Visitors from Afar

journey of the magi

Reading the Word

Matthew 2:1–12 (ESV)

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus was born, we read of visitors from far away. Most translations call them “wise men.” We may also think of them as kings due at least partly to the song We Three Kings. The Greek calls them magi. It is the word that we get “magician” from and was used to refer to a number of different things: a magician, a sorcerer, or an astrologer are some of the common things. These wise men were probably astrologers since the text tells us they were watching the stars. We also read that they were from the east, which is probably in the region of Babylon.

The wise men must have heard of the promised Messiah from some of the Jews who were still residing in the region of Babylon after they were exiled four hundred years earlier. They knew the prophecy and they saw a star that signified the time of the Messiah, so they traveled to Jerusalem to find him and bring him tribute. This is amazing! These non-Jewish astrologers come from a long way away to find the Messiah and bow before him, yet Herod, the Jewish king and the religious leaders of the day, wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They sought to destroy him from the very beginning.

Once again, we learn that Jesus is the Messiah, but he was a Messiah for all people. He came not only for the Jewish people who would trust in him, but also people from all nations. He did not come to cater to the powerful and elite, but all who would recognize him and follow him. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus will instruct his followers to go into the world and make disciples of “all nations.” Jesus came as the King, the Messiah, and the Savior for the whole world. He came for you. He came for me. What a great King!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Advertisements

Good News of Great Joy

white sheep on farm

Photo by kailash kumar on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 2:8–20 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday we read how Jesus was placed into a manger, which is an animal feeding trough, when he was born. Such an amazing thing to think that the King of kings, the Creator of all things, would enter into the world in such a humble way.

Today, we read of the birth announcement. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jewish people had been waiting for hundreds of years for his arrival. So, when he does arrive we expect it to be a grand occasion! What we get is an angel appearing to a few shepherds out in a field nearby. The angel makes sense, but why these lowly shepherds?

Jesus was a Savior for all people. He did not come just for the rich or the powerful or the social elite. As the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all of the people.” The birth of Jesus was good news for everyone, including the shepherds. It was good news for you and for me. And it is good news for all who will turn to Jesus as Savior. Let us do as the shepherds did: let us tell the world of Jesus and give glory and praise to God for all we have seen and heard.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

God in a Manger

luke 27 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses we read of the Jesus’ birth. The whole thing is recorded in seven verses. The most startling thing, and the thing we overlook because we are so used to reading it, is that Jesus was placed into a manger. A manger is an animal feeding trough. Think about that for just a moment. Jesus, the divine Son, came into this world as a baby and was placed into a trough that animals ate from.

Would you do that with your child? Would you expect anyone to do that with their child? Consider this: Jesus was not any child. Jesus was the Messiah. He was the King. He was God in the flesh; the King of kings and Lord of lords! Would any royal family place their newborn child into a manger? No way!

When we meet Jesus in a manger, it tells us something about him. Yes, he was the Messiah, but he was different than other kings. Jesus is the King who came to save the lowly of the world. Jesus was the King who came to serve his people. Jesus was the King who came to give his life for his people that they might have life through him. What an amazing King we have!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

God’s Plans or Our Plans?

matthew 118 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Joseph found out the Mary was pregnant, they were not yet married. They were what we might call “engaged” in our current world. This presented a big problem. Pre-marital sex was not acceptable behavior in Jewish culture. The couple would be looked upon with suspicion and face ridicule from the community. Also, a who was the father? Joseph had to be wondering who Mary had been seeing behind his back. So, Joseph was ready to do what we would probably expect. He was ready to end the relationship.

As Joseph considered what he would do, an angel appeared to him and told him about Mary’s pregnancy and the importance of this child. Mary had not been unfaithful, but the child was of the Holy Spirit and was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. So, when Joseph awoke, he remained with Mary and they named the baby Jesus.

We should not quickly look past the impact the birth of Jesus likely had on Joseph. Mary’s pregnancy would have been a shock to the community and would have caused whispering and confrontation over improper sexual conduct. Joseph’s reputation likely suffered and he probably faced pressure to admit his sin or divorce his adulterous wife. Yet Joseph heard the word of God through the angelic messenger and accepted that this was the Lord’s plan for him. It would be difficult, but he was willing to do what God had called him to do. Would we be willing to do or go wherever God might call us, even if it meant difficulty for us? Do we trust the plans and purposes of God even when they interfere with our own plans?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

The Promised King

2 samuel 716 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 1:1–17 (ESV)

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we looked at Jesus’ genealogy as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Today, we look at Jesus’ genealogy as recorded by Matthew. When we read this list of names, it is important to understand why Matthew is giving us this list. He tips us off to his purpose in the very first verse. He wants us to know that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham.

Luke shows us how Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. That is why his genealogy traces all the way back to Adam. However, Matthew is showing us that Jesus is the fulfillment of promises made to both Abraham and David. God had promised Abraham that kings would come from his line (Genesis 17:6) and he had promised David that he would have a descendant who would sit on the throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the King whose reign was promised and would never end.

It is amazing to think about the promises that God made in the Scriptures long ago. Through them, we see that God is faithful and trustworthy. He keeps his promises! We also see that God loves us even though we are often unlovable due to our sin. But God sent his Son into the world to be our King, the King who would die for his people so that we could be saved and have life. What a great King he is!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Jesus, the Son of Adam

1 corinthians 1521–22 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 3:23–38 (ESV)

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today, we read one of two genealogies for Jesus. We will look at the second one tomorrow. We are likely tempted to skip over these lists of names because they do not seem to have much important information in them for us. Most of the names listed are unfamiliar. So, why read them?

Luke’s genealogy is important for the message that the Gospel writer is trying to communicate. Luke’s message is that Jesus is the sinless man who will go to the cross to die for the sins of all of mankind. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus all the way back to the first man because it was the first man and woman who brought sin into the world in Genesis 3. And it was to Adam and Eve that God promised a descendant that would one day conquer over the evil serpent they encountered in the garden (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is the promised descendant and is the One who conquers Satan, sin, and death on behalf mankind. Notice Paul’s words in Romans:

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:17–19, ESV)

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Prepare the Way of the Lord

naming of john the baptist

The Naming of John the Baptist – Public Domain Image

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading, which is below. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. In 2019, we are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the New Testament Gospels.

Reading the Word

Luke 1:57–80 (ESV)

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

The Mighty Has Done Great Things for Me

luke 149 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 1:39–56 (ESV)

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel regarding the birth of Jesus, she went to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth was also going to have a child, John the Baptist. When the women greet each other, their joy is evident as Elizabeth praises Mary and Mary reflects on how the Lord has chosen her for such a great role.

Notice Mary’s words in verses 46-55, often called “The Magnificat” or “Mary’s Song of Praise.” She speaks of her humble estate and how the Lord had given her honor. From now on, people would call her “blessed.” She was the one who would carry the child Jesus in her womb and give birth to the Savior and Messiah. She was the one who God had chosen to use to fulfill his promises from the Old Testament Scriptures. She was blessed indeed and she humbly praises the Lord for choosing her.

As we reflect on how God blessed Mary in such a unique way, we must not forget that God uses all of his people every day to fulfill his plans for the world. He uses each of us right where we are to reach our family, friends, and neighbors with the message of hope that comes through Jesus Christ. He uses us to show his love and grace in a world where darkness and evil, pain and suffering, are the norm. Let us also praise the Lord for blessing us and using us for his purposes.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

A Servant of the Lord

luke 138 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 1:26–38 (ESV)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses record what is often referred to as “The Annunciation.” This is the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the young virgin Mary that she was going to have a baby. Her baby would not be just any baby, but the “Son of the Most High.” Mary was told that her son would sit on the throne of his father David and would reign forever. With these words, Mary was being told that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah whom was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures and whom her people had been waiting for for hundreds of years.

Imagine how you might feel if you were face-to-face with an angel and told that you would be entrusted with a great responsibility such as giving birth to and raising the Son of God, the Messiah. Also, imagine that you are merely a young teenager and not even married yet. This was Mary. A young girl who was engaged, but not yet married in a world where pregnancy outside of wedlock was unacceptable. How would she deal with the social pressure? How would Joseph respond to this news? Who would believe her when she maintained that she was a virgin and that the child was of the Holy Spirit?

Mary’s response to the angel is something for us to think about. She said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She did not ask to be excluded even though this was going to be extremely difficult for her. She trusted God and submitted to his plans for her. Can we do the same? Are we willing to be used in whatever way God chooses for us?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

When We Doubt

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 1:5–25 (ESV)

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Luke gives us the background to the birth of John the Baptist in today’s passage. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both advanced in age. They had no children and Elizabeth was barren (v. 7). She had not been able to conceive when she was younger and now she is beyond her childbearing years. In this seemingly impossible situation, an angel appears to Zechariah while he is on duty in the temple and tells him that Elizabeth is going to have a baby. This will not be just any baby, but one who will be used in an amazing and unique way. This baby will prepare the way for the ministry of Jesus Christ.

When Zechariah heard the words of the angel, he did not jump up and down in joyful celebration. He did what many of us would likely do. He doubted. After all, how could an old man and woman have a baby? He did not believe the angel and asked for proof that what he was saying was true. Because of his unbelief, Zechariah received a sign. He was left unable to speak until John the Baptist was born.

Unbelief is sin and we see that Zechariah is punished for it. However, we also see that the plans and purposes of God will be accomplished. God fulfills his promises even among sinful people who doubt him and fail in their response to his word. This should bring comfort to us all because we have all failed at one time or another. We have all doubted. Yet God’s plans stand forever. We can have complete confidence in him, even when we cannot trust ourselves.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.