Christmas Characters – Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a special person who does not get the recognition she deserves.  She is a model of the godly woman.  She loved God, and was faithful to her husband, relatives, and friends; she was learned and responsive to the Holy Spirit.  Zechariah being a priest had to marry a “descendant of Aaron” (Leviticus 21: 14).  Like Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and Sarai she endured the “disgrace” of not having children; like Hannah she must have spent time praying about this situation.

Imagine the day Zachariah finally got home from his required time at the Temple.  Her husband could not speak (and possibly not hear).  Had he written down the story?  Did he have to write it out in front of her?  How many times did she poke, stick, and scared him to test his condition?  That we don’t know, but her response to God was simply, YES and THANK YOU.

Her going into seclusion for five months was actually good for her and the baby.  A legend about John was he did not move until Mary greeted Elizabeth in Luke 1: 41. But we do know she was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.  Her word to Mary was directed at settling her anxious thoughts by confirming the angel’s word.  Her strength, knowledge, and courage showed up eight days after the baby came.  She still had a husband that was mary-and-elizabeth not talking, a baby demanding her time, and a house full of people who were about to cut her son.  On top of that they were arguing with her about the name of her son.  Something I came to notice during this study, she did all of this and she was the only person that did not have a visit from Gabriel.  Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all got an angelic visit.  God knew Elizabeth and knew that she would go on the word of her husband and her faith in Him.

This fact is still interesting – a descendant of Aaron had a relative from the house of Judah.  They were close enough that Elizabeth welcomed her and let her stay for about three months.  The family ties were solid enough that Gabriel used Elizabeth to build faith in Mary.

pic –

Christmas Characters – Zechariah

Zechariah, the father of John, has two scenes in the first chapter of Luke, but is still important in the life and mission of Jesus.  The good doctor Luke begins the Christmas story with him.  Not just as the father of John but as a time reference.  He is preforming the priestly duties of the division of Abijah during the time of Herod.  We really are not sure when this was but Theophilus could have figured it out.

David in 1 Chronicles 24 assigned the two priestly families months when they would serve at the Tabernacle.  (For a small discussion of the families go to Samuel – Priest.)  These assignments would have held until the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians.   This concept is applied again by Nehemiah when he was governor (12:17).  Abijah is one of the four names that are in both lists.

There are some loose comparisons between Zechariah and Abraham, but the notable difference is that he did not believe the news about a child being born.  Just for fun I reviewed the writings of the Prophet Zechariah and found a few light comparisons; mostly that the prophet also had angelic visits.  Zechariah’s (father of John) prophesy in Luke 1: 67 – 79 does carry some of the themes in the Book of Zechariah.

The fear Zechariah had while burning the incense (Exodus 30) possibly came from the incense_stickthought that he had done something wrong and was not worthy to be preforming that duty. This fear started with the death of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16.  I have read in a variety of places that the priest would have a rope tied to his ankle just in case he messed up and was struck down behind the curtain.

His reaction to Gabriel’s heavenly message was just one of unbelief, not happy surprise; he challenged the reality that it would happen.  There could be many reasons for Gabriel stopping Zechariah from speaking, but stopping the spread of his doubt seems the best.  Also his total silence for nine months adds to the importance of his real inclusion in this story, the birth of John.  The other three Gospels include John and his mission, but it is interesting that the only non-Jewish writer included the miracles and signs associated with his birth.

Nine months of silence and a visit from Mary prepared Zachariah for his final scene in birth-of-johnLuke when he confirmed the angelic message by naming his child John.  He joined the small group of people who are recorded in the pre-Pentecost time as having been filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is worthy to note that his prophesy started with the news of Jesus and then went to his son John.  That part of his utterance carries the words of Gabriel and Malachi 3:1.

Besides fathering John, Zachariah was the link to the priesthood informing them that something great was about to happen!  They choose not to accept!

Joel – The Land

If asked, before this study, I would have said the key feature in the Book of Joel is the locust; now I would say it is “the land” or “His land.”  The reason for the locust came was to distress the people and clean the land. Sometimes our English translations don’t do the Hebrew text justice.  Joel used specific words when he talked about valleys and mountains that change the mental pictures of his prophecy.  He does the same thing when he is writing about land or ground; most of the time the word is erets, but twice the word adamah is used.

David states in Psalm 24:1 “the earth is the Lord’s and everything that is in it.”  Joel is writing to the “elders” and “the all” that live in THE LAND.  In 1:6 and 3:2 Yahweh refers to this piece of real state as “My land” and Joel in 2:18 calls it “His land.”  The word is erets and refers to earth or by extension all of the earth is His because He made it.  But that little sliver of land we call Israel is very special to Him.  It is no mistake that he led Abram there and promised it to his yet unborn children.  New Jerusalem will be placed there and some Bible teachers will make the argument that is where the Garden of Eden (2:3) was.  Those locust were sent to strip the fields and pastures and so cover the mountains and valleys in order “to clean” it off.  This in turn produced the anguish/repentance that was needed.  The army of locust/army of people will be judged for what they do in Israel.

Adamah the word for ground/earth is used in 1:10 and 2:21, and it refers to red or productive ground and is the ground that Adam came from.  This term is important because with it is a promise for us; when we are obedient the ground is productive, but rebellion will hinder that productiveness.  1:10 is dealing with the rebellion/loss of production and 2:21 is when Judah is promised blessings again.

The razing of the land talked about in Joel sounds like the destruction that the Roman army brought when they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

God is the Master Gardener; He is letting us use His earth we need to take care of it as best we can.

Joel – Mountains

To do a post on valleys and not one on mountains does not seem right.  The Hebrew word har is used six times in Joel.  A word for hill is used once in 3: 18, but depending on the translation you may read “hill” even though it is the word Har. (Got to love translators and their work.)

Three times in Joel Har is used with the word Zion or holy (2: 1, 32; 3: 17).  The other three times the NIV adds an “s” making them plural, so to me, that makes them all the other mountains in Israel.  Mountains in Israel and other places are often sacred places.  Strong’s Concordance states they are often associated with deities and serve as symbols of strength.  Israel did have problems with using mountains as worships sites for other gods throughout its history.  If you read this thought (what we think as strong or wrong gods) into the verse when you read 2: 2, 5, and 3: 18 it transforms the verses into statements of God’s greatness and blessings over and above the gods that would war against Him and his people.

In 3:18 it is the mountains and hills that are giving the wine and milk.  These are the “areas” above the valleys where I would normally think of when it comes to food production.  I will let you draw your own conclusions here but it should give you another look into the greatness of our God.

Reference – Strong’s/Vine’s Concordance

Joel – Valleys (What they say about the End Times)

Part of the judgement/restoration prophesies in Joel deal with valleys.  The word “valley” occurs five times, but they come from two different Hebrew words: emeq and nachalahNachalah means a narrow valley and is associated with the “winter rains” and the wadi the water flows in. It is used once in Joel.  Emeq is a broad valley or vale, this word is used four times.  The different valleys are part of the metaphors that God uses to speak the truths He wants us to see about Him, so being able to visualize these land forms is important.  (See the post Valleys.)

Given the intensity of Joel’s prophesies my mental image of the valleys has been a rough place with steep sides.  So it did surprise me to find that the valley of Jehoshaphat and the valley of decision were emeq.  Now my mental picture is a place that can hold many people, and you can get into it easily (or out of it easily).

The first two uses (3:2, 12) of emeq are the Valley of Jehoshaphat which means the valley of the Eternal Judge.  In both of these He is commanding the nations into the valley to be judged.  Several sources will note that the locust in the first part of the book could represent nations or that the nations will be like locust.  There is a valley near Jerusalem that is known by this name.  But given other prophecies and the history of the land you would think of the valley of Megiddo.220px-jpf-jezreel_valley_and_mount_tabor

Emeq is also used in 3:17 where it is the valley of decision.  Decision in Hebrew is the word charuts.  Again my paradigm did not cover the many uses of this word.  This word is translated gold, diligent, sharp cutting objects, and refers to a wall.  Most of the uses of charuts as “gold” are in the book of Proverbs: 3:14, 8:10 & 19, and 16:16.  In these verses they are associated with wisdom and knowledge.  When translated “diligent” it is also in Proverbs: 10:4, 12: 24 & 27, 13: 4, 21: 5.  In these verses it is associated with wealth and valued possessions.  When it is translated as “sharp objects” it refers to threshing or harvesting implements and how the work is being done.  Daniel 9: 25 has it as a wall that will be finished in a time of distress.

All of these different uses challenged what I thought people would be deciding about; I assumed it would be to choose God or not.  Even though I still think this; I now see the reasons they are in the valley choosing.  People will be in the valley choosing between God and money, God and their knowledge, God and destruction (getting cut down), and/or God and their man-made walls/excuses. This is where the type of valley (emeq) becomes important; it will be easy to get into that situation, but it will be just as easy to get out of it.  Joel 3: 14 says “the Lord” will be heard sounding the coming judgement, but that He will be a refugee and stronghold for His people (Israel = those who have struggled with God).

The promises of the last five verses in Joel also center on a valley – Nachalah.  It is called the valley of acacias which is a thorny plant that grows in places where it seldom rains but when it does it is a flashflood.  The promise is that this rough place will become a blessing by a continual flow of water (Holy Spirit) from the throne of God.