The Character God Favors

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:

Luke 1:45

“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.

-Juliet Taylor


  1. What are other important details that Luke gives us in chapter 1?
  2. 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.”?
  3. 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?


Luke 1

Thursday, December 8, 2022

I love Christmas. 

Does that really need an explanation? What’s not to love about a time of year where we get to celebrate Jesus? Celebrate the Messiah who is and brings us hope, peace, joy, and love? Celebrate with cookies and pies and presents and parties? It is a joyous time of year, both for the cultural wrappings and baggage, (which is fine*!) but also for the Church traditions, teachings, giving, serving, and singing! 

The story of the birth of Christ, however, doesn’t begin in the Hill Country of Judea, as much as Linus from  A Charlie Brown Christmas would have you believe. Instead, Luke, author of the most chronologically accurate account of the life of Christ**, brings us farther back than Matthew, and tells us about the announcements of coming births of John and Jesus to their respective mothers. 

To be fair, today’s reading is 80 verses long! That’s long! I want to give you rapid fire thoughts and questions as the devotion for today:

Theophilus means in Greek “Friend of God.” While there may have been a person who commissioned the work from Luke, it could also be a title. Are you the friend of God to whom Luke is writing? Do you need to hear an accurate, orderly account of the life of Jesus to know with certainty the things you have been taught?

Both Zechariah and Mary respond to Gabriel, the messenger angel, with a similar question: How can this be? However, there are a few differences. Zechariah is a older man, a husband, a priest, that is a leader of the people, working in the temple. Mary is a young woman, unmarried,  virginal, still probably in the house of her mother and father until her time to be wed to Joseph had come. Gabriel (but really, God) expected Zechariah to comply, to say “Lord I believe” and to follow through on the promise of God. Mary growing up in an agrarian society, would know that in her current state, babies would be impossible to come by. 

When God announces his plan to you, do you trust that he will follow through? How much of him have you seen? Are you overlooking miracles? However, know that he isn’t mad when you ask him how to accomplish the (what appears to be) impossible. You too may just need the Holy Spirit to do the impossible. Are you willing to say “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled”?

A quick note, without a question, is that John, in the womb of Elizabeth, responded to the Messiah. Elizabeth thinks her baby is a person before he is born. 

Final thought – Both Mary and Zechariah sing their joy to God. Take some time today and ponder what song you would sing if you could sing it. The lyrics don’t have to be perfect or rhyme. Their doesn’t need to be a meter, or pitch. But what would you sing to God to give him glory? Or, find a song that shares your heart, and sing that to God, thinking of all the blessings he has given you. 

No matter the song in your heart, starting today, have yourself a merry little Christmas now. 

-Jake Ballard

* The wise men weren’t at the manger, but that’s OK! Use that to teach people about Jesus!

**In the author’s correct and very humble opinion.


See Above!

What then is This Child going to be?

Luke Chapter 1

Luke 1 66 NIV.png

Reading through the first chapter of Luke came at a very appropriate time for myself.  I recently had my first baby last month.   On top of that, I first became an uncle just a couple of months ago.  Therefore, my wife, Jamie, was pregnant at the same time her sister, Jennifer, was pregnant.  I find myself writing this devotion while we are Facetiming my twin niece and nephew and holding our baby.


Nearly 2,000 years ago, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was pregnant at the same time her cousin, Mary, was pregnant with Jesus.  Both John the Baptist and Jesus (clearly) end up playing huge roles in the grand scheme of things.  I appreciate that Luke took the time to start both of their stories as newborns!  Everybody’s story starts as a wee little baby, even the Savior of the world!  I would have loved to have seen and held baby John and Jesus!


When they were babies, they had all the potential in the world.  John the Baptist went on to prepare the way for the Christ, and Jesus was the Christ himself!  Every little baby that we come into contact with has all the potential in the world, and I hope that we can all realize that.


We will talk more about baby Jesus tomorrow, but these babies were no ordinary babies.  John the Baptist was peculiar in that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:16).  Not only was he filled with the Holy Spirit, but his birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel.  John’s father, Zechariah, was also made mute until his son was born because of his disbelief.  From the very get go, John was a very special baby, and he grew to be a very special man of God.


The babies and young children that we come into contact with may not have had some of the same experiences as John the Baptist or Jesus.  However, they still have all the potential in the world.  We need to be taking great care of our younglings.


I encourage you to take a minute or two out of your day and pray for all the little fellas and gals in your life and pray that they grow to be marvelous men and women of God!


Kyle McClain

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