ZECHARIAH AND ELIZABETH
Numbers 23:19a, ESV
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
LUKE 1:5-7, NIrV
5 Herod was king of Judea. During the time he was ruling, there was a priest named Zechariah. He belonged to a group of priests named after Abijah. His wife Elizabeth also came from the family line of Aaron. 6 Both of them did what was right in the sight of God. They obeyed all the Lord’s commands and rules faithfully. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was not able to have any. And they were both very old.
Today, we begin our journey through the second half of the Bible: the “New Testament.” It tells the story of God’s Son Jesus and his mission to save his people from their sins. Luke decided to start his book by sharing a story that happened about a year before Jesus was born. Old Zechariah was a priest who spent his days working at the temple, the building where God met with his people. He and his wife Elizabeth were believers in the one true God. Year after year, this couple hoped and prayed for God to give them a child of their own. But sadly, Elizabeth never became pregnant.
+ What is the second half of the Bible called? What story does it tell?
+ How do you think Elizabeth felt about not being able to have children?
LUKE 1:8-12, NIrV
8 One day Zechariah’s group was on duty. He was serving as a priest in God’s temple. 9 He happened to be chosen, in the usual way, to go into the temple of the Lord. There he was supposed to burn incense. 10 The time came for this to be done. All who had gathered to worship were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was amazed and terrified.
Lighting the altar of incense inside God’s temple was a job that needed to be done daily. Incense was a special mix of powders and spices that smelled nice when burned. Each day, the priests cast lots (a bit like rolling dice) to choose which of them would go inside the temple. On this particular day, Zechariah just so happened to be the one selected. As he walked through the temple doors, I’m sure it gave his old heart quite a scare to learn he wasn’t alone! What did he see shining brightly next to the altar of incense? One of God’s angels, a heavenly spirit with a message from God himself!
+ Why did Zechariah go into the temple? (vs. 9)
+ How did Zechariah feel when he saw the angel? (vs. 12)
LUKE 1:13-17, NIrV
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will have a child. It will be a boy, and you must call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you. His birth will make many people very glad. 15 He will be important in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or other such drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will prepare the way for the Lord. He will have the same spirit and power that Elijah had. He will bring peace between parents and their children. He will teach people who don’t obey to be wise and do what is right. In this way, he will prepare a people who are ready for the Lord.”
I bet the angel was excited to deliver such happy news to Zechariah: after years of waiting, God was going to give old Elizabeth a baby! Her miracle son, John, was going to be anything but ordinary. Most kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up. But God already had a special job picked out for the little guy before he even began growing in his mama’s belly. Like Elijah from the Old Testament, John would be a prophet: a man who spoke God’s messages to his people. And though he didn’t know it yet, the messages John spoke would help God’s people get ready for Jesus!
+ What did the angel say that John was not allowed to drink? (vs. 15)
+ When would the Holy Spirit come to live with John? (vs. 15)
LUKE 1:18-25, NIRV
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is old too.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I serve God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will have to be silent. You will not be able to speak until after John is born. That’s because you did not believe my words. They will come true at the time God has chosen.”
21 During that time, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the temple. They wondered why he stayed there so long. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. They knew this because he kept gesturing to them. He still could not speak.
23 When his time of service was over, he returned home. 24 After that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She stayed at home for five months. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days, he has been kind to me. He has taken away my shame among the people.”
Zechariah had a hard time believing the angel’s unbelievably happy news. How could Elizabeth possibly become a mom when she was old enough to be a grandma? But the old priest should have known better. He was certainly familiar with the old story of Abraham and Sarah from the book of Genesis. God gave that old couple a baby when Sarah was 90 and Abraham was 100! The angel Gabriel let Zechariah know that there would be a consequence for the old priest’s words of disbelief. Until baby John was born, God was going to zip old Zach’s lips. He wouldn’t be able to make a single peep!
+ What was the angel’s name? Who sent him to deliver this good news? (vs. 19)
+ Since he couldn’t speak, how did Zechariah tell the others what happened? (vs. 22)
LUKE 1:39-45, NIRV
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea’s hill country. 40 There she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she called out, “God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have! 43 But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. 45 You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that the Lord would keep his promises to you!”
When Elizabeth was five months pregnant with baby John, she received a visitor. It was her much-younger family member Mary. Like Elizabeth, Mary had her own miracle baby growing inside her. You might have heard his name before: Jesus! As a baby grows inside their mother, they are able to roll around, kick their mom’s insides with their legs, and even suck their thumbs. But when Mary (with baby Jesus in her belly) stopped by, Elizabeth could feel baby John do jumping jacks of joy inside her. Even before his very first birthday, baby John was celebrating the coming of God’s Son!
+ Write down one of the things Elizabeth said to Mary. (vs. 42-43)
+ How is it possible that baby John knew that baby Jesus was near? (look back at vs. 15)
LUKE 1:57-66, NIRV
57 The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby. She gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her. They shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day, they came to have the child circumcised. They were going to name him Zechariah, like his father. 60 But his mother spoke up. “No!” she said. “He must be called John.”
61 They said to her, “No one among your relatives has that name.”
62 Then they motioned to his father. They wanted to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for something to write on. Then he wrote, “His name is John.” Everyone was amazed. 64 Right away Zechariah could speak again. Right away he praised God. 65 All his neighbors were filled with fear and wonder. Throughout Judea’s hill country, people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it. And because the Lord was with John, they asked, “What is this child going to be?”
After years of praying and nine months of being pregnant, Elizabeth gave birth to her first child. The news of this baby’s birth put a huge smile on the faces of everyone who knew Elizabeth. Though she was old enough to be a grandma, Elizabeth finally had the joy of becoming a first-time mama! She named her little miracle man “John,” but her relatives scratched their heads. “Why wouldn’t she name him after a family member?” they wondered.
They asked her husband Zechariah what he thought. Zechariah didn't say anything, of course – he hadn't said anything for nine months! However, he could still write things down. The old priest scribbled down the words,"His name is John." That was the name the angel had given to him. And as soon as the old man set down his pencil (or quill or whatever he used to write), God ended Zechariah’s season of silence!
If you hadn’t been able to talk for nine months, what would be the first thing you’d want to say? We know what the answer to that question was for Zechariah. After almost 300 days of silence, the old priest used his first words to praise God. He thanked God that his son would grow up to be a prophet, speaking God’s messages to his people. And he praised God that John would prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord.
You might be wondering, “Preparing the way for the coming of the Lord? What in the world does that mean?” Don’t worry! Soon, we’ll read about John as a grown-up and learn exactly what Zechariah meant. For now, just know that John’s job was to get things ready for God's Son Jesus.
Did you notice the question all the people were asking about baby John? “What will this child grow up to be?” Everyone knew Elizabeth’s little guy was a miracle baby. Her friends and family also knew that God never did miracles just for the fun of it. That made them wonder, “What big plans does God have for this little guy?”
As we journey through the New Testament, we’ll watch baby John grow up into a prophet. We’ll hear him tell his people to get ready: God’s long-promised savior was on his way to save the day. And we’ll discover that Mary’s miracle little man, Jesus, grew up to be the wonder-working savior that John was talking about!
+ What did Elizabeth’s friends and family do when John was born? (vs. 58)
+ What was the first thing Zechariah did when he could speak and hear again? (vs. 64)