Old Testament: Joshua 13-15
Psalms: Psalm 101
New Testament: Luke 1
As I carefully investigate Luke’s narrative, I take note of the encounter between Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and the angel of the Lord, including where the angel stands, and what he says.
I take note of Zacharias’s position and heritage, being a Levitical priest under the Division of Abijah, meaning that it is his duty to serve in the temple in Jerusalem in the 8th division, which was at the conclusion of the Feast of Passover.
I take note that Zacharias and Elizabeth are living in the hill country, perhaps the same hill country described in our reading in Joshua wherein Jabin prepared the way for Joshua’s coming as conqueror, in the same land that became Judah’s inheritance, where Mary, the mother of our Messiah Jesus, dwells (with them) for the first 3 months of her pregnancy with her baby Jesus.
I take note of the life of John the Baptist, sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah Jesus, relating it to Moses, preparing the way in the wilderness for Joshua to take over and lead his people into the promised land.
After all that detail, likely there to teach us that Jesus is indeed the Christ, born under the law, in the way that God prophesied, with all the Old Testament parallels, I take note of where I think Luke wants our focus, after all the knowledge is obtained.
It is the character of the two women of God that causes me to pause.
God chose to prepare the way for the Lord Messiah through two birth miracles, because two women of God chose to be faithful and humble in the presence of Yahweh God through his agent angel Gabriel.
The details are so important, but it is the character of the women of God, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of our Lord Messiah, that we should rest our focus on after knowledge is obtained.
There is a stark contrast between the character displayed by the priest, who should have been first to bear the image of God in his response to the word of God, and the women of God in God’s presence.
Zacharias the priest is slow to be faithful, despite the significant circumstance he found himself in (despite a miracle). The angel Gabriel reminds Zacharias that he is one who stands in the presence of the Lord God, reiterating to him that his position deserves reverence and faith because of who he works for and of whose words he’s reiterating to him.
But to the woman, the angel of Yahweh, Gabriel, found the response that God desires from his people. From Elizabeth, we see faith and thankfulness. From Mary, we see faith and humility. We then see what follows women favored by God. When the two meet, Elizabeth is filled with the holy spirit after her baby, filled with the holy spirit, leaps in her womb! She prophesies regarding Mary’s response to the word of God:
“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary’s response to this is praise to God her Savior, magnifying her Lord God through song and prophesy. Her response sounds familiar, much like some of the psalms of David, her likely ancestor.
What follows the people of character, the character of the people that God has always wanted, is exalting the Lord God, the receiving of the holy spirit (and all that comes with that), and joy!
But I take note still. There were consequences for the servant priest’s character flaw. Because of his unbelief to the angel’s words, which were God’s words, he was made unable to speak until the day when the things spoken by God’s agent angel were fulfilled.
This gave opportunity for Elizabeth to continue her faithful stance as servant to the words God spoke. It may be difficult for us to imagine how hard it would have been for her to oppose those in the temple, who chose to disrespect Elizabeth by clinging to tradition in naming the child over her words, which were God’s words. She stood firm in her faith. The people diverted their attention and respect to Zacharias, her priest husband instead.
Thankfully, the consequence from the angel led Zacharias to repentance and faithfulness. When he told the people that the child would be called John (Yahweh gives grace), the name given to him by God through his agent angel, his consequence ceased and his tongue was loosened. His response after repentance was praise to God. He too received the gift of the holy spirit and prophesied, speaking words of salvation.
But fear overtook all those in the hill country of Judea who heard of these things, perhaps due to unbelief. I imagine the fear being like the fear that overtook the people living in the hill country centuries prior, when King Jabin proclaimed the fearful news that Joshua was coming to conquer.
The details are so important, but if they don’t lead people to change, to conform to people bearing the image of God, which becomes conforming to the image of his Christ, all knowledge gained is null and void.
Let our character be the character that God has always desired, like the women, and be faithful and humble servants of the word, to believe in all the words the Lord God has spoken, which are eventually spoken through his Messiah Jesus.
- What are other important details that Luke gives us in chapter 1?
- In Luke 1:7, an Old Testament scripture is applied to John the Baptist. What did John do to “7…turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”?
- My favorite part of Mary’s response, after Elizabeth prophesies to her is, “My soul exalts the Lord” (Luke 1:46). What characteristics of the Lord did Mary find worthy of exalting? What’s your favorite part of Mary’s response?