BLESS NOW THE READING OF THY WORD, LORD, AS WE READ THIS BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL STORY THAT NEVER GROWS OLD. "And there was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord." (Lk.1:5-9 .)
IN THE DAYS OF OLD, IN THE DAYS OF JUDEA, IN THE DAYS OF ISRAEL, NO ONE MAN WAS A DICTATOR WHO DID EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME and all the people just sat and did nothing, but they took turns. Did you know that? The priests and the Levites took turns in the duties of the Temple.
"AND THE WHOLE MULTITUDE OF THE PEOPLE WERE PRAYING WITHOUT AT THE TIME OF INCENSE. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense." God is not against incense, Beloved. Like everything else, it's all in how it's used and unto whom it's used, praise God? -- It says that "the fragrance of the Lord is the perfume of His people," praise God?-The altar of incense which perfumed the temple, and the incense was a type of the prayers of God's people rising to the Lord. Isn't that beautiful? PTL!
EVERYTHING THEY DID IN THE TEMPLE WAS AN ILLUSTRATED SERMON OF CHRIST and HIS CHURCH -- THE WHOLE THING! The Temple itself, every little thing, and it's a whole course of study in itself. Beautiful! And like giving a miracle play or a Bible play to children, God was continually giving them an illustration of what He intended for His Church and Himself to be like. This is why when Jesus finally came, then the Temple and all of that shadow was done away with. Because as far as God was concerned, "that which was perfect had come," in Jesus, and all of that which was merely a picture, as Paul calls it, "a picture of things to come," that was all done away with then because we have the real thing -- Jesus -- and the real Church -- you, His Body, and that ministry.
BUT THEY WERE STILL GOING THROUGH THE ILLUSTRATIONS IN ZACHARIAS' DAY, not long before it was to be done away with. When was it done away with, Beloved? When Jesus died it was really done away with because the veil of the Temple was rent in twain! When Jesus was on the cross and at the moment of His death that four-inch veil was rent in twain and the Holy of Holies was exposed! The very place of the presence of God was exposed and was now accessible to everyone. No longer just the High Priest and the priests, but now anyone could come in. Well, of course that was pretty much covered up and patched up in Jewish history. I'm sure they didn't want to let that out to the general public, but it happened! God really put an end to it when that happened, 'cause Jesus' sacrifice was the final sacrifice as far as God was concerned. God put a stop to it then.
WHEN DID GOD SEE TO IT THAT ALL SUCH WORSHIP WAS STOPPED? (70 AD.) Right! Emperor Vespasian sent General Titus down there and the city and the Temple were destroyed and all sacrificial worship ceased. This is only about 40 years after Christ's death, and they have not sacrificed since. As Hosea the prophet said, "Thou shalt abide many days without a priest, without an ephod, without a Temple, without a sacrifice, and without a king." Many many years, a remarkable prophecy. (Ho.3:4 .)
THE HISTORIANS SAY THAT JUST BEFORE THE TERRIBLE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE at Jerusalem by Titus, that for some weeks they heard a voice crying in the Temple area constantly: "Woe, Woe, Woe! Woe, Woe, Woe!" (Dad weeps:) "The Spirit says that this voice shall also cry again in the last days of this nation!" Hallelujah! My God, the Spirit of God is grieving over our nation, even as He grieved over Israel!
THEY SAY THAT THE SHEKINAH GLORY HOVERED FOR SOME DAYS ABOVE THE TEMPLE, left the Holy place and hovered above the Temple, and then finally departed entirely. As the prophet had said, "Ichabod -- the glory hath departed!" God's presence was no longer in a temple built with hands -- it never had been really, except symbolised by the Shekinah Glory -- but the glory departed. But now, thank God, where is that temple? In our hearts, in the only temple left to God today, and that's you and me! Praise the Lord? Isn't that beautiful? TYL! So the actual going through the motions didn't cease until 70 ad, but as far as God was concerned, He was through with the Temple when Jesus died, that was the end.
MUCH OF THAT IS LOST, YOU SEE, THEY COVERED IT UP and TRIED TO CONCEAL MUCH OF WHAT HAPPENED. Most of what the historians have on it are more like rumours and legends about what happened as a result. Of course, only the priests were allowed to go into that part of the Temple, so only the priesthood would have known that the Temple veil was rent in twain. And of course a very great company of the priests believed and were saved, so no doubt the priests who entered in must have known about it and that's how you have the record here, because they knew what happened to the veil of the Temple. But you couldn't expect the High Priest and the Temple authorities to ever admit it, so there's not much about it in other recorded history. Man's history, secular history is not going to admit this sort of thing.
"And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense." As I recall, the altar of incense was right against the veil in the center where they faced the Holy of Holies. In fact, you may have a chart in the back of your Bible showing the location of these things. "And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 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."
WHO WAS THIS JOHN? (Staff member: John the Baptist.) And who named him? God named him, praise the Lord, no doubt a messenger from God, the name John. "And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord." How great did Jesus say he was? He was the greatest man as far as God was concerned, ever born! Boy, that's a big statement -- "none greater born of women"! Greater than Moses, greater than Elijah, Abraham. Why was he so great?
"WHEN ZACHARIAS SAW HIM HE WAS TROUBLED and FEARED" -- DO YOU THINK YOU'D BE AFRAID IF YOU SAW AN ANGEL? Both times I ever saw angels, the first time it really scared me half to death, the next time I rejoiced, but I was frightened too. It's a thrilling experience! "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord." We're going to learn what made him so great. "And shall drink neither wine nor strong drink and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." Is that possible? Don't you have to get saved first and then tarry awhile and be sure you go to a Pentecostal church and hear all about it and sure you speak in tongues and so on and so on? You know how they try to pour God in a box, they've gotta put Him in a mold, it's got to be this way, it's got to be that way. Peter soon found out that it didn't have to be just that way, right? God could do it any way He wanted to! Praise God!
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, A PROPHECY LIKE THIS WAS UTTERED OVER ME WHEN I WAS JUST I YOUNG MAN, before I was married and I was on the threshold of a great decision. I went into a church where the Spirit of God was manifest, in fact, it was a group which was under great persecution because they were not a part of the System, and they had a number of prophets there, real men of God. They called those who wished to be ministered to to the front, and I was weeping very heavily because I was under a great burden of what God wanted me to do.
SO I WENT FORWARD FOR PRAYER and THEY LAID HANDS ON ME and the leading prophet prophesied over me, and my mother and my father, of all things, were there in the back of the room. It was the first time we'd ever been there and we never got there again. And when they said this, my mother broke down and wept -- they said, "Thou hast been filled with the Holy Ghost from thy mother's womb" and went on to tell about what I was to do. I wish I could remember it all. It was a wonderful thing the Lord encouraged my heart with that day.
AND I WENT BACK TO MOTHER and SHE SAID, "HONEY, I BELIEVE THAT!" See, I was the only child born after she was saved, after that miraculous experience of her literally being raised from her deathbed and converted from atheism. She said, "I dedicated you to God from the moment I knew that I had conceived. I prayed for you, like Hannah and like Elisabeth, and I dedicated you to the Lord." She said, "I believe it," because she felt that that had actually happened. And this I know: I can never remember the time that I didn't know the Lord -- never!
SO ALL I KNOW IS WHAT THE LORD SAID THAT DAY, and I TRUST THAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN TRUE. The first thing I thought about was, "Oh Lord, now is that Scriptural? Is this true? Could it be possible?" Immediately I thought, "Maybe this is some kind of false doctrine, to say that somebody's filled with the Holy Ghost from their mother's womb! My Lord, how could that be? Don't you have to be a believer first?" And immediately that Scripture came to me about John the Baptist being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, so praise the Lord! (Continued in part 2)
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