“When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.'” Luke 1:12-13
What if we could talk with this couple and hear about their reactions to and feelings about all that was happening in their lives at this time? Zechariah might tell us about his background—that of being a descendant of Abijah. Abijah was an ancestor who was a priest in one of the divisions chosen by David “for their appointed order of ministering” in the Temple. Zechariah probably felt a strong sense of responsibility to carry out his duties and to live his daily life in a manner worthy of his high calling. After all, he was serving under/alongside King David—and Israel did long for and look forward to a Messiah from the Davidic line.
Zechariah carefully followed the rules for priests as laid down in Leviticus, Chapter 21. Elizabeth was even a “daughter of the Aaronic line,” which makes this couple even more aligned with the longings and hopes of the Israelites.
If we ask Zechariah about his experience of an angel of the Lord appearing to him, he might reply that it was very frightening and the first time anything like that had happened to him.
“I was told by the angel, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and then he told me some astounding but happily received news. Elizabeth would receive a longed-for son, and I would name him John. And then he went on to detail what this son would become and do in his lifetime—actually preparing a people for the Lord. It was amazing. I asked how it could be true—given the ages of my wife and me. Then I was assured by the angel Gabriel that it was all genuine and that I would be ‘unable to speak until the day this happens.’ The people, in the Temple for prayers, correctly realized that I had seen a vision.”
Elizabeth was equally overjoyed and declared, “The Lord has done this for me.” The events become more closely entwined with the hopes and longings of Israel. Elizabeth’s kinswoman Mary came to visit. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, the baby expected by Elizabeth moved inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She proclaimed a blessing upon Mary and upon the child Mary would bear.
So, there it is; a faithful, dutiful priest, his wife from a priestly line, and a faithful country girl who was “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph – a descendant of David.” God is working out His plan for Israel and all of mankind through persons closely aligned with the hopes of and promises to the people of God’s choice.
Rev. Dwight Fickling and his wife, Frances have been members of FBC for 49 years. They have two children and five grandchildren. He has had many careers, including public school teacher and campus minister. Now retired, Dwight likes to read, work crossword puzzles and travel.