Read: Luke 1:5-25
Luke takes some time to introduce Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, as they are blessed by a visit from the angel Gabriel. This is a story of devotion to service that is rewarded far beyond expectation. Zechariah’s immediate reaction results in losing his ability to speak while Elizabeth quickly figures out this is a sign from God. It’s most interesting to read that John will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he’s born. What an amazing child he must have been!
Zechariah and Elizabeth
John’s parents are shown here as honorable, righteous servants of God, devout followers of His commands. Since we know Jesus has many harsh words for the Jewish leadership, it’s significant to note that all are not bad, there are those among the masses that truly follow the Lord.
Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:6-7
Zechariah’s Service & Gabriel’s Announcement
One day while Zechariah was simply performing his honorable service, he’s visited by the angel Gabriel. But before we skip ahead, consider that he had no idea this day was going to be the day. He and Elizabeth are very old, so they’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of days in the service of God in various ways at the temple. It’s simply what they do and apparently they do it well.
Gabriel appears on the scene and as we come to expect, the visitation is frightening!
the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. Luke 1:15-16
The announcement is amazing! The angel knows his desire for a son, but the sense I get from the testimony is that Zechariah and Elizabeth are not bitter about their predicament; rather, they’ve accepted their positions and chose to serve the Lord faithfully. This is a great example for us to follow as we pray, as we serve the Lord.
Gabriel tells him John will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Seriously! What kind of baby will this be? Their devoted lives will be blessed by a very special child, one who will prepare the way for Jesus.
Zechariah’s Not So Sure, Wants a Sign
Perhaps the visitation was too much for Zechariah, or maybe the years of unanswered prayer put him in a defensive posture. I truly appreciate his attitude. How often do we pray for something that seems to go unanswered? How would I react if an angel visited and not only answered my prayer, but went on to explain the result would change the world? I guess I would slip just like Zechariah:
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18-20
Oops! Not a good plan to question one who dwells in the presence of God! Gabriel takes his voice. Zechariah will be silent until John is born. He won’t be able to say the required words of blessing, nor explain what he saw. Instead, he will spend months listening to what others say. Interesting. I wonder how much I could learn if I listened more.
Elizabeth Becomes Pregnant
His silence is significant and in a matter of weeks, Elizabeth puts the pieces of the puzzle together:
“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25
She’s no fool. At a very old age she becomes pregnant–that’s not normal! Zechariah’s silence and their answer to prayer mean that there is something significant at play here. She’ll have to wait for the verbal explanation, but for now, at her age, she goes into seclusion, a high-risk pregnancy for sure.
Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted a son, just to be blessed with a family. What they received was a visitation from the throne room of God and a soon-to-be prophet that would rock their world!
Lord, we know that there are no guarantees for rewards on earth, even for those who are completely faithful and committed to Your ways. It’s wonderful to read this story that gives us hope, not necessarily a visit by an angel, but the assurance that You hear our prayers. May we be faithful to our calling, to that which you place before us each day. May that be enough.