As I began reading the book of Luke, I saw two very different reactions to angelic messages. First you have Zechariah who was a priest in the holiest of places.
Luke 1:8-10 (NIV)
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
My observations of Zechariah’s reaction to this news is that he did not believe in what he was doing. He was “gripped with fear” that tells me he was doing his job but not expecting that God would show up or answer his prayer. He was in a place where God should have been expected but instead of understanding his visitation he expressed his doubt in the messenger and made excuses for how it could not happen.
Six months or so after this there was a girl who was at home minding her own business when she received a message from an angel. She was not in a place where you would expect God to show up and she had a very different reaction.
Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary’s reaction was being a bit troubled about what the angel said to her but she believed it. She basically asked the angel to show her how this would happen, never doubting the word of the angel. She had a heart of faith and believed that even though she was not in a “Holy” place God could speak to her and she would listen. Her reaction was humble and believing. I really love the story of Mary and her innocent faith that accepted immediately what the angel told her, even though it frightened her. If you read on you will see that God made a way for all that needed to happen to keep Jesus safe until His time had come. I take comfort in this story and pray that my reaction to God’s prompting will always be one of faith and “show me how”.
The real question is, how will we react to His messenger in our lives? I would like to react like Mary did, “Show me how this will happen”, rather than like Zechariah by asking “How can you prove this will happen?” By the way if you read further on about Zechariah you will see he was mute until John’s birth, he was given those months to understand that his sign was silence until the fulfillment of his promise. Sometimes God has to teach us a lesson the hard way, but in the end, we understand what He was saying and believe.
I see humility in Mary’s reaction and I believe that is the key. So will you join me this week in strengthening our faith by keeping a humble heart before God. Enjoy you week and I will be back next week with more.