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Luke 1:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

He shall go before him - Jesus Christ, in the spirit and power of Elijah; he shall resemble Elijah in his retired and austere manner of life, and in his zeal for the truth, reproving even princes for their crimes; compare 1 Kings 21:17-24, with Matthew 14:4. It was on these accounts that the Prophet Malachi, Malachi 4:6, had likened John to this prophet. See also Isaiah 40:3; and Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6.

To turn the hearts of the fathers - Gross ignorance had taken place in the hearts of the Jewish people; they needed a Divine instructer: John is announced as such; by this preaching and manner of life, all classes among the people should be taught the nature of their several places, and the duties respectively incumbent upon them, See Luke 3:10, etc. In these things the greatness of John, mentioned Luke 1:15, is pointed out, Nothing is truly great but what is so in the sight of God. John's greatness arose:

  1. From the plenitude of God's Spirit which dwelt in him.
  • From his continual self-denial, and taking up his cross.
  • From his ardent zeal to make Christ known.
  • From his fidelity and courage in rebuking vice.
  • From the reformation which he was the instrument of effecting among the people; reviving among them the spirit of the patriarchs, and preparing their hearts to receive the Lord Jesus.
  • To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. By a very expressive figure of speech, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs, are represented here as having their hearts alienated from the Jews, their children, because of their unbelief and disobedience; but that the Baptist should so far succeed in converting them to the Lord their God, that these holy men should again look upon them with delight, and acknowledge them for their children. Some think that by the children, the Gentiles are meant, and by the fathers, the Jews.

    The disobedient - Or unbelieving, απειθεις, the persons who would no longer credit the predictions of the prophets, relative to the manifestation of the Messiah. Unbelief and disobedience are so intimately connected, that the same word in the sacred writings often serves for both.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Shall go before him - Before the Messiah. The connection here leads us to suppose that the word “him” refers to the “Lord their God” in the previous verse. If so, then it will follow that the Messiah was the Lord God of Israel - a character abundantly given him in other parts of the New Testament.

    In the spirit and power of Elias - See the notes at Matthew 11:14.

    To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children - In the time of John the Jews were divided into a number of different sects. See the notes at Matthew 3:7. They were opposed violently to each other, and pursued their opposition with great animosity. It was impossible but that this opposition should find its way into families, and divide parents and children from each other. John came that he might allay these animosities and produce better feeling. By directing them all to “one Master,” the Messiah, he would divert their attention from the causes of their difference and bring them to union. He would restore peace to their families, and reconcile those parents and children who had chosen different sects, and who had suffered their attachment “to sect” to interrupt the harmony of their households. The effect of true religion on a family will always be to produce harmony. It attaches all the family to “one” great Master, and by attachment to him all minor causes of difference are forgotten.

    And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just - The “disobedient” here are the unbelieving, and hence the impious, the wicked. These he would turn to the wisdom of the just, or to such wisdom as the “just” or pious manifest - that is, to true wisdom.

    To make ready a people … - To prepare them for his coming by announcing that the Messiah was about to appear, and by calling them to repentance. God has always required people to be pure in a special manner when he was about to appear among them. Thus, the Israelites were required to purify themselves for three days when he was about to come down on Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:14-15. And so, when God the Son was about to appear as the Redeemer, he required that people should “prepare” themselves for his coming. So in view of the future judgment - the second coming of the Son of man - he requires that people should repent, believe, and be pure, 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:11-12.

    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
    Selected Messages Book 2, 147-8

    [Appeared in Notebook Leaflets, Methods, No. 1.]

    We are living in the last days of this earth's history, and we may be surprised at nothing in the line of apostasies and denials of the truth. Unbelief has now come to be a fine art which men work at to the destruction of their souls. There is constant danger of there being shams in pulpit preachers, whose lives contradict the words they speak; but the voice of warning and of admonition will be heard as long as time shall last; and those who are guilty of transactions that should never be entered into, when reproved or counseled through the Lord's appointed agencies, will resist the message and refuse to be corrected. They will go on as did Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, until the Lord takes away their reason, and their hearts become unimpressible. The Lord's word will come to them; but if they choose not to hear it, the Lord will make them responsible for their own ruin. 2SM 147.1

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (EGW), 1184

    16, 17. Promises to Be Verified—The closing words of this scripture outline the experience that the people of God are yet to have. We have a wonderful future before us as a people. The promises of the third chapter of Malachi will be verified to the letter (Letter 223, 1904). 4BC 1184.1

    Angels Await Prayers—Seek most earnestly for a deeper experience and piety, and learn to walk circumspectly. [Malachi 3:16, 17 quoted.] God does not leave His erring children who are weak in faith, and who make many mistakes. The Lord hearkens and hears their prayer and their testimony. Those who look unto Jesus day by day and hour by hour, who watch unto prayer, are drawing nigh to Jesus. Angels with wings outspread wait to bear their contrite prayers to God, and to register them in the books of heaven (Letter 90, 1895). 4BC 1184.2

    17. All Luster Is Reflected Light—All the luster possessed by those who have gained the richest experience is but the reflection of the light of the Sun of righteousness. He who lives nearest to Jesus shines the brightest. And let us thank God that the Master has His hidden ones, who are not recognized by the world, but whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. The luster of the tiniest gem in God's casket will glorify Him. There are many ... who during this life do not seem to be particularly honored. But the Lord sees those who serve Him [Malachi 3:17 quoted] (Letter 94, 1903). 4BC 1184.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 104

    God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, “What must I do to be saved?” Then the hand that has humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” DA 104.1

    When the ministry of John began, the nation was in a state of excitement and discontent verging on revolution. At the removal of Archelaus, Judea had been brought directly under the control of Rome. The tyranny and extortion of the Roman governors, and their determined efforts to introduce the heathen symbols and customs, kindled revolt, which had been quenched in the blood of thousands of the bravest of Israel. All this intensified the national hatred against Rome, and increased the longing to be freed from her power. DA 104.2

    Amid discord and strife, a voice was heard from the wilderness, a voice startling and stern, yet full of hope: “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” With a new, strange power it moved the people. Prophets had foretold the coming of Christ as an event far in the future; but here was an announcement that it was at hand. John's singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins. His words were plain, pointed, and convincing. Many believed him to be one of the prophets risen from the dead. The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness. DA 104.3

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