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Two Visitations from the Angel

John Collins03/05/2012Luke 1 describes two visitations by the angel Gabriel to two different children of God.  One doubted the angel, and one believed.

Luke was a Gentile, not a prophet, not one of the disciples, and lived as a second or third generation Christian.  His account of the Gospel is told chronologically, and he had studied it until he had what he described as a "perfect understanding." His account was delivered from his studies that included eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, as well as the scriptures.  You can tell by reading that his writing was the work of his years of study.

He first tells the story of Zacharias and Elisabeth, who were unable to have a child until the time that they were very old. They had tried for years to bear a child in a time when childbearing was considered a blessing from God and being barren was considered a curse from God.

They cast lots outside the temple, and Zacharias' lot was to burn the incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. This was a great honor and fearful event, one which must be executed exactly according to the laws of Moses. Those who did not execute the burning of the incense were in danger of being smote dead by God himself, as had happened in times before. It is said that they tied ropes around the feet of those entering the temple; if they were smote dead by God, the worshippers outside the temple could bring the body out by pulling the ropes.

The multitude of people stood outside the temple praying as Zacharias went inside the temple. While he stood there, Gabriel the Archangel stood on the right side of the alter of incense. When Zacharias saw him, he was very fearful, surely in fear of being struck dead by God.

Gabriel said "Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth."  Gabriel went on to tell him how his life should be consecrated to God, and how John would be filled with the Holy Ghost even from the womb.  He told Zacharias how John would turn the hearts of the children back to God.

Just as described in Malachi 4:5, Gabriel promised Zacharias that John would have the spirit of Elijah. Gabriel promised Zacharias that John would return the hearts of the fathers to the children(Malachi 4:6). John would bring the disobedient to the wisdom of the just (Malachi 4 4-6).

Zacharias did not fully believe Gabriel. When he spoke his doubts to Gabriel, Gabriel smote him dumb in the temple, telling him that he would be unable to speak until the things which he spoke were completed. The people outside the temple began to fear, because he spent so much time inside. They knew when he came out that he had seen a vision, because he was unable to speak.

When Elisabeth conceived, she hid herself for five months. She said that the Lord had dealt with her to take away her reproach among men, the curse of the barren.

A month after it was known that she was with child, Gabriel was sent from God to Mary. He told Mary that she would conceive Jesus, though she was still a virgin. Mary did not doubt; instead she questioned how it would happen since she was a virgin. Gabriel told Mary about her relative Elisabeth, and assured her that nothing was impossible with God.

Mary quickly went to Elisabeth, who was now a little over six months with child. When Mary told Elisabeth of the words Gabriel spoke, John leaped in Elisabeth's womb, and immediately Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. She said loudly, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." They began to praise the Lord together, and give account of the wonderful things that God had done for them and others.

When Elisabeth's time came for delivery, they asked Elisabeth and Zacharias the name of the child. Elisabeth said, "John." Zacharias could not speak, so he asked for a tablet to write upon. When he wrote the name "John", and those around him said the name, he was immediately able to speak. He began to praise God.

Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to prophesy. In the prophecy, he praised the Lord God of Israel, who had visited and redeemed his people. He said that salvation had came in the house of David [Jesus], as the prophets of old had prophesied since the world began.  His prophecy confirmed the words of Malachi 3 and 4 as he spoke.

Zacharias told them how they would be saved from their enemies and from the hand of all that hated them (Malachi 4:1-3).  He said that John would restore righteousness through the "sun of righteousness", [Jesus] (Malachi 4:2).

The prophecy continued to say that John would be called the prophet of the Highest (Malachi 3, 4), and would prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3). Zacharias said that the "dayspring" or sunrise had visited them.  (Malachi 4:2).  Jesus would guide their feet unto the way of peace.

The book of Luke further describes how John went on to prepare the way before the Lord Jesus, which was and is terrible to those who did not believe (Malachi 4:5). It is wonderful to those who are faithful to Him and believe on Him. Those who were under the old law of Moses were eventually brought to the hearts of the children who lived under the new covenant of grace.  The hearts of the children were joined to the hearts of their fathers by faith instead of by law, just as Gabriel and Malachi had foretold.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves: Do we search the scriptures and study the accounts given by others until we have "perfect understanding" as Luke did?  Would we be like Zacharias who doubted, or Mary who believed?  Would we have strong enough commitment to God that we would stand before Him in a temple at risk to be struck dead?  If we were struck dumb in church, would we even remain committed to God?  Have our hearts remained joined to the fathers through Grace and Faith in Jesus Christ?  Or have we separated, trying to go back to the old laws?