Inspirations

Archive for December, 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

by Beth Piepenburg

INTRODUCTION

Chiasmus 1This passage is written in a chiasmus structure, much like a sandwich with the bread on the outside, the condiments and salad material inside, and the meat as the main course or central theme.

While the story is about Elisabeth’s conception, and the magnificent appearance of the angel Gabriel, the central theme is about the words of Zacharias. Scratching my head and pondering why the words of Zacharias were the theme, I began to understand that he represented Israel at a time when believing in God’s promises was difficult.

ELISABETH WAS BARREN

chiasmus2

Zacharias and his wife were well advanced in years. In their younger days they had lived under the independent Jewish kingdom with the reigning Hasmonean dynasty. In 63 BC, Pompey conquered Jerusalem, making the Jewish kingdom a Roman client state. In 40 BC the Parthians (Persians) invaded and drove out the Romans in many of the eastern Roman provinces. The Hasmonean dynasty was reestablished under Antigonus II Mattathias, a pro-Parthian monarch. Fleeing to Rome, Herod was proclaimed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 39 BC. Fighting for control of Judea, Herod was entrusted to govern the province by Antony in 35 BC, and remained in power shortly after the eclipse in 1 BC. So, Zacharias and his wife had seen much conflict in their land over the years. Where was God in all this turmoil?Herod Rule

Both Zacharias and his wife were descendants of Aaron, the first high priest of the tribe of Levi. Zacharias’ name meant Yah has remembered, but did Zacharias wonder if God had remembered him as he had prayed for his country and for a child? Elisabeth was named after Aaron’s wife, Elisheba, meaning God has sworn. Zacharias served in the eighth division of Abijah, which these priestly divisions had been originally instituted by King David. The number eight signifies the Resurrection. Zacharias would serve in the Temple at Jerusalem when the time came for his division to be present.

When life has its hardships, Job’s comforters will contribute their unwarranted explanation. Barrenness obviously has to do with God’s lack of blessing because of sin, right? I’m sure many wondered about Zacharias and Elisabeth and why they had failed to be blessed by God. However, Scripture clearly indicates that they were both righteous before God and that they were blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. What a high recommendation!

Elisabeth’s barrenness served as a reflection of the barrenness of Israel. Throughout the ages, God had promised the Messiah to the nation of Israel. Any hope of being liberated from Rome and from the Edomite King Herod seemed futile. The life of Elisabeth and Zacharias appeared fruitless without any children. Was there any hope left?

THE PEOPLE WERE PRAYING

chiasmus3Only the descendants of Aaron could enter the Holy Place to offer incense, but after four hundred years the number of descendants had grown. When David was king, he appointed 24 divisions with each division serving twice a year besides the Feasts. With thousands of Aaronic descendant, the chance that a priest would offer incense might be once in a lifetime. Had Zacharias ever served before?ZachariasIncense

When did the eighth division serve? Besides the major feasts, the eighth division would have served either in the third or eighth Jewish month. Since the Annunciation of Mary has been reckoned to be first day of the ancient seventh month of 3 B.C., Elisabeth would have conceived sometime after the preceding Passover. Thus, the angelic visitation to Zacharias might have fallen in the third month (May-June) of 4 B.C., the eighth month (October-November) of 4 B.C., or during the Passover (March) of 3 B.C.

Twice a day incense was burnt, which were made of four precious spices: stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense. Chosen to serve on this particular morning, Zacharias must have been somewhat unnerved to follow protocol as prescribed. He would enter into the Holy Place alone and have the privilege to burn incense to the Lord!

While the priest would offer incense to the Lord, the people would be praying outside. Besides personal prayers, many offered prayers for the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and for the coming Messiah.

WORDS OF THE ANGEL

chiasmus4What an astonishment for Zacharias to see a heavenly being suddenly appear next to the altar! No wonder fear gripped him.

The angel addresses Zacharias’ present state of fear, his past years of prayers that seemed to have gone unheard, and the future about a son.  However, this son was to be named John, meaning Yehovah-favored. The importance of naming the child John pertained to God’s destiny rather than family tradition.GabrielZacharias

Of course, this child would bring joy and gladness to this elderly couple because they would enjoy their remaining lives with their son and never live to see his imprisonment or death.  Yet, many would rejoice at his miraculous birth because they would know that God had not forgotten his people.

John’s destiny was to be great in God’s presence, but he was expected to live a life of a Nazarite, not partaking in liquor and possibly never having his hair cut. Even Elisabeth would abstain from liquor until she had weaned John. To fulfill his godly purpose, John would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the womb. Could that have happened when he was conceived or on the Shavuot (Pentecost)?

How would John return the people to their God? He never performed the miracles that Elijah had done, but called Israel to repentance like Elijah. He would speak to their hearts in three ways: by turning the hearts of the fathers toward their children, by turning the heart to seek righteous wisdom, and by preparing the hearts of the people for the Messiah.

WORDS OF ZACHARIAS

Chiasmus5What a question to ask an angel? Zacharias would have been well versed in Jewish scripture. Besides the story of Abraham and Sarah having Isaac in their old age, he would have known the prophecy of Malachi that an Elijah would return for the purpose of turning the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.  Could it be that his heart was hardened with the sadness of life that he lacked any faith? Even an appearance of an angel failed to generate faith.

Why is this verse the theme for this passage about the birth of John the Baptist? Perhaps, Zacharias exemplified Israel, an older nation compared to Rome. For centuries, they had awaited the Promise of a Savior and the return of the Kingdom of David. Had God forgotten his people and his promises?

WORDS OF THE ANGEL GABRIEL

chiasmus6Zacharias must have been shocked when the angel identifies himself and his purpose. Gabriel, meaning Man of God, was the archangel mentioned in Daniel.

For God to work in Zacharias’ and Elisabeth’s lives, he would need cooperation from Zacharias. By silencing Zacharias, the angel put a damper on Zacharias’ unbelief, which would have affected the future of Israel.

THE PEOPLE ARE WAITING

chiasmus7Can you imagine after the hour of incense that the people wondered what had happened to Zacharias? Although he was older, Zacharias was in good health. What should be done? In order to enter the Holy Place, another priest would have to cleanse himself. At last, Zacharias exited, and the crowd wondered what happened. He responded only with signs because he was struck mute. What people had waited for through the centuries was to be accomplished.

ELISABETH CONCEIVED

chiasmus8While his service at the temple was fulfilled, Zacharias with his wife Elisabeth awaited for the fulfillment of the angel’s words.  After she conceived, why did she hide herself five months? By the Jewish lunar-solar calendar, the end of five months would be twenty weeks, exactly half of her pregnancy. At twenty weeks, she would began to show and would experience a “quickening” when the first movements of her child could be felt. She had waited for the Lord to fulfill what the angel Gabriel had spoken to her husband. Although she had been righteous before God, she would no longer bear the criticism of people

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Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2015. All rights reserved.

 

Abraham Carried the Seed

by Beth PiepenburgAbraham Journey

Abram was living in Ur of the Chaldees, in present day Southeastern Turkey, with his father Terah.  Although from the righteous lineage of Shem, a son of Noah, his father Terah was a pagan worshiper. When Abram had irritated his fellow Chaldeans with his talk about the true God, he and his father were forced to leave Ur. Although the Lord was directing Abram to move to the land of Canaan, his father preferred to relocate at Haran, about forty miles south of Ur, and set up a center for the worship of Sin, the moon goddess.

After the death of his father five years later, seventy-five year old Abram was free to follow the Lord’s directive to dwell in Canaan. Here the Lord promised him that his seed would be numerous, but from his seed would come One in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Not only was Abram to be blessed with a son, but Abram was carrying through his own seed the spiritual promise of a physical Savior.

However, God was not yet ready to give Abram a son until he and his wife Sarai were mature in their faith. They settled in various places, learning to grow in faith. When famine hit they abandoned Canaan and dwelt in Egypt. Relying in his own cleverness rather than trusting God, Abram told the Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister rather than his wife. Well, she was a paternal cousin, a little stretch from sister. When Pharaoh discovered their half-truth, they were told to leave. Returning to Canaan, their faith in God developed deeper roots.

Faith is like a mustard seed that begins small and grows to be a large plant. Likewise, Abraham’s faith had started with a small seed of belief and for centuries continued to grow with his descendants. The ultimate return of his faith would come to fruition with the Promised Seed.

Being ten years from when Abram and Sarai had left Haran, God had not provided them a physical heir. While ten means completion, they found themselves uncompleted or lacking a son. So, Sarai hatched a plan of using her handmaid, Hagar, as a surrogate mother. Ishmael was conceived, and Abram and Sarai were satisfied with the outcome. (Ishmael became the father of the Saracens, not the Arabians.)

When Abram was ninety-nine, the Lord appeared to announce His blessings over Abraham’s lineage, to instruct him about the covenant rite of circumcision, to give Abram and Sarai a name change, and to shake their world with the promise of a son through Sarah. Well, wouldn’t you laugh, if your wife was well past the age of bearing children? As promised, the next year Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah.

Several years later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Perhaps, Abraham thought that Isaac was the Promised Seed and God would provide a miracle. With heavy heart, Abraham took Isaac, a lad, up to the mountains of Moriah, possibly the very same spot where Christ was crucified. Willingly, Isaac laid himself on the altar, putting his trust in his father. Relief swept over father and son when the angel of the Lord called out to stop Abraham, because the purpose of the test was to see if Abraham feared the Lord. Whew! A ram was caught in the thicket for the sacrifice! The imagery speaks so well of the Father giving his Son as a sacrifice on Calvary, and a Son willing to lay his life down. Surely, the promise of a Seed was being passed down from Abraham unto generations later, to Mary the mother of Jesus.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2015. All rights reserved.

DNA of Eve’s Seed

by Beth PiepenburgSeed2

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall lie in wait for your head,
And you shall lie in wait for His heel.”
(Gen 3:15)

Clearly, Eve and Adam had disobeyed the command of the LORD to not eat of the Tree of Life, knowing that the consequences would be death. The LORD told the Serpent, which had tempted Eve to disobey the LORD, that his seed would face an enemy, her Seed. Therefore, the LORD had a specific plan to set mankind free from the grip of the enemy.

While Scripture refers to women possessing seed, the scientific fact was not discovered until 1928 by Edgar Allen. Mankind had thought that the seed only came via the male, and most societies set up the family and tribal units with the patriarchal ties, which has its importance. In traditional Judaism, land and family ties are connected to the male, but Jewishness is passed down through the mother.

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother through her seed, since any mitochondrial DNA from the father is destroyed during the fertilization process. Eve’s mitochondrial DNA would pass through the female line all the way from Eve to Mary, the mother of Jesus!

mtDNAY-DNA

While the X-chromosome of the mother is inherited by her sons and daughters, the X-chromosome of the father is inherited only by his daughters. Only the sons inherit the Y-chromosome of their father. Although Mary would not receive a Y-chromosome from her father, she would receive an X-chromosome from him that had originated with Adam. She also would receive an X-chromosome from her mother that had originated from both Adam and Eve.

Therefore, the importance of Eve’s seed was the ability to transfer human mitochondrial DNA and the X-chromosome to successive generations, which would guarantee redemption for the entire human race through Jesus Christ. Although Adam’s X-chromosome would be handed down to Mary, his Y-chromosome would not. Mary’s would be dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a Y-chromosome for her Godly Seed, and for the healing of her human DNA.

The battle of the two seeds pertain to the head, which represents source of nurturing, and the feet, which represents authority. The serpent’s seed would lie in wait to attack the authority of Christ, but Christ, the Seed of the woman, would attack the source of the Antichrist, that is, Satan. God has put all things under Christ’s feet (authority), and gave Him to be the head (nurturing source) of all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23)

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2015. All rights reserved.