Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Angel to Zachariah - Advent Mid-week 1 - December 5, 2012 - Text: Luke 1:5-25
The angels became very prominent in the work of the Lord at the time of the birth of Jesus. It was the angels that God sent to announce to Zachariah the birth of the one who would prepare the way for Jesus, John the Baptist. It was an angel sent from the Lord who announce to Mary that she had found favor with God and would be the mother of God. It was an angel who was sent in a dream to reassure Joseph that it was okay to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. It was an angel and a multitude or rather a host of angels who announced to the Shepherds that Jesus was born. It was an angel that announced to Simeon that he would see the Christ. And it was an angel that warned Joseph to leave Nazareth to go to Egypt for the child’s protection. Angels played a prominent role in the Christmas story and so this year during the season of Advent and Christmas we will take the time to look at the role the angles played and how they were indeed God’s angels, God’s messengers. This evening we take up the angels announcement to Zechariah.
Before we get to the messenger and the message, let us take a moment to talk about the message receiver. The message receiver was Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah. He was from the line of Jacob’s son, Levi, the tribe set apart to be the priests in the temple of the Lord. For all intents and purposes, he was a regular Israelite. He was a priest and he served God in the temple.
Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, we are told from the text, were blameless and at the same time they were barren, which really does not seem to make sense, at least when we understand that in the culture of the day that, to be barren was considered to be a curse from God. So, how could a blameless couple be barren? Of course, we are looking back and we know how these events have panned out and we know that God’s timing is always perfect timing. Elizabeth was barren until the right time, which is the time for the birth of the way preparer for Jesus, John the Baptist. And so, Elizabeth was blameless, which, let me say, was not the reason she was chosen by God. She was chosen, as we all are chosen, by God’s pure grace. Elizabeth was blameless and not cursed, but was blessed according to God’s time with the child, John.
As for Zechariah, again he was chosen to serve in the temple on this particular day. He was chosen in the usual way, that is by lot, probably the urim and thummim, the two stones the priest carried for decision making so that indeed he was chosen by God, through the instrument of the urim and thummim to serve at this particular time. Make no mistake, all of these proceedings were directed by the very hand of God.
Now, for the angel and his message. Zechariah had been prepared for his service, to attend to the duty of the Holy of Holies, the most holy place. He went through the necessary and prescribe ceremonial preparations so that he might be ritually clean while performing his duty on behalf of the people. And the people were prepared as they prayed while he served. This service was the once a year service that God ordained for service in the temple.
While Zechariah was on duty, serving in the most Holy Place, the angel, sent from God, appeared to him and his first inclination was fear. Which, humanly speaking, makes sense. If I actually saw an angel, and I do believe that there are angels all around us protecting us, I believe we would also be afraid.
The angel spoke to Zechariah and the very first words he announced were words of peace, “Do not be afraid.” He knew Zechariah’s fear and thus began by easing his fear with these words of peace. He went on to announce the birth of a son to Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. He announced that the name of his son would be John. And he announced what would be John’s service, to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Upon hearing the news, the good news of the angel, the announcement of a child to him and Elizabeth, a child they had been praying for, for so many years, Zechariah relaxed and questioned the angel. Zechariah asked, “How shall I know this is true?” His question was a question of doubt. He did not believe the angel and so he wanted proof from the angel. This questioning we will see is different from when Mary asked the angel a question, later.
For proof, the angel tells Zechariah that his name is Gabriel and that he is a messenger from God. He explains that he has been sent by God Himself, meaning that Gabriel is not speaking on his own behalf, but on behalf of God, so these words are not his words but God’s Word and if any Word is a Word that is faithful and true, it is God’s Word.
As a sign of proof to Zechariah, Gabriel announces that he will have a lack of speech until the child is born. This is the sign to Zechariah, but will also serve as a sign to all the people who had gathered.
And so it was. Zechariah was unable to speak. He completed his work in the temple, which took longer than usual because of his encounter with the angel. And everyone knew that something had happened to Zechariah while he was on duty because they could see it in his face. And they soon discovered that he had seen an angel and had been given an important message. And that he was unable to speak the message. Evidently he had to write out all he wanted to say, at least until the time of the birth of John and Zechariah’s confirmation of his name as John.
We are not told exactly what happened following Zechariah’s time of service except that he returned home and that God had removed the reproach of Elizabeth. Certainly for the next nine months he communicated with his wife, through writing, all that had happened in the temple. Certainly he explained to Elizabeth that their son would be named John, John the Baptist and that he would be a special person, even a prophet.
Finally, even if Zechariah could not fully explain to Elizabeth and to all the people how their son, John would prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus, the one for whom they have been waiting for so many years while he remained speechless, after his mouth was opened he most certainly communicated this message to all that would hear.
What does this mean? One thing I hope you noticed this evening, it was not Zechariah who approached God, nor was it Elizabeth, although we are told they did bring their prayers before the Lord concerning their desire to have a child. Notice also, it was not because they were blameless that God answered their prayers. If both of these statements were true, then we would naturally point to ourselves and we would be the reason that God does what He does. Because we now that we are not the prime movers, but that God is the Prime Mover, we know that it was God who chose Zechariah and Elizabeth. It was God who chose to answer their prayer. It was God who chose Zechariah to be on duty. It was God who chose to send His angel, Gabriel to bring them the message of the coming events. As always, it always begins with God.
Throughout the Old Testament God told His people, you and me included, what was going to happen. Now we are getting God’s fulfillment of these promises. Now we can be certain, from the promises and from the fulfillment that Jesus is who He says He is. God is a God with power. God’s Word is a Word with power, the power to do what He says. As we begin our preparation to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we do so in all faith and confidence that this was ordained and accomplished according to God’s good and gracious will and so is efficacious for our salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.