When Would The Saviour Come? The Mission of The Saviour In our last lesson we saw how God rescued the Israelites from Egpyt. We learned that the blood sacrifice of the Passover covered their sins and spared them from the wrath of God. As time passed, Israel was sometimes faithful, sometimes disloyal to God. But, through all of their victories and sufferings, God continued to reveal through them His plan to save humanity. He warned them that the Saviour must suffer and die, but also promised that He would set up a glorious kingdom. In their despair and suffering, the Jews clung to the promises of a kingdom and nearly forgot that the Saviour must suffer and die. In Isaiah 53, we read a vivid description of God's work through this Saviour. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:4-11). Because of our sins, He must be beaten, whipped, and even die. Yet, He would be our offering for sin which would satisfy the righteousness of God and restore us to fellowship with Him! A Message From God About 400 BC, God gave a message through His prophet Malachi to those who had returned from captivity in Babylon. This remnant of the Israelites lived in the region of Judea, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Malachi warns the people and priests of their sins and God's judgment. Also, he announces the coming of the Saviour: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts . . . Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6). God promised to send His messenger, then to come Himself into the temple. He assured them He would send Elijah the prophet to prepare their hearts to receive Him. These words, Malachi 4:5-6, are the last words God spoke for nearly 400 years. Silence. God did not reveal Himself in prophecies and visions, nor did He inspire writers of Scripture. This silence from God went unnoticed by the heathen world, but surely some Jews wondered if this were a calm before a storm. A Faithful Priest Zacharias was a faithful priest whose job was to burn incense in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The Jews returning from Babylon (about 500 BC) had built a new temple to replace Solomon's destroyed temple. But over the five-hundred intervening years, it had decayed. Zacharias ministered in the temple reconstructed by order of Herod the Great and actually the third temple of the Jewish people. God's presence had departed from the original temple nearly 600 years before, as recorded in Ezekiel 10:4, 10:18, and 11:22-23. But still, those who tried to worship God continued the Temple worship until God would give them a new plan. And so, Zacharias was burning incense when God broke His silence. "And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 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. 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, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], 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" (Luke 1:11-17). Zacharias, like Abraham thousands of years before, was an old man who had no children. This promised son, who was to be named John, would prepare the people to receive the Saviour sent from God. Nearly 400 years before John arrived "in the spirit and power of Elias", Malachi prophesied that Elijah would prepare the hearts of the people. Like Abraham, Zacharias has doubts. "And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 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. 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. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 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" (Luke 1:18-22). Regardless of their age, Zacharias' wife Elizabeth conceived. Zacharias remained speechless until his son was born, nine months later. His wife named the boy John, but the relatives objected that "John" was not a traditional family name. So they asked Zacharias what to name the baby boy. "And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God" (Luke 1:63-64). By obeying God, Zacharias' ability to speak returned. Zacharias and Elizabeth would raise this prophet of God as God had instructed them. A Faithful Virgin When Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John, God broke His 400 years of silence a second time. God sent the angel to a pure young woman named Mary, who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. The Bible is clear that she was a virgin, having never slept with a man. "And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary" "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:26-27 & Matthew 1:18). Sexual sins are among the easiest and most damaging sins humans fall into. Perhaps you are reading this and you did not keep yourself pure before (or during) your marriage, there is forgiveness with God. Although sin brings consequences, such as being disqualified for some of God's work, or heartache and disease, God is willing to forgive help you move beyond your guilt and grief. It is important that Mary kept herself pure because of what God had prophesied through Isaiah, nearly 700 years earlier: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew's record of Jesus' life brings this prophecy together with the event when he writes: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:22-23). Why must there be no human father, but a human mother? The Saviour must be the "seed of the woman" according to Genesis 3:15. Also, the blood-sacrifice for sin had to be perfect. Only someone without sin could pay the price. So, the Saviour had to be God, for only God is sinless. But, only a human could pay the price for human sin. Thus, the Saviour also had to be human. The two natures combined into one. God taking on human flesh to die for His own creation! A human body for God to live in. God with us. Will Mary Trust God? The angel explained God's plan to Mary: "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 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: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30-33). If she was willing to let God use her, she would bring the Saviour into the world! He would be the long-expected king, the Prophet Moses spoke of, the perfect sacrifice for sin! Having kept herself pure, she had a good question: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34). Never before or after has such a thing happened, that God's spirit would conceive a child in a virgin's body. As proof that God can do this, the angel points out that Mary's cousin Elizabeth conceived a child in her old age. "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost 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. 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. For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:35-37). What a choice! She had kept herself pure in obedience to God's Word. If she agreed to let God do what He was planning, she would be forever accused of immorality for being with child before marrying Joseph. Mary trusted God. She worshipped God and looked for His coming. "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). Now the stage is set for God's payment to save humanity from sin. The messenger and the Saviour will soon be born.

Lesson #9 Review

1.In what ways would the Saviour suffer, according to Isaiah 53?

2.Why must the Saviour suffer, according to Isaiah 53?

3.What did God promise in Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6?

4.How does Godís message to Zacharias fit Malachiís prophecy?

5.What was Godís sign on Zacharias because of his unbelief?

6.How does the Scripture assure us that Mary was a virgin?