Pristine Grace

Lk 1:13-16, (GILL)
13  But the angel said unto him, fear not, Zacharias,.... He calls him by his name; for holy men are known to angels in person, and by name; to whom they are ministering spirits, and for whose good they are concerned; and bid him not be afraid, as the angel also said to the women at Christ's sepulchre, Mt 28:5 for he saw by his countenance and gestures, that he was greatly surprised and terrified at the sight of him:

for thy prayer is heard; which he had many years ago put up for a son; for it cannot be thought that he had been now praying for one, being in such an advanced age, and having for years past given up all hopes of one, and was even unbelieving, when he was told by the angel he should have one: prayer is sometimes immediately heard, and answered; and sometimes an answer is deferred a long time, to try the faith and patience of the saints, and to discover the more the wisdom, power, and goodness of God: or this may have regard to his present prayer, one branch of which might concern the coming of the Messiah, which was now expecting, and therefore is told, that his prayer was heard; since the angel that appeared to him, brought him the news of the conception and birth of his forerunner:

and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son; who had been always barren, and was called so, Lu 1:7

And thou shalt call his name John; in Hebrew, "Jochanan", and signifies "gracious": a fit name for one that was filled with the gifts and graces of the Spirit; and was the harbinger of the Messiah, who is full of grace and truth; and the ushered in the Messiah's kingdom, which is a dispensation of grace.

14  And thou shalt have joy and gladness,.... Not only because of his having a son; but because this his son would be the prophet of the Highest; would go before the Lord, and prepare his ways; give knowledge of salvation to many, and light to them that were in darkness, and guide their feet in the way of peace: all which, and more, he afterwards expresses in his song, whereby this part of the angel's prediction had its accomplishment:

and many shall rejoice at his birth; as the neighbours and cousins of his parents did; see Lu 1:58 and not only they, but all others, who, afterwards had knowledge of him as prophet, and as the forerunner of the Messiah.

15  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord,.... Of Jehovah, the Father; with whom, what is highly esteemed among men, is oftentimes an abomination; and of the Lord Jesus Christ, before whom he was to go, and who pronounced him a prophet, and more than a prophet, and even greater than any born of women, Mt 11:9 and of the Lord, the Spirit, with whom he was filled from his mother's womb: he was great, not in birth and blood, in worldly riches and grandeur, but in gifts and grace, in his work, office, and usefulness, and in the esteem of God, and even of men too:

and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; which were forbidden the Nazarites, Nu 6:3 where the Jews, by "wine", understand "new wine"; and by "strong drink", old wine: so all the "three Targums", of Onkelos, Jonathan ben Uzziel, and the Jerusalem, paraphrase the words there, "from wine new and old, he shall separate himself"; and they allow strong drink to a Nazarite, that has no wine in it: their canon [r] runs thus,

"three things are forbidden a Nazarite, defilement, and shaving, and whatever proceeds from the vine, whether fruit, or the refuse of fruit; but strong drink made of dates, or dried figs, and such like, is free for a Nazarite; and the strong drink which is forbidden him in the law, is strong drink made of mixture of wine.''

But the Hebrew word, rkv, and which is here retained by the evangelist, signifies [s] any sort of liquor, which is inebriating, whether it is made of fruits, or honey, or what not. The Jews had no such strong drink as ours, which we call beer or ale; but they speak of the strong drink of the Medes, which they say was an inebriating liquor, made of barley [t]:

and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb; or "whilst in his mother's womb", as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it: like Jeremiah, he was sanctified, set apart, and ordained to be the prophet of the Highest, before he came out of his mother's womb; and was then under such an influence of the Spirit of God, as to leap in it for joy, at the salutation of the mother of Christ to his, Lu 1:41 and very early appeared to have the extraordinary gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, qualifying him for his work.

[r] Maimon. Hilch. Nezirut, c. 5. sect. 1. [s] R. David Kimchi in Sepher Shorashim, rad. rkv [t] Misn. Pesach. c. 3. sect. 1. & Jarchi, Maimom. & Bartenora in ib.

16  And many of the children of Israel,.... To whom only, or at least chiefly, he was sent, and came preaching, and administering the ordinance of baptism; and great multitudes of them flocked unto him, attended on his ministry, believed in his doctrine, and submitted to his baptism, but not all; for some slighted his preaching, and rejected his baptism: however, some there were, and many too, that were converted under his ministry, confessed their sins, and were baptized by him; which verified this prediction:

shall he turn to the Lord their God; not Jehovah, the Father; for though he was the Lord God of the Jews in general, and of those that were turned by John's ministry in a special manner; yet John cannot be said "to go before him", as he is in the next verse; but the Messiah is here meant, who is the Lord Jehovah, and is often so called in the Old Testament; particularly in a prophecy afterwards respected, Isa 40:3 a name peculiar to God alone: and who also is called God, as he is frequently with additional epithets; as the mighty God, God over all, the great God, the true God, and eternal life; and our, your, and their God, the God of his covenant people, whether Jews or Gentiles; see Isa 25:9. Conversion, which is meant by turning to God, is not man's work, but God's; and is effected by his mighty power, which is only equal to it; but John was to be, and was, an instrument of the conversion of many among the Jews, by preaching the doctrine of repentance towards God, and faith in the Messiah, that was just ready to come: he was the means in the hand of God, of turning many from sin, of bringing them to a true sense of it, and to an hearty and ingenuous confession and acknowledgment of it; and from trusting to, and depending upon, their birth privileges, legal duties, and self-righteousness; and from their gross notions of a temporal Messiah; and of leading them to believe in Christ as a spiritual Saviour, as the Lamb of God, that should take away the sin of the world.

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