If an angel appeared to you, would you believe what he said? Maybe I should clarify that statement: If an angel from God appeared to you, would believe his message?
Today we are starting over once again, exploring the earthly life of Jesus from another writer’s perspective. Luke begins his historical account by describing two angelic encounters, both announcing the coming birth of a baby. Zacharias, a priest, is greeted while serving inside the Temple. The angel, Gabriel, tells him his wife will soon conceive a son to be named John, and he will be the forerunner prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures – the one who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zacharias is skeptical; his wife is past the age of childbearing, so Gabriel makes him mute for the duration of the pregnancy. By the time the baby is born, however, all doubts are removed, as he confidently and obediently names the child, John, just as the angel instructed.
Six months later, Gabriel visits Mary, the young virgin who will bear the Son of God. Mary’s response is different; she is a bit perplexed at first but believes Gabriel. She simply asks, “how?” After hearing that this will be a work of God’s Spirit, she humbly accepts God’s plan, saying, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
As the events unfold and the angel’s words come true, we learn something about Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Mary. They are all diligent students of God’s Word. They knew the Old Testament prophecies and understood they were taking part in their fulfillment. We know this by the beautiful expressions of praise and prophecy recorded by Luke (see Luke 1:46-55 and 1:67-79). They are quoting from the Old Testament, fully aware that the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus were evidence that God was once again moving and acting to fulfill His promises of salvation and rescue of His people.
We know, from the rest of the story, that the first coming of Jesus was not quite as expected; it was a mystery hidden, as Jesus came not as conquering King, but as the Suffering Servant to purchase salvation by His death and resurrection. The point is, however, that Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Mary recognized what was going on because of their familiarity with God’s Word. They believed in the Scriptures, so when the angel spoke, they might have been surprised (who, me?), but they didn’t doubt it could happen and was happening.
Luke gives us these details as true, historical facts to show us who Jesus is, and the miraculous events surrounding His birth. But another thought comes to mind as I ponder the reactions of Zacharias and Mary to His first coming.
Unless we are students of God’s Word, placing our full confidence in it as our authority for life and wisdom from God, we will miss the signs of His second coming. Just as God’s Word prophesied Jesus’ first coming, it reveals His coming again, when He returns as conquering King and righteous judge. But if you’re ignorant of the scriptures, you will miss the signs.
God doesn’t want us to live in ignorance. He has revealed much of His plans and how this world as we know it will come to its conclusion. Yes, there are different interpretations on some of the details, but if you are a student of God’s Word, and have any spiritual discernment at all, you know things are lining up exactly as the Bible foretold.
Satan has angels too…and they often appear as “angels of light.” They delight in deception and leading people astray from the truth. If you’re relying on your wisdom, you won’t know the difference. The test? God’s Word. Knowing God’s Word will protect you from the evil one, and give you eyes to see what’s unfolding in front of you.
We don’t need an angel to appear to know what God wants to tell us. He’s written it down for us. If we choose to be ignorant, that’s on us.