5In 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. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
8Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But 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. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
19The 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. 20And 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."
21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
The Main Theme of this Passage: God Fulfills His Promises
vv. 11-17 – in fulfillment of promises made by God in the Old Testament, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that:
1) John will “go on before the Lord in the spirit and the power of Elijah” (1 Ki 18:17-39);
2) “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children” (Mal 4:4-6)
3) “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”(Isa 40:3-5).
v. 20 – Gabriel’s words “will come true at the proper time.” (Ps 75:2)
v. 25 – Elizabeth: “The Lord has done this for me” (Ps 84:11; 145:18,19)
Discussion Question 1: What are all of the things that God has promised those who trust in Him? What, then, is your response to the fact that He is faithful and true to His promises?
Other Things to Note in this Passage
Godly people are greatly tested by God (vv.6-7; 2 Co 11:22-29; 12:7-10; James 5:11).
Discussion Question 2: Why should God’s people expect hardship? Will difficulties be with them forever?
What may seem like chance is, in actuality, divine providence (vv. 8-11; Pr 16:33).
Angels are servants of God’s people; yet, they inspire the fear of God (vv. 11, 12, 19; Lk 1:28-29;2:9; Rev 22:8-9)
Discussion Question 3: What ideas about angels circulate in our culture today? How does the Biblical portrait of angels stand against these ideas?
The Lord answers the prayers of those who trust in Him (vv.13-14; 1 Pet 3:12; 1 Jn 5:14-15)
Discussion Question 4: Can you give examples from your life of how the LORD has answered prayer?
The Lord hates unbelief; if He finds it in His own people, He may discipline them accordingly (Jn 20:26-29; Lk 24:24-25; Num 20:10-13; Rev 3:19).
Godly people acknowledge the LORD as the great Giver and Deliverer (v. 25; Ps 18:1-2; 2 Co 1:8-11) .