Psalm of the Day: Psalm 5
Proverb of the Day: Proverbs 3:1-12
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-12
The first event recorded in Luke's Gospel, is the sudden appearance of an angel to a Jewish priest named Zachariah. The angel announces to him that a son is about to be born to him, and that this son is to be the forerunner of the long-promised Messiah. The word of God had plainly foretold that when Messiah came — someone would go before him to prepare his way (Malachi 3:1). The wisdom of God provided that when this forerunner appeared, he would be born in the family of a priest.
It was the first communication from God to Israel since the days of Malachi. It broke the long silence of four hundred years. It told the believing Israelite that the prophetic weeks of Daniel were at length fulfilled, (Daniel 9:25) — that God's choicest promise was at length going to be accomplished — and that "the seed" was about to appear in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). We must place ourselves in the position of Zachariah — in order to give the verses before us their due weight.
Let us mark the noble testimony which is borne to the character of Zachariah and Elizabeth. We are told that they were "both righteous before God," and that "they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Let us all strive to serve God faithfully, and live fully up to our light, even as they did. Let us not forget the plain words of Scripture, "He who practices righteousness, is righteous." Happy are those Christian families in which it can be reported that both husband and wife are "righteous" — and exercise themselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men (Acts 24:16).
Let us mark the heavy trial which God was pleased to lay on Zachariah and Elizabeth. We are told that they had no child. The full force of these words can hardly be understood by a modern Christian. To an ancient Jew, they would convey the idea of a very weighty affliction. To be childless, was one of the bitterest of sorrows. (1 Samuel 1:10.) The grace of God exempts no one from trouble. If we serve Christ, let us not count trials as strange things. Let us rather believe that a hand of perfect wisdom is measuring out all our portion, and that when God chastises us — it is to make us "partakers of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer — then they are positive blessings. We may not think so now. But we shall think so when we wake up in the eternal world.
Let us mark the means by which God announced the coming birth of John the Baptist. We are told that an angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah. The ministry of angels is undoubtedly a deep subject. Nowhere in the Bible do we find such frequent mention of them, as in the period of our Lord's earthly ministry. At no time do we read of so many appearances of angels — as about the time of our Lord's incarnation and entrance into the world.
The meaning of this circumstance is sufficiently clear. It was meant to teach the church that the Messiah was no angel — but the Lord of angels, as well as of men. Angels announced His coming. Angels proclaimed His birth. Angels rejoiced at his appearing. And by so doing, they made it plain that He who came to die for sinners, was not one of themselves — but one far above them — the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Let us mark, lastly, in this passage, the effect which the appearance of an angel produced on the mind of Zachariah. We are told that he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. The experience of this righteous man here, tallies exactly with that of other saints under similar circumstances. Moses at the burning bush, Daniel at the Tigris river, the women at the sepulcher, and John at the isle of Patmos — all showed similar fear to that of Zachariah. Like him, when they saw visions of things belonging to another world — they trembled and were afraid.
How are we to account for this fear? To that question there is only one answer. It arises from our inward sense of weakness, guilt, and corruption. The vision of an inhabitant of Heaven, reminds us forcibly of our own imperfection, and of our natural unfitness to stand before God. If angels are so great and terrible — then what must the Lord of angels be?
Prayer for the Day: Dear Lord, help me to live my life in a righteous manner. I can never be worthy of being used by You, but help me to be ready, respectful, and holy.
This devotional was taken from The Gospel of Luke by J.C. Ryle published in 1858
and adapted by Pastor Tim Lewis of New England Shores Baptist Church.