Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gabriel's Visits

Roughly 400 years had passed since there had been a prophetic word from God. As Malachi closed out his final chapter, the next pages we find in our Bible were long-delayed. God seemed silent, but He was active. The stage was being set for fulfillment of Galatians 4:4-5:

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Luke, one of the gospel writers, details these events. In chapter one of the book bearing his name, he recounts two visits of the angel Gabriel, one to an aged priest named Zechariah, another to a young Jewish maiden named Mary. As you read these familiar accounts, consider the messages (a birth of unusual circumstances would occur) and the responses of the two hearers. First, Zechariah’s news:

"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John…. Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time" (Luke 1:5-13; 18-20 NIV).

Next, Mary’s:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

In both messages, Gabriel told his listeners: “Do not be afraid.” He shared with both that they would soon have a son, and outlined the events that would accompany the incredible births. Look at Zechariah’s response: "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Gabriel reprimanded the priest for his unbelief, declaring would be unable to speak until the child was born.

Fast-forward six months to Mary’s encounter with the heavenly messenger. When told she would give birth to the “Son of the Most High”, she responded, "How will this be…since I am a virgin?" In this encounter, Gabriel reacted quite differently to Mary’s perplexity. I’ve often wondered, when both seem to be confused about how the unique births (according to normal human reproductive standards) could possibly take place, and were seeking answers, why Zechariah’s speech was abruptly silenced, and Mary just received a gentle explanation.

I don’t have the answer to that quandary. Perhaps it was because God expects – and requires – more of those who have walked with Him a very long time. Whatever the answer, the births took place at the appointed time, and the lives of Jesus and John were intrinsically intertwined, even from the womb (see Luke 1:39-45). John had the opportunity to be “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘“Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).’”

As John sought to prepare hearts to receive the Messiah, may we likewise provide Him a similar dwelling place – a soft heart where He can make Himself fully at home. May our attitude be such as that of Mary:

“I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said.”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)