As we’re in the midst of the Holidays, it seems fitting to write up a post about the Birth of Jesus, and the whole point (meaning the REAL point) behind us even bothering to celebrate Christmas to begin with. But the Lord is tugging me to go in a slightly different direction this year, and I feel led to write a bit about what went on before the birth of Christ.
Luke chapter 1 is a wonderful chapter, and is packed full of all kinds of supernatural happenings that led up to the birth of Christ Jesus. Generally speaking, it talks about Gabriel dealing with two different people; first being the priest named Zacharias, the second being Mary.
We learn that Zacharias will be the father of John the Baptist, and Mary will be the mother of Jesus the Christ. Now, after Luke’s greeting to Theophilus, he begins the account with Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth. Therefore, so shall we.
Zacharias and Elizabeth
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
The verse above introduces us to these folks, and as we have read, they are in right-standing with the Lord.
The Course of Abia
In the Old Testament, this is referred to as the course of Abijah. These courses were created by King David due to the Levites becoming too numerous. He created 24 groups, of which Abijah was the eighth. (1 Chronicles 24)
Each group was responsible for servicing for two weeks out of the year in one week intervals, with the exception of feasts and such, where they’d all serve at the same time.
Why is this important?
Turns out, from the 24 designated courses, only four returned to Israel after being captured by Babylon. Of the four, the course of Abijah was not among them. Only for continuity, did all 24 courses hold the same names.
So, Zacharias was serving in a course in which he didn’t truly belong through birth, but through appointment.
They were Blameless
Zacharias and Elisabeth were both blameless before the Lord. They were dedicated, righteous, and active in their pursuit of the Face of the Lord.
Unfortunately, as we can see plainly throughout the scriptures, that the priests were not always in right standing withe the Lord. In fact, we get a good dose of the Lord’s thoughts on many of them through Jesus’s interactions and confrontations.
But not Zacharias. He was righteous before the Lord, he had been appointed to be in the right place, holding the right office, that would place him exactly where the Lord wanted him to be, and exactly when he wanted him to be there.
And concerning Elizabeth, she was just as dedicated to the Lord as her husband, and unfortunately, was barren. They were advanced in years, which means that they had both been long past the common age of having children. We’ll get back to this in a moment…
Gabriel to Zacharias
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Quite a heavy message to convey to an older man that is conducting his service, burning incense unto the Lord on behalf of Israel. Which leads me to ask the question about the first thing that Gabriel had to say to Zacharias, after calming him, telling him to fear not.
“Your prayer has been heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son.”
What did Gabriel mean about Zacharias prayer being answered?
Something similar happened many years earlier to Daniel, after fasting and praying continually concerning the people of Israel. In fact, it was the same angel of the Lord that came to relay the message that his prayers have been heard. Daniel was praying and supplicating unto the Lord concerning Israel – Gabriel came and relayed a message concerning Israel.
But in this case, should we think that Zacharias was currently praying for a son? He was in the middle of ceremoniously burning incense on behalf of the people. We’ll read soon that there were people waiting on him to come out.
When God Answers Prayer
It makes more sense to me, that Gabriel was bringing this message to Zacharias concerning a host of prayers that he prayed unto the Lord many years gone by, and had not been continuously praying for since hitting the “advanced in years” category. I reach this conclusion, because that the message Gabriel was conveying was a personal one, not a general message that would have made more sense for his office, such as what he gave to Daniel concerning the people of Israel.
This understanding might help us with what comes next…
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple.
This is another reason why I believe that the Lord was working retro as it relates to answering Zacharias’s prayers, over something that he had long since abandoned all hopes for. His response tells the tale. Another way to interpret Zacharias’ response could be:
“What do you mean we’re going to have a child? Can’t you see how old we are?”
The Lord is not bound by anything but his Word, and that’s by his own choice by virtue of his great character & nature. Time, as well as any of our limitations are not a concern or restraint to him. If he sees fit to give an elderly couple a child, he’ll make sure that they’ll be able to raise him.
We may not see or understand this if it were us placed in that kind of situation; similar in that the Lord blesses us with something that we’re completely unprepared for, or unqualified to handle. During a circumstance such as this, faith, trust in the Lord, and the willingness to be at his service is very important. Where we don’t qualify, HE does, and will give us what we need, in order to accomplish what he wills.
But I digress…
The Spoken Word
I’ve read several different takes on why Gabriel struck Zacharias dumb. Most of which tend to agree with one another strangely enough. The reason I’ve heard preached as well as read, is that Gabriel struck Zacharias dumb as a sign.
I don’t agree with that assessment at all. In fact, Gabriel makes it perfectly clear why he did it in verse 20.
It was because of his disbelief, not for a sign that God meant business, but because Zacharias didn’t believe what Gabriel had to say. Jesus tells us that it’s better for us to believe and not see, than to see and believe.
Here’s a man who had an angelic visitation in the Temple of the Lord, received a message of glad tidings, yet still didn’t believe! In his case, he saw it and didn’t believe it.
If it wasn’t for a sign, then why strike him dumb?
The spoken word. Our words have spiritual significance that we don’t understand because we don’t see it. Over and over again throughout the Bible, the Father teaches us to use our words wisely, not to waste them, and to watch over them- because he is!
The power of life and death is in the tongue. If he were permitted to speak, how long do you think it would’ve taken Zacharias to start speaking things of disbelief concerning the pregnancy of his wife?
I believe that he was stricken dumb for the purpose of not having the opportunity to make any negative form of spiritual impact on what the Lord had planned. Though Gabriel’s tone seems a little miffed at the fact Zacharias didn’t believe him, I don’t believe that it was done to set an example, use as a sign, or any other reason than to simply keep his doubt to himself.
Zacharias finished up the week of service, and returned home. After which his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went to a place to spend the duration of her pregnancy.
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
The Virgin’s Name was Mary
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
There are a few things I’d like to point out. Zacharias was advanced in years, having served in the temple all his life. Mary on the other hand, is a young woman, not nearly as seasoned in years and experiences as Zacharias. Just keep that in your pocket as we continue through the scriptures.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Two Questions, Two People, Two Different Responses
As heavy of a message Zacharias was given concerning his yet to be conceived son, this message is in a whole other timezone as far as weight and meaning. Let’s take a look at Mary’s reaction to this, and see how it differs from Zacharias.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
The first thing out of her mouth is a sensible question; but wasn’t Zacharias’s response a question as well? They both respond to the angel with a question, but there’s a big difference between the two.
Zacharias’s questions were due to disbelief, whereas Mary’s question was wondering how it’s going to happen, not whether or not it’ll happen.
Questioning the Lord is at times taken out of its proper context. To question the Lord for the purposes of a better understanding into a matter is one thing. But what we shouldn’t do, is question him as if his Word isn’t law, or to question whether or not he means what he says.
Mary believed it and sought answers about the words of the angel, Zacharias didn’t believe, and questioned the reality of the angels message. With Mary, we see the angel answering Mary’s question rather than scolding her for the question, or accusing disbelief.
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Be it Done unto Me
No argument here; no signs of any form of disbelief whatsoever. A totally different reaction to the news than Zacharias, despite the fact that her message was much greater and far more important.
How is it that she could have such unhindered faith with no doubt in comparison to Zacharias? There’s nothing saying that Mary was more holy than Zacharias. Let’s not forget, Zacharias along with his wife Elizabeth were both righteous before the Lord, and walked in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
Perhaps the difference is, that Mary didn’t have a lifetime of being conditioned as to what the Lord’s going to do & not do. Time can truly make us jaded to the things of the Lord that we’re not used to dealing with.
Some of us might have been saved long enough to put governors on the Lord. “Oh the Lord won’t do that, because he hasn’t after all these years.”
Never underestimate the creative power of God. The Word tells us what the Lord will do, and what he won’t do. What it doesn’t tell us is how he’ll do a thing, when he’ll do it, and where you’ll be in life when he springs it on you. Yes, concerning prophetic scriptures, he does give us insight as to how he’s going to do things, but I’m talking about from person to person.
All of us believers need to be careful, not to put limits on the Father due to our own experiences or lack thereof. If it isn’t against his Word and nature, then it’s not off the table.
The Birth of Christ
The Birth of Christ was fore-run by two miraculous conceptions. That of John and himself. Conception by a barren woman, as well as a virgin. During the Christmas season, we’re all reminded of the story of Jesus’s birth, and how important his birth was.
And without a doubt, nothing can give that reality any true justice- God come in the flesh by way of a virgin, to enter into the world as a man to set man free from hell and death. We know how important that is, and when understood, how vital that is for all of humanity.
But the sacrifice that the Father made, began nine months prior, as he sent his Son into the womb of Mary; for the first time truly being separated, knowing full well that a day will come where that Lamb will have to be slain. How difficult it is to imagine what that must’ve been like for the Father.
Knowing these things, is it any wonder that there were angels appearing and miracles going on gearing up to the conception of Jesus? Is it any wonder why Mary was chosen, who’s lineage and faith in the Lord were a perfect match? Is it any wonder that there is so much to be gleaned from the few scriptures we have of these miraculous births?
I praise God for every shred of it, and I pray you do as well.
Thank you for reading, and if it’s still the holiday season when you’re reading this, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may the Lord bless you and keep you all the days of your lives. In Jesus mighty name!
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