Biblical Men/Biblical Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we look through the Scriptures, we see that it was definitely a man’s world. We will see in the next few blogs how Jesus raised women out of their lowly estate to give them value. Coupled with that, we will see how the Mid-Eastern mind works compared to our Western mind.

You will be amazed at how Luke couples a man’s experience and a woman’s experience in many of his accounts. You will likely know these stories, but like me, you may not have seen them as two in one.

It starts even at Jesus’ birth. You may remember in my recent Christmas blogs how the angel Gabriel came to both Zechariah and to Mary.

Gabriel is named only in the Old Testament book of Daniel and here in Luke. To Zechariah he says,

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, . . . Luke 1:19

Then to Mary.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married . . . Luke 1:26-27

God sent his great warrior angel to an old faithful priest, but also to a young simple maiden. Both had a major role to play in God becoming man. One would sire the forerunner and the other would bear the Savior.

Move forward forty days after Jesus birth. Mary must go to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. Being poor, her offering would be two pigeons or two doves.

Mary must also present her baby to the Lord, as it is written in the Law—

“Every first born male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” Luke 2:23

Now we meet our next pair, Simeon a priest and Anna a prophetess. Both are older; both have longed to see the Messiah.

It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On the day Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, Simeon felt compelled to go to the Temple courts. As he lifted up 40-day old Jesus, the Spirit of God fell upon him and he declared,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:29-30

84 year-old Anna had a seven-year marriage until her husband died. She spent the rest of her years at the Temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying. She stepped into this scene precisely when Simeon made his declaration.

. . . she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

No doubt this gave Mary much more to ponder in those early days.

So from the beginning, we see men and women playing important roles in the life of Jesus.

Male or female, what is God’s role for you this week? It will not likely be as dramatic as these, but He has plans for all of us. Don’t miss your opportunity! 

~ Joyce ~

 

 

JOY – for Zechariah and Elizabeth

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we approach Christmas this month, we will look for those who found JOY.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, like Abraham and Sarah, had reached old age without a child. Why think of them at Christmas? Their story sets the stage in Luke’s gospel.

Zechariah was born of the the priestly line, so twice a year Zechariah and other priests in his division took a turn to spend one week in Jerusalem. They did jobs in and around the Temple, cleaning the brass bowls and gold cups, etc. One of their group would be chosen by lot to enter the holy place.

On this occasion, Zechariah was chosen for this distinct honor to supply the incense before the morning sacrifices and after the evening sacrifices.

When he walked into the holy place for his special duty,

. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said, “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. He will be a joy and a delight to you, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:11-15a 

The angel also said that this son was to take special Nazarite vows and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. He will bring many people back to the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah! Wow. Surely this made Zechariah rejoice with gladness. But, with doubt, he asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

The angel let Zechariah know right away who he was talking to.

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to tell you the good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words.” Luke 1:19-20

The people outside were wondering why Zechariah was in the holy place so long. When he came out, he gestured trying to tell them what had happened. They realized he had seen a vision. 

We aren’t told Elizabeth’s immediate reaction, but we can imagine her great JOY after all these years of wanting a child. Obviously something miraculous had taken place. 

After she gave birth, the people assumed they would name the baby after his father. “No!” she said. “His name will be John.” The people questioned Zechariah. He wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”

With that declaration, that obedience, he immediately was able to speak and he praised God. His JOY burst forth into a song, the words recorded in Luke 2:67-79.   

 When John grew to become a man, he was known as John the Baptist because he preached repentance and baptized many. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.

~ Joyce ~ 

Christmas – Elizabeth Receives a Visitor

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Meanwhile, back to Elizabeth…

Tradition says that Elizabeth had a sister in Nazareth named Anna. In Elizabeth’s sixth month, she heard the story of her sister’s daughter (Mary) and the special baby she was carrying. Mary, likewise, heard about Elizabeth from the angel, Gabriel, and decided to travel to Elizabeth’s house where she might find comfort and safety from public tongues wagging.

Mary entered Elizabeth’s house and called out a greeting.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41

Elizabeth had yet another affirmation of how God had set apart her own child and blessed Mary’s child with holiness.

In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:42-44

Notice, a loud voice! Elizabeth was overwhelmed with excitement and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Another important factor was that Elizabeth recognized that Mary believed what the angel told her. Elizabeth said,

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Luke 1:45

I had not keyed in with this verse before. Elizabeth had been reminded, for six months so far, about Zechariah’s doubting attitude. He still couldn’t talk. So it made an impression on Elizabeth that Mary readily believed the angel. 

Both women were filled to the brim with emotion and the spirit of God. Mary began her praise;

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant…” Luke 1:46-47

Mary stayed on until Elizabeth gave birth. Her neighbors and relatives shared in her joy.  On the eighth day, it was time for the circumcision ceremony and the naming of the child. Elizabeth told the officials that he was to be named “John.” Oh, but this was not traditional. After all, there were no relatives named “John.” So they went to Zechariah to get the straight of it. But remember, he could not talk. They made signs to him to try to communicate. Finally, he called for a writing tablet and declared,

“His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. Luke 1:63

In fact he was so filled with the Spirit that he began to prophesy in a twelve-verse song of praise. It became quite evident that he did hear the rest of the angel’s declaration six months earlier and understood, at least in part, the destiny of this special son. (Luke 1:67-79)

The neighbors were filled with awe and told about it all over the hill country of Judea. Their burning question was,

“What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. Luke 1:66

We, too, stand in awe of the great things God can do with simple people like Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Mary. It is a reminder that He can use even the likes of us to accomplish His purposes, great or small, if we believe and are willing. Amazing, isn’t it?

~ Joyce ~

Christmas – Gabriel Is Busy Again

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Zechariah returned home from his dramatic incident at the Temple in Jerusalem. Since he was now speechless, he had to gesture to his wife and write his amazing news.

Sure enough, Elizabeth conceived in her old age and declared,

“The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people. Luke 1:25

Like Sarah and Hannah of old, it was a disgrace not to bear children. She rejoiced to feel this life inside her body. Talk about a God-incident!

When Elizabeth reached her sixth month, the Lord had another special job for the angel, Gabriel.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26-28

Like Zechariah, Mary was also  fearful and startled by this sudden appearance and these words. Gabriel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

My guess again is that she, like Zechariah, stopped listening at this point. but Gabriel proceeded.

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33

Thinking in practical terms, Mary asked,

“How will this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

I told you her mind had stopped on “You will have a child.” Somehow her demeanor and her tone did not have the same kind of skepticism that Gabriel heard from Zechariah. Gabriel gently explained,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

Even if Mary can’t quite take in the magnitude of these words, she must have had a willing spirit. Perhaps she began to ponder, what about Joseph? What will the people say? How do I explain this to mama and papa? Gabriel seems to know her anxiety and gave her comforting news about someone who could identify with her.

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a baby in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Ah, there is our thought again. “Nothing is impossible with God!” What a mixture of feelings and thoughts Mary must have had.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:36-38

I wonder how she told her mother about this. Did her mother believe her?

And then there is the unbelievable story about Elizabeth, her relative. At some point the decision was made that Mary and maybe her mother would make a trip to Elizabeth’s.

Isn’t it wonderful how God gives us special people in our lives? People to whom we want to go when our world turns upside down—someone to advise or simply be a listener and comforter.

Is there someone who is special to you? Would this be a good time to tell them how you appreciate them? What better time than Christmas to write them a note, give them a personal gift, take them out to eat—someway to express your love for them.

~ Joyce ~