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One who tells and one who is to come. Luke 1.5-17

Luke 1 (2)

Pray Psalm 104.1-4.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters,
Who makes the clouds His chariot,
Who walks on the wings of the wind,
Who makes His angels spirits,
His ministers a flame of fire.

Sing Psalm 104.1-4.
(Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
Bless God, my soul!  How great are You, Lord, with majesty and splendor adorned.
The heav’ns He stretches like a tent, and lays His chambers in the firmament.
He rides the wings of winds on high and makes His messengers flaming fly.
The earth on its foundation stands, established forever by His hands.

Read Luke 1.1-17; meditate on verses 5-17.

1. Who was Zacharias?

2. What was he doing when the angel appeared to him?

Here (v. 6) is the short definition of righteousness, precisely as we see in Psalm 1 and elsewhere. To be a righteous person is to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, keeping short accounts when sin appears and repentance is in order. And Zacharias and Elizabeth did just that.

Even the righteous, however, can stumble. Beware, you who think you stand.

The details of time (v. 5) and work (vv. 5, 8, 9) lend historical credibility to this account. Zacharias was a real person who lived at a certain time and was engaged in a specific work. Routine stuff.

Until, that is, Gabriel appeared (v. 11, cf. v.19). Don’t think chubby little baby-cherub. Think radiant with glory, fierce of mien, and overpowering in appearance. Men aren’t troubled and they don’t quake at little baroque putti. Real angels, though, can cause that effect (v. 12).

Here the angel is fulfilling one of the roles for which God created them. They are messengers who bring a word from the Lord to particular people or at particular times (cf. Ps. 104.1-4; Rev. 14.6-11). The message was good news: Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife, was soon to have a child who would fulfill the prophecy of Malachi 4.5, 6 (vv. 13-17). For Zacharias, this announcement cued up the covenant God made with Abraham (cf. vv. 72-75), when He promised that Sarah, like Elizabeth old and barren (v. 7; cf. Gen. 17.15-19), would have a son.

But not right away.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Who doesn’t enjoy looking at baby pictures with their son or daughter? We probably briefly rehearse some of the history of their birth: what the weather was like on that day, was it a rush to get to the hospital, what was going on in the country at that time, did they cry a lot, did they ever sleep, did they have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal?

Can you imagine that time of fellowship with Zacharias, Elizabeth, and John? “Once when I was serving in the temple offering incense an amazing angel appeared to me standing at the right side of the altar. When I saw him, I was troubled, maybe a bit terrified and fear fell on your old dad.”

But then, the crux of the incredibly special nature of his birth: “You, son, will be great in the sight of the Lord. You have been filled with the Holy Spirit since you were in your mom’s womb. You will be given the job of turning many of the children of Israel to the Lord in preparation for the work of the Messiah. You will be like the great prophet of old, Elijah, ‘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’” (Lk. 1.15-17).

The history of John’s birth is truly amazing. But in some respects, we are all tasked with the same work. Our births were not as spectacular, but our calling is the same. We, in our own Personal Mission Field, are given the job of preparing the way for others to have a relationship with the Messiah. We are continually sowing seeds of the Gospel, or cultivating seeds that have started to grow, or helping to prune trees that are full grown.

And to do that task properly, we need to have the mindset and heartset of Zacharias and Elizabeth. We, like they, are called to be “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Lk. 1.6). As Paul recommended, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5.16). And “…be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” (Col. 1.9, 10).

We will be, like John, careful and cogent Word-bearers, when we set our heart on following God’s Law forever, to the very end (Ps. 119.112), in the power of the Holy Spirit. Because, like John, we too, are filled with this same Spirit! (Acts 1.8)

Even without the angelic announcement, everyone who is born again shares a fantastic birth story and a high calling (Jn. 3.3, 5, 7).

For reflection
1. How is your calling like that of John the Baptist?

2. Why is it so important that we strive to live blamelessly before the Lord?

3. What does it mean for you daily to receive the Word of the Lord and to carry it out in your Personal Mission Field?

Now if the love of the law and the hatred of falsehood are inseparably conjoined, it is a plain inference that all who are not taught in the school of God are infected with deceit and hypocrisy. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Psalm 119.163

Pray Psalm 104.31-35.
How does God want to use you today? What has he shown you in His Word? Embrace His will and commit your day to serving Him.

Sing Psalm 104.31-35.
(Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
Lord, let Your glory long endure; rejoice! His works are ever sure!
He looks on earth, it quails and quakes, as we our songs of praises make.
Lord, let our meditation rise and bring great pleasure in Your eyes.
Consumed shall sinners ever be; O, bless and praise the Lord with me!

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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