ZECHARIAH AND ELIZABETH
Lord, thank You for the promise of the Messiah.
Read LUKE 1:1–25
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But 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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 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. 20 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.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “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.”
a Luke 1:1 Or been surely believed
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
As we start reading Luke, thank God for this thoughtful, gifted Gentile, who was led by the Spirit to record this story we all cherish.
It is instructive to compare how each of the four evangelists opens his Gospel. Luke, the only Gentile author in the Bible, begins in a characteristically Greek way: with a preface. We are alerted to his intention to write as a historian, with careful attention to detail. We are also alerted in verse 5 as to his perception of the account of Jesus in the context of the sociological framework of the time.
After the first four verses we get transported into a thoroughly Jewish universe. The setting is the temple, with the rotating priesthood, incense offerings, people praying—and an angel. The angel’s message sets up the sense of expectation that will run throughout this chapter. For 400 years very little has been heard from heaven. The last of the prophets, Malachi, has ended his book with the prophecy that God would send Elijah to turn the hearts of his people. Then silence.
The angel’s message is full of allusions to the Old Testament. The story of Jesus is not told in a vacuum. We will read of various faithful Jews who see in these events God’s eternal purposes unfolding before their eyes. Although at this point there is no mention of the coming of the Messiah, verse 17 ends with words that increase our sense of anticipation: “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Elizabeth’s barrenness, like the barrenness of God’s silence, will come to an end. She will bear a son. This much Zechariah and Elizabeth have prayed for. They could not have foreseen who this son would be: the forerunner of the Messiah, a highly pivotal player in all this, who would prepare God’s people with a call to repentance. God is on the move again.
As we move from the old covenant into the new covenant, the first requirement for God’s people is repentance. How does repentance lead to joy in your own life?
Lord, we thank You for raising up a Gentile physician to faithfully and accurately record the account of Jesus, the Messiah.
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