The Bible shows us that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. This is especially true surrounding the birth of Christ. We can take heart from the example of those involved in Christ’s birth that if God calls us on a special mission, we need not fear. Instead, we must have faith in His infinite power, which is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians.12:9). Without Him, we can do nothing, but with Him, all things are possible (John 15:5; Mark 10:27).
Sometimes He lets us go through trials, tribulations, doubts and fears to realize how completely we depend on Him (Philippians 4:13). If we stop depending on our flesh and turn it all over to Him, resting in His grace, His power, and His will, He will use us to accomplish great things to His glory (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). But if we are fearful or doubtful, that is a sin for which He must chastise us, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
As born-again believers, having placed our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we have no reason to fear. God is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), protecting us from all our enemies, physical and spiritual (Romans 8:31). He has won the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:57); He prepares us for the battle; and our home is with Him in Heaven (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 10:25; Isaiah 41:10; Joel 2:21).
In Scripture, God said “Fear not” to those He had called on a special mission for which it would be natural to be afraid in the flesh. Usually these words are spoken by an angel, or sometimes by God Himself, as when God promised to make Abram the father of a very great nation (Genesis 15:1) and to spare Ishmael’s life and to make him the father of a rival nation (Genesis 21:17).
In the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, angels appeared to several of those most involved -- Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds -- and told them to “Fear not!” It is a natural reaction to fear in the presence of one whom we recognize to be an angel, for they are holy and we are not, and we may fear bad news, punishment or even imminent death.
Like Abraham and Sarah, Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth had been faithful to obey and serve God, yet they had no children. Having no child in those days was a great cause for sorrow and grief, as there was no heir; no one to carry on Zacharias’s calling as a high priest. Women were defined by their role in raising children, and every Hebrew woman in that day dreamed of being the one who would give birth to the promised Messiah (Isaiah 9: 2,6-7).
The angel appeared to Zacharias while he was alone in the Holy of Holies performing his priestly duties, and told him to “Fear not.” At a very old age, Elisabeth would give birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1: 5-13) to show the way to Christ. How often might angels be around us, trying to tell us something or asking us to do something for God, or even ministering to us, without our being aware of it? (Hebrews 1:14).
Even though the angel brings good news, Zacharias is afraid, which is the typical reaction of those recorded in Scripture as being visited by angels. These messengers of God reflect His holiness and command respect and fear of the Lord by sinful man.
Zacharias had not been afraid to pray for what seemed impossible in the natural, and God answered that prayer far beyond what they could imagine. Not only would they have a son, but one who was highly respected by Jesus the Messiah Himself (Matthew 11:11).and who would turn many to the Lord (Luke 1:16)
If we have faith, He always answers our prayers beyond our wildest dreams! (Luke 1:14-15; Ephesians 3:20). Zacharias and Elisabeth are a perfect example of never losing hope, never stopping to pray the prayer that is most dear to your heart even though it seems God doesn’t hear it, because He will do what is best in His perfect timing. The special blessing God gave this couple echoes His fulfilled promise to Abraham and Sarah, who were old and barren and yet parented a very special child: Isaac, who became the progenitor of the great nation of Israel.
The angel said that Zacharias and Elisabeth’ son John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth (Luke 1:15). Killing an unborn child is therefore murder, because John’s body was already the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) even before he was born.
John’s abstaining totally from alcohol and being great in the Lord’s sight are mentioned together (John 11:11,18), as a result of him being filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth. Alcohol and the Holy Spirit don’t mix, as you can’t be Spirit-filled and drinking alcohol at the same time (Ephesians 5:18).
John’s role would be that of a prophet, calling God’s people to repentance and obedience, to soften their hearts to hear Christ’s message (Luke 1:16-17). Because he was Spirit-filled, he was a great soul-winner.
Despite Zacharias’ lifetime of priestly service, and being described as “blameless,” he doubts the angel’s news of John’s birth. He lacks the faith to accept that God can accomplish this miracle in His perfect timing (v. 18).
Because of Zacharias’ unbelief, the angel Gabriel told him that he would be mute until the birth, as if God would prevent him from voicing his unbelief (v.19-20), and also to strengthen his faith. But even without speech he was able to be a testimony of God’s goodness and power (v. 21-22).
His time as a priest was now over, and he turned his full attention to God’s new direction for his life (v. 23). We need to be responsive to God’s will and recognize when He has a new plan for our life, even if it means giving up a ministry or position of honor.
God’s promise, delivered through the angel Gabriel, came to pass and Elisabeth became pregnant (v. 24). She hid herself for 5 months (v. 25), perhaps because she wanted to be alone with God to meditate on His goodness, to thank Him, to worship Him, and to seek His direction for her new role as mother of John the Baptist.
When God says “Fear not,” we can trust Him to equip us for the mission He has given us and have faith that He will keep His promises!
© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
Reposted from the archives
Thank you so much. This is a great Bible Study.
You're very welcome, Aritha, and thank you for the kind words!
Yes, it has come around again, the Christmas story, which I can and do, read and meditate at any time of the year. I have always been moved by the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth, and her baby leaping for joy as Mary walks in carrying a tiny embryo in her womb. I guess when I found out that my wife Alex was pregnant for the first time back in May 2000, my excitement was electrifying! And I was already in my late forties.
The Bible seems to feature barren women who at their old age gave birth to great men of God. As I recall, Sarah bore Isaac, then the unnamed wife of Manoah of Samson, Hannah of Samuel, and Elizabeth of John the Baptist. All these seems to endorse the songs of both Hannah and Mary, that God exalts the poor and sends the rich away empty. Indeed, it is wise for all people of faith to have a reverential fear of God and his goodness.
A post well suited for the start of the season. God bless.
Amen! I love the story of John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit even while in the womb, a grave warning to all those who do not believe or care that life begins at conception. Praise the Lord that He continues to bless His faithful children even when they are well advanced in years. In addition to the women you mentioned, there are also old men whom God used to fulfill specific promises, like Joshua and Caleb.
As you say, the Incarnation is a marvelous subject for meditation any time of the year, but this season sometimes opens doors to share this message with the unsaved.
Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts. God bless,
Great post, Laurie.
Praise the Lord, our lack of faith does not prevent God doing what he promised, even though it may interfere with our enjoyment of the results. If God said it, it is settled whether we believe or not.
Thanks, Donald! Praise God that He is faithful and His will shall be done, even when we lack faith.
Hi Laurie 😊even during these fearful times we have no need to fear because this life is only the temporary one ❤️
Amen, Susan! His perfect love casts out all fear, and His grace allows us eternal life in His perfect Heaven, free from all fear, pain and sorrow.
Thanks for your comment and God bless!
I love the way faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Our faith grows when we are not only hearers of the Word spoken to us, but are 'doers' of that Word. I find that trials strengthen me, and every Word of God proves true when we trust and believe.
God allows trials into our life to strengthen us and to grow our faith in Him, that we would grow in our obedience to be doers of the Word.
Thank you as always for your comment, and God bless,
Nice study, but may I suggest that you explain the gospel a little better in the future. Isn't it true that the demons believe in the gospel, which you state as the death, burial and resurrection, but they are not saved. People don't need platitudes. They need the reasoning behind it. In a nutshell, because the first man and woman disobeyed God, God required a balance. Therefore, a sacrifice of like-kind was needed. No man could fill the bill. Therefore, God sent a perfect man as a substitute for man-kind to die upon the cross. You need to expound on what this means. Shalom
Thank you so much for visiting this blog and for your comment. I agree that the Gospel should be at the heart of all that Christians write, teach and preach about. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, the Gospel is that Christ died, was buried, and rose again on the third day, as written in the Scriptures. The only way to be saved is by faith (Eph. 2:8-9) in that Gospel. I agree that all are subject to the curse of sin because of Adam and Eve's disobedience. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit knew from the beginning of time that man, who has free will, would sin. But they had a plan by which man could be saved, namely by sending God the Son in human form to be the perfect sacrifice, paying the debt for all our sins, to appease the wrath of holy, righteous God by dying on the cross. He rose again, proving that He is God, into a glorified body, which all who trust Him will also have at the Rapture. In the meantime, when God the Father looks at sinners saved by grace, He no longer sees our sins, but instead sees the perfect, imputed righteousness of God the Son.
Thank you for the reminder to faithfully present the Gospel. I hope you will read some of my other posts, as I always attempt to at least reference the only Way in which we can be saved.
Shalom to you as well,
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