Devotional #1 (9/24/12). Introduction and the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
Intro: The Bible is the most amazing book ever written. God told men what to write so we don’t find any errors in it as it was originally written. The Old Testament tells about how the universe was created, the history of people and about morals: right and wrong. The Old Testament also promised a Messiah (in the Hebrew language) or Savior (in Greek) who would save people from sin (which are bad things). The New Testament talks about that Savior, God in human flesh named Jesus. The stories of His life are in the first four books of the New Testament called the gospels. The books after the gospels are the stories and letters of the followers of Jesus (known as disciples). The names of the four gospels are: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Our devotional reading: These devotionals will be looking at the gospels for a more complete understanding of who Jesus is. Each gospel had a different goal and a different intended audience so we can move between them for a better understanding. Mostly we’ll be in Mark, but we’ll start in Luke.
This Week’s Reading:
vv. 1-4. Luke was not a Jew and not an eyewitness but he was a doctor and he wanted to document what Jesus had done. We see in verse 3 that he is writing this to a man named Theophilus. In verse 4 we see the purpose of this letter (which is now the book of Luke). Verse 4 says that Luke is going to prove the truth of everything Theophilus was taught about Jesus.
vv. 5-7. “in the days of Herod” gives us the timeframe, according to scholars, of around 4-0 B.C. [i.e. “Before Christ”, “Krisztus előtt”] when this takes place (Source #1). Zacharias and Elizabeth are unable to have kids. Verse 6 shows us that it wasn’t because they were bad but as we’ll see because God wanted to do a miracle. A miracle is something we can’t explain with reasoning or science. In verse 7 notice it says they were old.
vv. 8-10. As part of Zacharias’ priestly duties he got to go into an area of the temple before the holy of holies (on the map where it says “Nave”). You can read 2 Chronicles, chapters 3 & 4 for how the temple was built. Very few priests got to do this so it would have been special to Zacharias. We see in verse 10 why he was sacrificing incense, all the people were outside hoping and waiting to see if God accepted the sacrifice, which meant He was happy with them.
vv. 11-17. The angel Gabriel (named in v. 19) appears to Zacharias but tells him not to be scared. He says “your prayer is heard” showing that God sends angels to answer prayers, he uses specific details (“your wife Elizabeth”) and he tells what the future will be like (“you will have joy and gladness”, “many will rejoice”, “he will be great”, etc.).
In verse 15 Gabriel says John won’t “drink neither wine nor strong drink” this references the Nazirite vow detailed in Numbers, chapter 6. This vow was when a person wanted to separate themselves from others and give themselves totally to the use of God. Notice that John wasn’t to be filled with alcohol and out of control but to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” and guided by God. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, He’ll never force us to do anything we don’t want to but it will always be what is best for our life and others around us.
In verse 17 Gabriel says “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, which is referencing Malachi 4:5. If you look in your Bible it is the last book of the Old Testament. It was the last time God spoke to His people, 400 years before the story we’re reading now. So for 400 years the Hebrews had been waiting for a man like Elijah to welcome in the Messiah.
vv. 18-20. Amazingly Zacharias doubts that Gabriel is telling the truth that God will do a miracle and have Elizabeth get pregnant. Gabriel basically responds that he stands in front of God, who is Zacharias to doubt God? So a lesson is given to Zacharias that he wouldn’t be able to speak until the baby is born. This would forever impress on his mind to never doubt that God has all power to do anything and keeps His promises!
vv. 21-22. The people know Zacharias shouldn’t be taking so long and they wonder if he is OK but don’t dare go in and look for him. In verse 22 we see that Gabriel had the power to carry out his promise that Zacharias wouldn’t be able to speak.
vv. 23-25. So Zacharias completes his week of service in the temple (Source #3), goes home and Elizabeth gets pregnant. But then she hides the pregnancy for 5 months. If she had been praying for it and felt it would “take away [her] reproach” (v. 25) why would she hide it? It seems that it was out of devotion to God and being humble so it didn’t seem like boasting that God had honored her.
Summary: We’re introduced to Zacharias and Elizabeth who are elderly and haven’t been able to get pregnant. God promises them that they will have a son and in working this miracle He not only makes a couple happy but fulfills His promises through the prophets of the Old Testament. Many times we don’t trust God to keep His promises to us but He is faithful to those and so much more!
Source #1: MacArthur Study Bible, notes on Matthew, p. 1395.
Source #3: MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1511.