribing every jot and tittle of his report.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
After a silence of 400 years, God once again openly manifested Himself to His people, and the wonderful events which fill the Gospels begin.
The last previous Word of God had come through Malachi, who closed his prophecy, and the Old Testament, with the promise of the coming of Elijah to turn the nation back to God.
At the national hour of prayer, as an aged priest stood offering incense for the nation in the Temple, in the Holy Place, on the altar of prayer, before the veil -- the angel Gabriel appeared. He had, 600 years before, appeared to Daniel, and he was to appear again soon after to Mary.
There could have been no more fitting place or time to indicate that all things are through the power of prayer. And his first words were... *
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Elizabeth's barrenness had been a deep disappointment to both, and had been the subject of frequent petition on the part of Zacharias. The prayer was now to be answered, and the barrenness end in the birth of the greatest among the prophets; on which it has to be observed as a frequent -- we might almost say, a constant -- feature in the work of God, that He makes the accomplishment even of His declared purposes wait upon the prayers of His people; and makes use of human incompetences for the execution of His greatest works.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
We do not fill our minds enough with the contemplation of eternal joys but far too much with petty, passing, depressing present things.
Rejoicing MUST be the basic tone of our lives. We must continuously rejoice in these things.
Regardless of, and in spite of, present problems and disappointments, deep rejoicing will always be our principal characteristic, IF our faith is real, and if we truly believe what God has said. Any other frame of mind is a reproach against God's love and goodness. We are denying by our actions our professed faith in God's glorious assurance that (Rom. 8:28):
"ALL things work together for good to them that love God."
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
...filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb," as Gabriel declared (Luke i. 15), which is the key to John's life and characteristics
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Christ was in the privacy of Nazareth -- unknown and without access to the public eye or ear. To have obtained this access by his own personal effort would have involved an amount and kind of labour unsuited to the part he had to perform.
Israel had to be roused from a state of spiritual dormancy. The right men to be his apostles and disciples had to be collected and prepared. They were scattered here and there in the hills and valleys of Galilee -- mostly unknown to one another. A public magnet had to draw them together.
...Such a forerunner was provided in John the Baptist; and his part was effectually performed. His teaching for over three years not only predisposed the community to submit to the requirements of righteousness, but drew public attention to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst and about to be manifested. It brought all eyes to bear expectantly on the moment and mode of his manifestation. That mode was connected with John himself.
He was sent to baptise in order that that manifestation might take place. The unknown One was to come to his baptism. Upon his emergence from the water, the Holy Spirit would visibly identify him. This was revealed to John and proclaimed by him beforehand (Jno. i. 33). Such an identification was not only necessary for Israel, but for John himself; for John did not know him, as he declared (Jno. i. 31).*
Nazareth Revisited Ch 5
*And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
Zacharias, not quite realising at the moment the guarantee contained in an angel's word, asks
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
This was casting a slight on God's messenger, and therefore on God -- an excusable error, perhaps, but still an error, and in a certain relation of things, the greatest offence a man can commit against God -- to doubt His word.
As faith is so pleasing to God as to be "counted for righteousness?" so distrust of His pledged word, when we know He has pledged it, is the most displeasing sin against Him a man can commit. It was visited in the case of Moses (Num. xx. 12), and it was now visited in the case of Zacharias (and these things were "written for our learning").
The mode of the visitation was gentle, adroit, and effectual:
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
There are myriads of angels, but here is one whose words suggest a special status in the Father's presence -- a special intimacy with the Eternal Creator. There is something fitting in such an exalted representative of the Divine Majesty being employed in the initiation of the work about to be done -- the laying of the foundation of God's house of everlasting glory upon earth.
It was not Gabriel's first appearance in the mighty transaction. Between five and six hundred years earlier, he was sent to Daniel to inform him of this very matter, viz., the appearance of the sacrificial Messiah to make an end of sins, and to bring in everlasting righteousness (Dan. ix. 24). Daniel says
"While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation, and informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel:'I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplication, the commandment came forth and I am come to shew thee," &c. (verses 21, 23).
It is very interesting to think of this angelic personage coming to Daniel by divine command to enlighten him with reference to the purpose of God in Christ; and then re-appearing on the scene, after a lapse of over five centuries, to perform acts in execution of that purpose.
The acts performed were simple but essential. Two visits had to be made; two announcements delivered; and power exerted in the accomplishment of the work in hand. This double form of Gabriel's errand arose from the double nature of the work. Not only was the long-promised Saviour to be born, but a forerunner was to be provided also, the necessity for whom may appear in the sequel.
Not only was the name of the Father to be manifested in the seed of Abraham, but as became the dignity and the moral necessities of such an event, a man was to be raised up who should fitly herald such a manifestation in going
"before his face and preparing his way before him."
The two phases of the work were six months apart; and as was fit, the business of the forerunner had the first attention.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
It was no natural occurrence: that is, it was not the result of nature left to itself. It was a case parallel with Sarah's
"who received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Heb. xi. 11).
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Thus was Zacharias rebuked and the verity of the communication authenticated in a very tangible manner, at the same time: for when the angel had withdrawn, Zacharias found himself unable to speak in a situation which made the fact very noticeable.
The dumbness of Zacharias was a blessing in the form of a punishment, and so beautifully illustrates the wisdom and goodness of God's ways.
He would not believe without a sign, so he was given a sign that rebuked his unbelief, yet at the same time strengthened his faith. It both humbled and comforted him, and also taught him wisdom.
He was a righteous man, well pleasing to God (v. 6). But at the moment of visitation -- the great moment of his life -- the moment for which Israel had been waiting 400 years -- he was not quite ready. He was caught off guard.
And yet he was in the very act in which his mind should have been most attuned for a divine communication. He stood before the altar -- before the veil -- offering the incense of prayer for the whole nation.
Six months later the same Gabriel appeared with similar abruptness to a poor, obscure young girl of Israel, as she went about her own private way, but how much more maturely does the young woman react to the sudden angelic visitation and much stranger message, than the old priest!
The lesson is to live more deeply in the world of faith, and constant consciousness of spiritual things. *
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
He was "executing the priest's office before God in the order of his course:" and it was his business (having gone into the temple "to burn incense") to go forth now to the people who were waiting in the court outside, to pronounce the customary blessing before their dispersal.
They were waiting for this: they had to wait longer than usual; for the appearance of the angel to Zacharias had detained him; and the people who knew nothing of it, "marvelled that he tarried so long."
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
When he went out to them, he could not speak to them, though his natural impulse in such a position would incline him to overcome any obstacle, if it were possible. "He beckoned unto them, and remained speechless." They understood, from his gestures, that he had seen something in the temple which had deprived him of his power of utterance.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Answers to Correspondents
AN INSIGNIFICANT PERIOD OF ENJOYMENT
"If the kingdom to which men are called, is only to extend over a period of a thousand years, what an insignificant period of enjoyment and bliss it is, compared with the everlasting felicity offered in the orthodox view-a mere drop in the bucket to the ocean illimitable!"-W.O.
If the kingdom were to last only a thousand years, the remark of our correspondent would be deserved; but it will last for ever in the absolute sense. "Of his kingdom, there shall be no end."-(Luke i. 33.) The "thousand years" only measures the process or period by which the world will be raised from its present state of evil to a state in which there will be no death.
This transition requires and is effected by the machinery of the thousand years. Jesus as the supreme pontiff, reigning in the joint capacity of king and priest on the throne of David, assisted by the hierarchy of his glorified people, who shall be his representatives and the channels of his power in all the earth, will effectually develop for universal man, those conditions of temporal well-being and social harmony, that will admit the full play of the spiritual forces that will then be set in motion.
Enlightenment and obedience will quickly become the order of the day, and by the close of the thousand years, millions will have become the prepared and accepted candidates for eternal life. This is the great work of the kingdom of the thousand years; and it is to this that men and women are now invited by the gospel-to become the reformers of the world, under Christ, in the age to come.
Fitness for this work has now to be developed by obedience and trial. When the work is finished, and the earth populated with a glorified race, the kingdom will enter upon a higher and eternal phase. "Then shall the Son also himself be subject, unto Him that put all under him, that God may be all in all."-(1 Cor. xv. 16.)
There then lies before the blessed of the Lord an "everlasting felicity," quite equal to anything that was ever imagined by the most fervid orthodox heaven-painter, even an "ocean illimitable" of life, love, power, faculty, knowledge, peace and joy; but subject to law and organisation, doubtless, for God is a God of order in all He does.
The first-fruits of the human race, who reign with Christ during the thousand years, will probably have a rank and a function above the millions that will be gathered in at the great harvest, at the close of the thousand years.
It is not given to us to know the details beyond the first stage of the kingdom. All we know is-and it is sufficient for all purposes in this dispensation to know this much-that beyond that, there is endless life and perfection. God does all things well, and we may depend upon it that the state of things after the labour of the thousand years, will be the very best that can be.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, April 1868
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The holy spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Made sin for us
Human nature is a bundle of faculties, each of which is good and legitimate in its own place. There is nothing unclean in itself; uncleanness is a relative idea. A faculty, impulse, or propensity going beyond the bounds prescribed by law, becomes the cause of disobedience, and disobedience is sin, and sin has brought death; that is, has evoked from divine power the purpose of dissolution in relation to the nature we bear.
For purposes of description, sin is the cause, but literal definition would give God as the actual cause, because God causes the results of disobedience. Disobedience is the result of over-activity of desires which, in their own place, are good. This over-activity may be the result either of want of balance in the mental organization, or want of enlightenment in a good organization.
The latter was Adam's case; the latter and former combine in our case. We labour under the double disadvantage of ignorance and malformation of brain, that is, speaking generally of our inheritance by nature. Our cranial malformation is the result of the evil moral and physical conditions to which the race has been subject in a long line of sin-stricken generations.
Doubtless, all the operations of our common nature have become deranged, the forces put out of balance, and the spirit or vital energy, generated by the blood, chemically vitiated. All this has resulted from Adam's disobedience, since that was the cause of the evil circumstances that have existed in the world for six thousand years.
This deranged condition of nature is, in us, the cause of sin, and, therefore, metonymically, may be expressed as sin, but, literally, and in itself, it is not sin: this derangement did not exist in Christ. The intervention of divine paternity rectified the disturbed conditions, else he, like us, would have been a sinner.
Just as a cultivated European brain is capable of higher development than the Hottentot, though generically identical in nature, so the brain through which divine power and wisdom were manifested among men, was made capable of higher things than "mere man," though generically the same.
The "substance that came from Mary," therefore, constituted the basis of "the mind that was in Christ," holding to that mind the same relation that an undeveloped kernel does to the tree that is to result from its development. The kernel truly, requires air, sun and rain, to grow into a tree; but, nevertheless, it contains within itself the type and hidden invisible power of the tree that is to grow.
So the 'holy thing' born of Mary, received the parental impress of Deity, by the Spirit, and therefore under the circumstances by which he was surrounded, he developed into a 'man separate from sinners.' I should therefore take exception to your proposition that nothing but uncleanness was inherent in the babe of Bethlehem.
Legally, he was unclean; that is, he was under the condemnation of the law-God having laid upon him the iniquities of us all; but in his actual nature, he was the flesh and blood of Adam, 'prepared' by the Spirit for a Son-manifestation of the Eternal Father, that justification (by death and resurrection) might be developed for the sons of men.
He was the condemned nature of man, in the hand of Almighty power, for the opening of a way of deliverance. That nature was historically a sinner, and under the dominion of sin, as regarded both moral condition and everlasting destiny. Therefore, it could be said that Jesus, though without sin, was 'made sin.' On the other hand, because the mortal nature he bore was a nature inheriting condemnation, that condemnation could come upon him (though himself sinless), without any violation of God's methods in the case. -
The Christadelphian, Aug 1869
Begotten of God, Yet Son of Adam
Consequently, it required God's interposition in the way recorded by the apostles.
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee (Mary); the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
Thus God "sent forth His Son made of a woman made under the law" (Gal. 4:4).
Being made of a woman, he was of our nature -- our condemned and weak and mortal nature: but being begotten of God and not of man, he was in character spotless "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners". Sin had hold of him in his nature, which inherited the sentence of death from Adam: but it had no hold of him in his character: for he always did those things that were pleasing to his Father. When he died, "he died unto sin once". But God raised him because of his obedience, and "being raised from the dead, he dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9,10).
"Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
.....The plan required that the sufferer while himself in the channel of death so far as nature was concerned, should himself not be a sinner, that he should be the Lamb of God, without spot, undefiled. Such an one could only be provided by what God did. God went out of His way to provide such a man. The man produced through Mary, by the Spirit of God, combined the two essential qualifications for a sacrifice; he was the very nature condemned in Eden,and therefore wrong was not done when he was impaled upon the cross. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him."
Would it please the Lord to do iniquity? Nay. Therefore, it was right. But how could it be right unless he were the very condemned stock?
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST - ATONEMENT
Answers to Correspondents
B. A. N.-Jesus was the Son of God from the moment of his birth (Luke i. 35). The man who holds that he became the Son of God only at his baptism holds what John calls "a lie" (1 Jno. ii. 21). Jesus was manifested to Israel by baptism (Jno. i. 31); but as the personage to be manifested, he existed from the moment the angels outside Bethlehem announced to the shepherd the "glad tidings of great joy": "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
As for believers, they are children of God by adoption through Him. As Paul says, "Ye are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. iii. 26). This is a relationship sustained now. We cannot imagine a brother denying this. The only sense in which we could imagine a professed believer alleging that "it would require the power of the Holy Spirit to let us know whether we are sons of God," would be the sense of knowing whether we are approved sons of God
If men are not sons of God now, they never will be. They may be sons causing shame, for whom rejection waits, and they may imagine themselves "walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called" when they are walking otherwise: but that they are in that vocation is the constant teaching of the Apostles.
The man who denies this, denies the truth. As for the man who "says Jesus did not say" the things attributed to him in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, he is a man who, knowing nothing of the matter himself, sets himself against the testimony of witnesses who heard Jesus say these things, and proved their veracity by suffering for that testimony. The best mode of treating such men is the way recommended by Paul in 2 Tim. iii. 5: You have done well to separate.
The Christadelphian, Nov 1896.
26 For such a high priest became us , holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; [RV]
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
(The term translated "cousin" in verse 36 is a term of indefinite relationship and usually translated "kinsman," as in Luke 2:44). *
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Now, if Jesus in his infantile stage was purely and merely human, how comes it he never fell into sin? Good organisation does not explain it, because organisation of itself is neutral; good
organisation is as ready to sin as bad organisation, in the absence of knowledge and experience.
There is only one explanation to it, and that is also furnished by Luke (ii. 40), The grace of God was upon him," which is equivalent to being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Someone may say "Then there was no difference between him and John, who was also "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." If the begettal of Jesus is left out of account, this would follow; but with that in view, the great difference is visible: for while John was merely a natural man, acted upon from without by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was that Holy Spirit veiled in flesh, as it were, placed among men for the accomplishment of the mighty work which his Father had given him to do.
Here someone else may say, "If that be so, how can he be to us an example?"
Now, what is that question based upon? I think we shall see it is based upon a great fallacy. To manifest the fallacy of this assumption, we have only to ask, was he-even with the view of him taken by those who use such an argument-in all respects as weak as we? Had he not, even on their theory, a higher moral and intellectual energy? Do they not admit that in his conception of the Holy Spirit, he received a start that we never receive; and that, during his public career, in which his example alone is manifest, he had a power we never have, even the power of the Holy Spirit without measure?
These things are without dispute, and, therefore, the fallacy of the objection is demonstrated. Jesus was our example, in the sense of being a character for us to copy, but for the production of such a character, the Father himself had to interfere by the Spirit. He saw there was no man: therefore, Hisown arm brought salvation.
This is the great aspect in which Jesus is to be contemplated-the doing for us, by Almighty power, that which we could not do for ourselves, that the excellency might be of God, and not of man-that salvation might not be by works which we have done, but by the grace or favour of Eternal Wisdom, that no flesh should glory in His sight. On this principle, the man Christ
Jesus is "counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house: for every house is builded by some man, but he that built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:3.")
The relation between the Father in heaven and the Spirit Universal is inscrutable, and, for that
reason, there is in Jesus, who was inhabited by the Spirit, an element that is inscrutable. We
perceive the evidence of it in the fact that those who heard him speak, strove about the meaning of what he said. He said "I came from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
It cannot be said of any of us that we came down from heaven. And because those who heard
the statement were ignorant of the nature of Jesus, they did not see how it could be said of him: "He that cometh from above," "Ye are from beneath," he said at another time: "I am from above;" which is the contrast that Paul draws in saying "The first man is of the earth; earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven."
THE OPERATIONS OF THE DEITY
The Christadelphian, May 1870. p143-151
(The 139th Psalm read).
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit to prophesy and glorify God, and Mary was likewise, and the babe John leaped in the womb for joy. This is an important aspect of the whole picture concerning John and his work -- joy, and the power of the Spirit. It comes out again and again.
All was of the Spirit of God for the joy of mankind. The greatest event in human history was just beginning to unfold -- spoken of by the angels as "Tidings of Great Joy" -- the event for which all the ages had waited -- the event around which all revolved -- and all the participants are deeply moved with the joy of the Spirit. *
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
Mary's prayer to v55 saturated with scripture, a mind filled with spiritual thoughts witnesses her disposition as the blessed handmaid of Yahweh
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The judgments of the Seventh Vial are all in the future. They are the voices uttered by the Seven Thunders, which succeed the lion-roar of the Rainbowed Angel (ch. 10:3,4), and which issue from the throne (ch. 4:5).
Apocalyptically, thunders are significant of wars. Hence, seven thunders are seven wars, which collectively make up
"the war of that great day of the omnipotent Deity".
The details of the seven thunders are not given; but the general results are specified in the prophecy of the seventh vial.
The ecclesiastical and secular constitution of Anti-christendom is the obnoxious subject of Divine vengeance. The Powers that be having answered the purpose of their permitted existence, the time has arrived under this vial for their abolition.
This can only be accomplished by Divine power; hence the war of the Deity, by which Babylon the Great, or the ecclesiastical constitution of the world; and "the Cities of the Nations," "the islands", and "the mountains," or kingdoms, empires, and states of all sorts, are transferred to the Saints; so that the wicked who now sit in the heavenlies, are hurled from their thrones, and sent empty away (Luke 1:51-53).
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
It was natural she should stay with her a considerable time. The occasion was not one of ordinary visitation. Mary and Elizabeth were relatives; but it was not the interest or the claims of relationship that brought them together as we have seen. They had been apprised of the stirring and stupendous fact that the hour had arrived for the incipient commencement of that manifestation of the glory of God to Israel, and the whole earth, which had been for so long a time the expectation of the nation; and that they two were to be used in the work.
It was this that brought Mary "in haste" from Nazareth to the hill country in the neighbourhood of Hebron; and it was this that led her to stay a much longer time than ordinary circumstances would have suggested.
It would naturally be the theme of much interested communication between the two; and as they busily plied the needle together in the preparations inseparable from the prospect before them, the time would go swiftly by.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 8.
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
John's mission was to arouse the nation to repentance, and to introduce the Messiah to them.*
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
From the beginning, this aspect was emphasized -- that the salvation men need is from themselves -- from their own natural, death-tending characteristics and desires. *
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
Dayspring" means arising or dawning. A new day was dawning for Israel. The Sun of Righteousness was to be manifested. This is a clear reference again to the last chapter of Malachi, the promise of the "Sun of Righteousness" to "arise with healing in his wings."
This reference to light is very frequent in relation to the coming of Christ, as in Isaiah 9:2:
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."
Light from darkness was the first act of creation.
The natural state of men is darkness, and all his natural thoughts and actions are foolishness. Only spiritual thoughts and actions are light. Paul presents this vividly (2 Cor. 4:6):
"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts."
"To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
The apostle John says of the same event (Jn. 1:6-9):
"There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light."
"He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
"That was the true Light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world."
It can be our privilege and joy, if we choose, to come out from walking in natural death-tending darkness, into that lifegiving Light.
Just accepting the Truth is not in itself coming in the Light. We are only in the Light when we are consciously choosing to repudiate all the thoughts of the flesh and to walk according to the principles of the mind of Christ.
John said, at the beginning of his first epistle (1:5):
"'This, then, is the message which we have heard of him."
-- this is the basic message, this is the key point, the heart of the matter:
"God is Light, and in Him is no darkness."
"If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth."
And walking in light, as John goes on to show, means walking in love toward everyone. He says (1 Jn. 2:10-11) --
"He that loveth his brother abideth in the Light."
"He that hateth his brother is in darkness."
An act that is not done in love -- through enlightened godly love -- is an act of darkness -- an act of disfellowship from God -- no matter how self-righteous it may be. Everything we do must be tested by this test. Our "zeal for the Lord," like Jehu, is often really the flesh, when we pride ourselves it is the Spirit.
When we act, or speak, or think, in anger, or annoyance, or impatience, or selfishness, or resentment, or for any motive except kindness and love, even if it be -- as we suppose -- in defense of the Truth, we are in darkness, and are disfellowshipping ourselves from God Who is Light and Love and Goodness. *
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
This covers the whole interval from his birth till his appearance as a preacher on the banks of the Jordan. It tells us as much as we need to know. It does not mean that he lived no part of the time in his mother's house, but that he remained in seclusion instead of beginning at twelve years of age, like other boys, to attend the feasts at Jerusalem regularly.
He was unseen and unknown outside his own domestic circle till the hour for his public work arrived. His mother lived "in the hill country," where desert abounded, and here he would doubtless spend much of his time in the open air, indulging in contemplation and prayer, and acquiring those habits of hardihood for which he became known to the crowds who afterwards listened to his preaching.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
What does it mean, to "wax (or grow) strong in spirit?"
It means, by study, and meditation, and prayer, and practice, to be strong in spirituality and control of the flesh -- to be strong In the mind of the Spirit.
We cannot actually weaken the flesh, but we can continually strengthen and build up the Spirit. This is the whole purpose of our lives, and every moment not consciously engaged in this is wasted. Every time we subdue and control the natural thoughts and reactions of the flesh, we strengthen the Spirit -- we "wax stronger in Spirit."
This was how John spent thirty years of preparation in the desert for his so brief, but so important, ministry --
"The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel."
Thirty years' lonely preparation in seclusion -- then a brief ministry of a year or so -- then imprisonment and death at the whim of a wicked woman. This was the life story of him of whom Christ said there had never been a greater born of woman.
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease