1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years. 8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.
18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless.
23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.
30 Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth —even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”
46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, 55 just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” 56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time. —Luke 1:20
I’ve read this passage my whole life, and honestly never grasped the fact that after the angel Gabriel delivered the stunning news to fatherless old Zechariah about childless old Elizabeth’s forthcoming pregnancy, the angel rendered poor old Zechariah speechless. Literally.
Now imagine that you’ve just gotten the best news of your life, news that boggles your mind, and you can’t tell anyone. Oh my—what a painful thought!
Well, I somewhat understand how he felt. The night my husband proposed to me—he suggested that since we’d not yet purchased the ring, we should not tell anyone our good news.
OK. I reluctantly agreed, but didn’t totally understand the angst of such a commitment. So you tell a girl whose name spelled backward is “yak” not to talk? Hmmm…this was definitively a test! Sadly enough, it was a test I’d fail.
Basking in our newly formed matrimonial promise, we decided to go to the mall. Ed suggested we stop at the Orange Julius store and purchase a celebratory orange juice drink.
I was about to burst. I’d already held our secret a whole hour! So, looking at the Orange Julius mixer/preparer/shaking guy, I blurted out, “We just got engaged!” He gave me a look like: So what do I care?
And my fiancé looked at me as if to say, “What part of don’t tell do you not understand?”
I’ll never forget the feeling of being challenged to be silent. Here I was at a milestone moment in my life, and I couldn’t tell anyone! It was so hard. Surely Zechariah felt the same way. But he had no choice. He had no voice!
Losing your voice, among many things, renders one forced to communicate in other ways. For instance, years ago I had vocal nodules. The speech doctor put me on voice rest. Whew! How tough it was to try to make my thoughts and wishes known without using my voice. Note pads were filled and I became an expert at charades.
It was exhausting! And to think this was a nine-month ordeal for Zechariah. I can’t imagine.
The next part of the passage equally mystifies me. Then Gabriel appeared to Mary, assuring her of her chosen status, and telling her of her impending pregnancy—even naming the baby. Gabriel mentioned that Elizabeth was also pregnant, and Mary quickly planned a trip to share her good news with her relative.
When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb. (I remember one night after eating Mexican food, the baby within me wouldn’t stay still. I had a miserable night’s sleep.) But I can only imagine the joy within Elizabeth, when she realized that her dear relative was also miraculously pregnant.
How much fun it would be, knowing their boys would be close in age and more importantly, close in relationship. Both women were godly. They neither doubted nor questioned one another. Their faith was strong. What an encouragement they had to have been to each other!
- Have you ever been silent for any reason? How did it affect you? Did you learn anything from it?
- Have you ever had a close friend or relative who shared a very special secret with you? Are you a good “secret keeper”?
- What kinds of things are important to keep private?
- How do you choose to encourage those you are close to?
- Pray for the ability to speak when you need to and to be silent when it is important to do so. Ask God to help you know how to encourage those around you. Seek today to bless others with your words.