angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Luke 1 [1.] Since many have undertaken to set in order a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus; that you might know the certainty concerning the things in which you were instructed.
Luke 1 [5.] There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the priestly division of Abijah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years. Now while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
Luke 1 [11.] An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1 [18.] Zacharias said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Luke 1 [19.] The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. Behold,[a] you will be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things will happen, because you didn’t believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
Luke 1 [21.] The people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marveled that he delayed in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. He continued making signs to them, and remained mute. When the days of his service were fulfilled, he departed to his house. After these days Elizabeth, his wife, conceived, and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus has the Lord done to me in the days in which he looked at me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Luke 1 [26.] Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. Having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!”
- Righteousness in the Sight of God:
They were both righteous before God: The narrative begins by painting a portrait of Zechariah and Elizabeth as a couple who, despite their childlessness, were esteemed for their righteousness. Their blameless walk in obedience to God's commandments is emphasized.
Walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord: This couple's righteousness is not merely a legalistic adherence but a genuine and comprehensive obedience to the divine commands.
- A Divine Encounter:
His lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense: Zechariah, fulfilling his priestly duties, encounters a divine moment within the sacred precincts of the temple. The burning of incense is a symbolic act of worship and prayer.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him: The divine intervention occurs as the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah, positioned at the right side of the altar of incense. This celestial encounter transcends the ordinary, signaling a momentous announcement.
- Promise of a Son:
Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John: The angel Gabriel delivers the long-awaited promise—a son. This child is to be named John, and his birth is foretold with specific details of his future mission and significance.
He will be great in the sight of the Lord: The angel unfolds the destiny of John the Baptist, describing his greatness in the eyes of God and the specific role he will play in preparing the way for the Lord.
- Zechariah's Response and Muted Silence:
How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years: Zechariah, confronted with the miraculous promise, responds with doubt. His question reveals the natural skepticism of an elderly man and a barren wife.
I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God: The angel Gabriel, as a messenger of God, rebukes Zechariah's unbelief and declares the consequences—a period of muted silence until the fulfillment of the promise.
- Fulfillment of Promise:
After these days, Elizabeth, his wife, conceived: True to the angel's proclamation, Elizabeth conceives, marking the fulfillment of the divine promise. Her response is one of gratitude and a recognition of God's gracious intervention to remove her reproach.
Thus has the Lord done to me in the days in which he looked at me: Elizabeth's joyous acknowledgment underscores the divine timing and intentionality behind the conception, affirming that God had seen and acted on her behalf.
Righteousness and Barrenness: The narrative intertwines the themes of righteousness and barrenness, emphasizing that even the righteous may experience periods of apparent delay in the fulfillment of their deepest desires.
Divine Timing and Intervention: The story underscores the importance of divine timing and intervention. God's promises are fulfilled in His appointed seasons, often defying human expectations and understanding.
Relevance for Today:
Encouragement in Delayed Desires: Luke 1:5-25 encourages believers who may be grappling with delayed desires or unfulfilled promises. It assures them that God sees, remembers, and acts in His perfect time.
Challenges to Faith: Zechariah's initial doubt serves as a cautionary tale about the challenges to faith, even in the face of divine promises. Believers are prompted to trust in God's faithfulness, even when circumstances seem improbable.
Malachi 4:5-6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." This Old Testament prophecy aligns with the angel's declaration about John the Baptist's role in Luke 1:17.
Genesis 18:14: "Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you when the season comes around, and Sarah will have a son." The concept of God's miraculous intervention in the birth of a child is echoed in the story of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
In Our Spiritual Journey: The annunciation of John the Baptist's birth sets the stage for the unfolding drama of the Messiah's arrival. It serves as a prelude to the miraculous birth of Jesus, emphasizing that God's redemptive plan often begins with unexpected and extraordinary events.
PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible