THE ANGEL GABRIEL FORETELLS THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
GABRIEL TELLS MARY OF THE COMING BIRTH OF JESUS
We can consider the entire Bible to be, in effect, a message from God. Our heavenly Father has provided it for our instruction. Consider, though, two special messages that were delivered over 2,000 years ago. They were delivered by an angel named Gabriel, who “stands near before God.” (Luke 1:19) What were the circumstances under which the angel provided those important messages?
It is about the year 3 B.C.E. Where does Gabriel deliver the first message? In the Judean hills, probably not far from Jerusalem, there lives a priest of Jehovah by the name of Zechariah. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are no longer young, and they have no children. It is Zechariah’s turn to serve as a priest at God’s temple in Jerusalem. While Zechariah is at the temple, Gabriel suddenly appears near the incense altar.
Understandably, that frightens Zechariah. But the angel calms Zechariah’s fears, saying: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your supplication has been favorably heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” Gabriel adds that John “will be great in the sight of Jehovah” and will “get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.”
To Zechariah, that seems unbelievable. Why? Because of his and Elizabeth’s age. So Gabriel tells him: “You will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words.”
Meanwhile, the people outside are wondering why Zechariah is taking so long inside. Finally he comes out, but he cannot speak. Zechariah can only make signs with his hands. It is evident that he has seen something supernatural while in the temple.
After Zechariah finishes his service at the temple, he returns to his home. Soon thereafter, Elizabeth becomes pregnant! For five months, while awaiting the birth of her child, Elizabeth stays at home away from people.
Then Gabriel appears a second time. To whom? To a young unmarried woman named Mary, who lives up north in the region called Galilee, in the city of Nazareth. What does the angel tell her? He says: “You have found favor with God.” Gabriel goes on to tell Mary: “Look! you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus.” Gabriel adds: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, . . . and he will rule as King over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end to his Kingdom.”
You can appreciate how privileged Gabriel must feel to deliver these two messages. As we read more about John and Jesus, it will be clear why these messages from heaven are so important.