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Luke 1:15

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

He shall be great in the sight of the Lord - That is, before Jesus Christ, whose forerunner he shall be; or he shall be a truly great person, for so this form of speech may imply.

Neither wine nor strong drink - Σικερα, i.e. all fermented liquors which have the property of intoxicating, or producing drunkenness. The original word σικερα, sikera, comes from the Hebrew, שכר shakar, to inebriate. "Any inebriating liquor," says St. Jerome, (Epis. ad Nepot)." is called sicera, whether made of corn, apples, honey, dates, or any other fruits." One of the four prohibited liquors among the East Indian Moslimans is called sikkir . "Sikkir is made by steeping fresh dates in water till they take effect in sweetening it: this liquor is abominable and unlawful." Hedaya, vol. iv. p. 158. Probably this is the very liquor referred to in the text. In the Institutes of Menu it is said, "Inebriating liquor may be considered as of three principal sorts: that extracted from dregs of sugar, that extracted from bruised rice, and that extracted from the flowers of the madhuca: as one, so are all; they shall not be tasted by the chief of the twice-born." Chap. xi. Inst. 95. Twice-born is used by the Brahmins in the same sense as being born again is used by Christians. It signifies a spiritual regeneration. From this word comes our English term cyder, or sider, a beverage made of the fermented juice of apples. See the note on Leviticus 10:9.

Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost - Shall be Divinely designated to this particular office, and qualified for it, from his mother's womb - from the instant of his birth. One MS., two versions, and four of the primitive fathers read εν τῃ κοιλιᾳ, In the womb of his mother - intimating that even before he should be born into the world the Holy Spirit should be communicated to him. Did not this take place on the salutation of the Virgin Mary? - and is not this what is intended, Luke 1:44;? To be filled with the Holy Ghost, implies having the soul influenced in all its powers, with the illuminating, strengthening, and sanctifying energy of the Spirit.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Shall be great - Shall be eminent, or distinguished as a preacher.

In the sight of the Lord - Greek, “before the Lord.” That is, shall be “really” or “truly” great. God shall regard him as such.

Shall drink neither wine - The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the common drink of all classes of the people. See the notes at John 2:11. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite, Numbers 6:3. It was because John sustained this character that he abstained from the use of wine.

Strong drink - It is not easy to ascertain precisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The art of distilling was discovered by an Arabian chemist in the 9th or 10th century; but distilled liquors are not used by Arabians. They banished them at once, as if sensible of their pernicious influence; nor are they used in Eastern nations at all. Europe and America have been the places where this poison has been most extensively used, and there it has beggared and ruined millions, and is yearly sweeping thousands unprepared into a wretched eternity. The “strong drink” among the Jews was probably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs, and the juice of the palm, or the lees of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Many of the Jewish writers say that by the word here translated “strong drink” was meant nothing more than old wine, which probably had the power of producing intoxication. See the notes at Isaiah 5:11.

Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost … - Shall be divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be “filled” with the Holy Spirit is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by his influence. In this place it refers:

1.To the divine intention that he should be set apart to this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother‘s womb, Galatians 1:15.

2.It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:5, and with the Messiah himself, Psalm 22:9-10.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The father and mother of John the Baptist were sinners as all are, and were justified and saved in the same way as others; but they were eminent for piety and integrity. They had no children, and it could not be expected that Elisabeth should have any in her old age. While Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, the whole multitude of the people were praying without. All the prayers we offer up to God, are acceptable and successful only by Christ's intercession in the temple of God above. We cannot expect an interest therein if we do not pray, and pray with our spirits, and are not earnest in prayer. Nor can we expect that the best of our prayers should gain acceptance, and bring an answer of peace, but through the mediation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession. The prayers Zacharias often made, received an answer of peace. Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten. Prayers made when we were young and entering into the world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the world. Mercies are doubly sweet that are given in answer to prayer. Zacharias shall have a son in his old age, who shall be instrumental in the conversion of many souls to God, and preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. He shall go before Him with courage, zeal, holiness, and a mind dead to earthly interests and pleasures. The disobedient and rebellious would be brought back to the wisdom of their righteous forefathers, or rather, brought to attend to the wisdom of that Just One who was coming among them. Zacharias heard all that the angel said; but his unbelief spake. In striking him dumb, God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God's word. We may admire the patience of God towards us. God dealt kindly with him, for thus he prevented his speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith. If by the rebukes we are under for our sin, we are brought to give the more credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain. Even real believers are apt to dishonour God by unbelief; and their mouths are stopped in silence and confusion, when otherwise they would have been praising God with joy and gratitude. In God's gracious dealings with us we ought to observe his gracious regards to us. He has looked on us with compassion and favour, and therefore has thus dealt with us.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 219

“But what,” said Jesus, “went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written,— DA 219.1

“Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face,
Which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
DA 219.2

“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” In the announcement to Zacharias before the birth of John, the angel had declared, “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:15. In the estimation of Heaven, what is it that constitutes greatness? Not that which the world accounts greatness; not wealth, or rank, or noble descent, or intellectual gifts, in themselves considered. If intellectual greatness, apart from any higher consideration, is worthy of honor, then our homage is due to Satan, whose intellectual power no man has ever equaled. But when perverted to self-serving, the greater the gift, the greater curse it becomes. It is moral worth that God values. Love and purity are the attributes He prizes most. John was great in the sight of the Lord, when, before the messengers from the Sanhedrin, before the people, and before his own disciples, he refrained from seeking honor for himself, but pointed all to Jesus as the Promised One. His unselfish joy in the ministry of Christ presents the highest type of nobility ever revealed in man. DA 219.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 100

The Holy Spirit rested upon Zacharias, and in these beautiful words he prophesied of the mission of his son: DA 100.1

“Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest;
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
Whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of
death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
DA 100.2

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.” Before the birth of John, the angel had said, “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.” God had called the son of Zacharias to a great work, the greatest ever committed to men. In order to accomplish this work, he must have the Lord to work with him. And the Spirit of God would be with him if he heeded the instruction of the angel. DA 100.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 149

The word of Christ supplied ample provision for the feast. So abundant is the provision of His grace to blot out the iniquities of men, and to renew and sustain the soul. DA 149.1

At the first feast He attended with His disciples, Jesus gave them the cup that symbolized His work for their salvation. At the last supper He gave it again, in the institution of that sacred rite by which His death was to be shown forth “till He come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26. And the sorrow of the disciples at parting from their Lord was comforted with the promise of reunion, as He said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.” Matthew 26:29. DA 149.2

The wine which Christ provided for the feast, and that which He gave to the disciples as a symbol of His own blood, was the pure juice of the grape. To this the prophet Isaiah refers when he speaks of the new wine “in the cluster,” and says, “Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it.” Isaiah 65:8. DA 149.3

It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1. And He Himself provided no such beverage. Satan tempts men to indulgence that will becloud reason and benumb the spiritual perceptions, but Christ teaches us to bring the lower nature into subjection. His whole life was an example of self-denial. In order to break the power of appetite, He suffered in our behalf the severest test that humanity could endure. It was Christ who directed that John the Baptist should drink neither wine nor strong drink. It was He who enjoined similar abstinence upon the wife of Manoah. And He pronounced a curse upon the man who should put the bottle to his neighbor's lips. Christ did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink. Its effect was to bring the taste into harmony with a healthful appetite. DA 149.4

As the guests at the feast remarked upon the quality of the wine, inquiries were made that drew from the servants an account of the miracle. The company were for a time too much amazed to think of Him who had performed the wonderful work. When at length they looked for Him, it was found that He had withdrawn so quietly as to be unnoticed even by His disciples. DA 149.5

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