Lesson Info:

Lesson 1 Winter Quarter
Lesson Text:  Luke 1:8-20
Golden Text:  Luke 1:13-14

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This week’s lesson is the first lesson of the winter quarter.  The subject for this quarter’s lesson is titled:  God’s Great Blessings and the first unit of lessons we will be looking at this month is titled Blessing of a Savior.  As always for the winter quarter, the first month (unit) of lessons is gearing up for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Glad Tidings From Gabriel

The first lesson of this quarter takes a look at Gabriel delivering a message to Zacharias.  Before the birth of the Savior, there was the birth of the Messiah’s forerunner.  What is a forerunner?  Forerunner:  one that precedes and indicates the approach of another.  So, the forerunner of the Messiah was one that came and set the path before Him; the forerunner let those on the path know that the Messiah would be coming down the pathway soon.

Gabriel appears to Zacharias

Who was the forerunner?  Many of us already know who the forerunner was but let’s go through this scripture today for all of those that may not know.

Our lesson opens with a “he” serving as priest before the Lord in the temple (vss.8-9).  Who is the “he” mentioned in the opening verses of our lesson?  The “he” is Zacharias and scripture plainly tells us that he was a priest (v.12).  Scripture tells us that his lot had fallen to burn incense in the temple during the hour of incense (v.10).  To further set the scene, scripture tells us that there was a whole multitude of people praying outside at that time.

During that hour, “an angel of the Lord” appeared to him and was standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  I want to briefly touch on this verse solely because of all that we just learned in our most recent quarter of lessons.

Incense, I want to remind you, was burned in the tabernacle for a couple of reasons.  The burning of incense showed that one was communing with the Lord in prayer and worship.  A sweet smelling offering was one that pleased the Lord and was accepted by Him.  On the Day of Atonement, incense was burned in the Holy of Holies for the purpose of covering the mercy seat – the top cover of the ark; essentially it was a means of protection from the Lord’s presence.

So, I find it very interesting that it was during this hour where incense was being burnt in the temple that an angel of God appeared to Zacharias.  We don’t see it mentioned in the opening scripture for our lesson but Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, had been praying all their life to have children; they were old at this point in time and Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:5-7).  So, it was prayer time and the Lord was about to answer the prayers of Zacharias and Elizabeth.

Something else I want to point out here is that this was “an angel of the Lord”.  If you have been following our lessons recently, you will recall a few months ago where we discussed the difference between “the Angel of God” and “an angel of the Lord” (In lesson – Obedience in Leadership).

“The Angel of God” is the preincarnate Christ that appeared in Old Testament scripture.  “An angel of the Lord” are heavenly beings created by the Lord to serve Him.  So, right away, for those of us who can recall recent lessons, we would have noticed right away that this angel was not the preincarnate Christ.  By the end of our lesson, we know for a certainty that this is Gabriel who is also seen throughout scripture delivering important messages on behalf of God (Dan. 8:15-26; Luke 1:26-37).

The message for Zacharias

Upon seeing the angel, Zacharias was troubled (v.12) which, at times, seemed to be a common reaction throughout scripture when angels appeared; we will see Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s visit later in this chapter (Luke 1:26-29).

So, Gabriel says to the troubled Zacharias, “Do not be afraid, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John (v.13).”  So, for those who do not know who the forerunner for Christ (the Messiah) was, we now know his name is John — John the Baptist.

What this signified for Zacharias was that the Lord had been hearing his prayers all those years and was moving to answer those prayers.  Zacharias and Elizabeth, are again said to have been well advanced in years, according to Zacharias himself.

The birth of John puts me in remembrance of another older couple that had essentially waited all their lives to have children; I am speaking of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham and Sarah, we will recall, had been very prayerful about having a son but Sarah was barren – or believed to be barren.  They so badly wanted children that Sarah gave Abraham her maid to have a child with.

Yet, the Lord promised them that they would have a son and all they needed to do was wait on Him.  God, I want you to understand, had heard the prayers of Abraham and Sarah but they lacked the patience to wait on Him.  Now, Zacharias and Elizabeth, scripture tells us, were both righteous before the Lord and kept His instructions; they were patient and were waiting on the Lord.

Oftentimes is the case where we lack patience in the Lord; we believe that our prayers are going unheard and if God is not hearing our prayers, we certainly don’t believe He is going to answer.  May I encourage you today to wait on the Lord?  When you are of genuine faith, know that the Lord heard your prayer the first time and He is going to move at the time He sees fit.

The Messiah’s forerunner

Gabriel said to Zacharias, “you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (v.14).”  Why will many rejoice at the birth of John?

Gabriel tells us that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit by birth (v.15).  This point is very fascinating because, again, the belief by many is that the Holy Spirit was only received after the ascension of Christ.

However, just as Christ appears in Old Testament scripture, there are others who were filled with the Holy Spirit prior to His ascension to heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles.  For example, King Saul temporarily received the Holy Spirit when he was first anointed king and began to prophesy (1 Sam. 10:1-11).  There are some that will argue against it, but David plainly spoke about not wanting to lose the Holy Spirit after his great sin (Ps. 51:10-11).

Being filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, Gabriel states that John would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord (v.16).”  John, Gabriel said, would go before “Him” (Christ) the spirit and power of Elijah to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (v.17).  Elijah, some of you may know, was a very bold prophet of God that spoke against King Ahab, Jezebel, their false prophets, and all those that followed them with a message of repentance.

As Elijah called for people to turn from their wicked way to the way of God, John did the same thing in his day.  John, the apostle, said of John the Baptist that the Baptist bore witness of the true Light (John 1:7).  John was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord (John 1:23).”

John baptized many people as he called for repentance and this baptism stood as an outward sign of being washed clean of sin.  When he laid eyes on Jesus, the day when Jesus was baptized, his message was confirmed and he exclaimed to the people, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  John, indeed, was the forerunner of the Messiah to make straight the way of the Lord.

Zacharias questions

Imagine hearing these things being said about a child you didn’t know was even coming, yet, Gabriel was speaking of John as if he had already seen John’s life!  Zacharias asked, “How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years (v.18).”

Was this a bit of doubt and hesitation coming from Zacharias?  I do believe this to have been the case, though, I don’t believe this necessarily speaks against his faith.  I say this because all of us of true faith could have likely asked this same question.  In fact, the Lord can show us something in a thought and we will wonder how is the Lord going to make that dream or thought a reality?

Of course, we ought not ever doubt or hesitate on the Lord.  When God shows us something, the best thing the believer ought to do is simply wait and see — have faith.  Gabriel responded to Zacharias by telling him exactly who he was and on whose behalf he was speaking (v.19).  Zacharias was then made mute because he did not believe Gabriel’s words which would be fulfilled at the birth of John.

Once John was born, Zacharias’ voice returned and he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied and spoke the truth that had been shared with him (Luke 1:67-79).  The believer, quite often, has to wait for our blessing(s) from the Lord.  Again, I tell you, we should be patient in our waiting and when we receive our blessing from God, we are going to rejoice.  In our rejoicing, we are going to testify of what the Lord has done for us and our testimony – God’ work – will shine bright on that day.


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