We will begin in Luke 1.10 where it says, “And the whole multitude (The Ma’amad) of the people were in prayer (the Shemoneh Esrai, or 18 Benedictions) outside (in the courts of the Temple) at the hour of of the incense offering.” As Zechariah is praying, he see’s an angel of the Lord standing on the right side (north side) of the Altar of Incense and Zechariah is standing east of it. The angel says in v 13, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elisheva will bear you a son, and you shall give him the name Yochanon (John).” Zechariah has been praying the Shemoneh Esrai. He didn’t ask for a child through Elisheva and there isn’t a prayer in the Shemoneh Esrai for a woman to have a child. So, what was this prayer?
The angel goes on to say in Luke 1.15-17 that this child that was to be born was going to be great in the sight of the Lord and he will not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit). He is going to be the forerunner of the Messiah and he will go forth in the “spirit and power of Elijah” and turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, and make ready a people prepared for the Lord. In other words, he will fulfill the role of Elijah before the Messiah.
Zechariah asks how this can be, since he is an old man and his wife is advanced in years. The angel responds by saying that he is Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God and he has been sent to Zechariah to bring “good news” or the Basar. As a result of his unbelief, Zechariah will be deaf and mute (they had to make signs to him in 1.62 to communicate, so that means he was deaf also). While this is going on, the people outside were wondering why it was taking so long for Zechariah to come out. They were praying the same prayers he was and they knew how long this took. Zechariah has been talking to Gabriel.
What was the prayer he was praying? In Isa 4.2 it says, “In that day, the Branch (Hebrew “tzemach”, a term for the Messiah) of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.” Jer 23.5-6 says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch (tzemach) and he will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In his days (the tzemach/Messiah) Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely; and this is his name by which he (the tzemach/Messiah) will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Adonai Tzekaynu).” Jer 33. 15-16 says in a similar passage, “In those days and that time I will cause a righteous Branch (tzemach/Messiah) of David to spring forth; and he shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah shall be saved and this is the name by which she (not “he” as in Jer 23) shall be called; the Lord is our righteousness (Adonai Tzekaynu).” The “she” in this verse refers to the “bride of the Messiah” and there has been a marriage to the “Branch”, resulting in her new name. Zech 3.8 says, “Now listen Joshua the High Priest, you and your friends (other priests) who are sitting in front of you-indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My Servant the Branch (tzemach/Messiah).” Then we have in Zech 6.12-13, “Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of Hosts (armies), Behold, a man whose name is Branch (tzemach), for he will branch out from where he is; and he will build the temple of the Lord (Ezekiel’s temple). Yes, it is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he who will bear the honor and sit and rule on his throne (as king). Thus he will be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices (of king and priest).'”
So, what we have is Zechariah in the Heichal praying the Shemoneh Esrai. During one prayer, Gabriel shows up and says, “your petition has been heard.” Zechariah listens to what Gabriel has to say and then wonders how all of this is possible. The people are waiting outside, and wondering what is taking so long. Zechariah comes out and he can’t speak, and the people realize something has happened (v 22). It then goes on to say in Luke 1.23-25 that Zechariah finishes his week and goes home, and after all of this becomes pregnant.
Six months later (Luke 1.26) Gabriel is sent to Miriam in Nazareth. The name Miraim means “rebel” and she is not the sinless virgin as in some parts of Christianity. She needs a savior, too (Luke 1.47). Now, we know that Yochanon was conceived in mid-Sivan, the third month of the religious year), so this is about mid-Kislev (the ninth month). Elisheva is in her sixth month of pregnancy (v 36). When Gabriel appears to Miriam, it is around the time of Chanukah. Remember, the ceremonies at Chanukah were the same as Sukkot in the first century (2 Macc 10.1-7). The story about the “miracle of the oil” at Chanukah is a myth. The real story behind Chanukah is the story of how a bunch of rag-tag religious people stood up against the assimilation and the paganism of Antiochus Epiphanes who was trying to bring in Hellenistic (Greek) idolatry. They fought a war over religious freedom to follow the Torah, and won. In the first century, that was the last thing the religious authorities wanted to be taught about Chanukah, for fear of a Roman reprisal, so the story of the miracle of the oil was invented to “disarm” any thought of rebelling against Rome in the same way the Maccabees did. Chanukah had the same liturgy and even some of the same names as Sukkot, like “The feast of Dedication (Chanukah means “dedication”) and the “feast of Lights.”
So, lets go ahead to Luke 1.57-64. Yochanon is born around Passover, nine months after Sivan. He is circumcised on the eighth day, and Zechariah names him Yochanon, but has to write the name because he can’t speak. This fulfills what Gabriel has told him in Luke 1.13-20, and he has been unable to speak until all these things take place. Zechariah can now speak, and Luke 1.67-79 records what he said. Now, we want to zero in on v 69, where Zechariah says, “And he has raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of David his servant.” Zechariah was unable to finish the Shemoneh Esrai in the Temple while he burned incense because he became mute, and they had to be said out loud. The last prayer that he prayed was the 15th benediction called “For the Messianic King.” This prayer can still be found in any Jewish prayer book. The benediction he prayed says, “Speedily cause the offspring (“tzemach”) of David, they servant, to flourish (“ta’tzemach”), and lift up his glory (“kivod”) by thy divine help because we wait for they salvation (Hebrew “l’yeshuatecha”-see the name Yeshua there?) all the day. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who causes the strength (Hebrew “keren” meaning “horn”) of salvation (Hebrew “Yeshua”) to flourish (matzemach). Now you know why we went into the passages about the “tzemach” in Isa 4.2; Jer 23.5-6, 33.15-16; Zech 3.8. 6.12-13. His prayer here in Luke 1.69 was based on the prayer he prayed in the Temple right before Gabriel appeared.
Zechariah was on THIS prayer when Gabriel appeared to him. His wife would have a child and would go before this “offspring of David” or the “tzemach” (Messiah) and prepare his way in the spirit and power of Elijah. Luke 1.79 uses the term “shadow of death” and this alludes to the passage about the birth of Yeshua at Sukkot found in Isa 9.2, where the same term is used.
With all this as a backround, we will begin in Part 45 to look at the birth of Yeshua. This will, take some time to develop in detail because of the “lullaby effect.” We have been so affected by the movies, books, songs and false teachings about his birth that we have been “lulled asleep.” We are not seeing what is in the Scriptures about his birth, and those Scriptures will tell a totally different story than what we have been taught. We are going to see that Yeshua was born at Sukkot, and we are going to look at the Virgin Birth and the “technicalities” involved. We will look at a certain factor in the book of Jeremiah that will play a huge role in his birth, and that factor is called the “Curse of Coniah.”