ANGEL VISITATIONS PRIOR TO JESUS’ BIRTH

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[Luke:1:1-38]; [Matthew:1:18-25].

Lesson No.: 
260
Class: 
Senior
Memory Verse: 

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest:  and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).

Cross References: 

I The Angelic Announcement to Zacharias
1. Luke’s opening statement sets forth the authenticity of his report, [Luke:1:1-4]; [2 Timothy:3:16].
2. The righteousness and zeal of Zacharias and Elisabeth made them fully capable of being used by God, [Luke:1:5-7]; [1 Timothy:6:11-16]; [Titus:1:5-9].
3. The angel appeared in the Holy Place as Zacharias was burning incense, [Luke:1:8-11]; [Exodus:30:1-9]; [Revelation:8:3]; [Psalms:141:2].
4. Zacharias was comforted by the angel and then given the message from God, [Luke:1:12-17]; [Daniel:8:16]; [Daniel:9:21-23]; [Daniel:10:10-12].
5. The doubts of Zacharias were answered by a statement of the angel’s identity and a sign to show the authenticity of God’s message, [Luke:1:18-20].
6. The word of God was fulfilled, [Luke:1:21-25].

II The Angelic Announcement to Mary
1. Gabriel was chosen to bring God’s message also to Mary, [Luke:1:26-27].
2. The angel saluted Mary and delivered the message, [Luke:1:28-33].
3. Mary’s questions were not of doubt but of inquiry as to her part in the proceedings, [Luke:1:34].
4. Gabriel explained the Holy Spirit’s work, encouraged Mary’s faith, and uttered a statement of God’s omnipotence, [Luke:1:35-37]; [Job:42:2]; [Psalms:115:3]; [Matthew:19:26].
5. Mary willingly agreed to be thus used by God, [Luke:1:38]; [Psalms:110:3]; [Isaiah:1:19]; [2 Corinthians:8:3].

III The Angelic Appearance to Joseph
1. Joseph was perplexed because he thought Mary had been unfaithful, [Matthew:1:18-19]; [Deuteronomy:22:22-27].
2. Joseph was a just man, and God sent an angel to tell him of the coming of Christ, [Matthew:1:20-23].
3. Joseph was obedient to the word of God, [Matthew:1:24-25].

Notes: 

Angels and Archangels
As we begin the study of this phase of the old yet ever new Christmas story, let us refresh our memories of a few facts that concern it.

It has been about 400 years since the last angelic announcement or prophecy had been given to Israel. A long time had elapsed since God had thus supernaturally manifested Himself in behalf of His chosen nation. The last recorded angelic appearance was that of Gabriel, the archangel, who had appeared to the Prophet Daniel with a message from God concerning the captivity. Gabriel had mentioned the name of another archangel, Michael, at that time. We are not told how many arch-angels there are, but Gabriel testified that he came from the presence of God; and in the last Book of the Bible it is stated that there are seven angels who stand before God [Revelation:8:2]). We do not know that these seven are archangels, or that Gabriel or Michael are among these seven. But we do know that these two heavenly creatures were special messengers from God who served God in extra-ordinary ways and in the carrying out of extremely important events.

Michael was termed one of the chief princes [Daniel:10:13]), and it is stated that he stands for the children of Daniel’s people, who we know are the Jews [Daniel:10:21]; [Daniel:12:1]). Michael, then, is a special angel who has a mission concerning God’s chosen people. He is mentioned in Scripture as carrying out very hazardous assignments, even to engaging in conflict with Satan himself (Jude 9; [Revelation:12:7]).

But Gabriel was given the greatest privilege that any heavenly messenger could have. We are studying about these special appearances in this lesson. The only other time, recorded in the Bible, that Gabriel appears is during the period of the captivity when he came to Daniel and brought the messages from God concerning the latter days and the things that should take place prior to, and at the time of, Christ’s Revelation. We can see, then, that Gabriel’s missions have always concerned Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, as the Saviour of mankind.

Gabriel’s Visit to Zacharias
It is interesting to see how perfectly every detail concerning the angelic appearances fits into the Divine Plan. Gabriel first appeared to one of the priests -– Zacharias -– who was ministering in the House of God at Jerusalem, the city of God. A priest stands between God and the people; and, according to God’s plan, the revelations should be through a member of that office. Notice also that Gabriel did not appear to Zacharias in his home city but he came to the place where it was proper that he should come when bringing such a message. He came to the House of God and met the representative of the people there. It is in the House of God that we hear best the Word of God. It is from His holy precincts, dedicated to the worship of God, that God makes known His will most consistently to His people. God doeth all things well. He sent this most important message by the proper messenger, at the proper time, to the proper place, to be received by the proper person.

Notice also that it was at the time of prayer that the message of God was received. Here, also, is a great lesson for us all. We do not hear the Voice when our minds and hearts are encumbered with the cares of this life, unless that Voice is speaking to warn us of the folly of our deeds. We find, through experience as well as by the stated fact in the Bible, that, God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. When the incense of our communion with God ascends to the heavenly throne, then, and then only, can we expect to receive from Heaven a message, of God’s will for us.

Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth were people of whom the Holy Spirit could speak with remarkable commendation. “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” What a statement concerning two members of the human race!

Righteous before God! Many have been considered righteous before man, according to man’s standards. But these two were righteous before God, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Many have followed the ritual and the form of the worship of God, conforming to the letter of the ceremonial law, and still have had sin hidden away in their heart and mind which were not outwardly apparent. But these two chosen ones were blameless in their walk. They were blameless not only before man but were blameless before God!

Let those who say that earnest seekers of the Old Testament dispensation received a lesser degree of godliness try to equal, in their own strength, what these two servants of God did in attainments of righteousness and godliness! Zecharias and Elisabeth were saved from their sin; and they were sanctified!

It is to godly people that God sends His message. There may have been many other godly people at this time who also were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. But these two were the ones chosen by God to fulfil His plan. Zacharias was an earnest listener, even though the stupendousness of the announcement raised some doubt in his mind. The doubts that were in Zacharias’ mind were not of that quality or extent that stops the hand of God from carrying out His purpose. There was present in the hearts of these two saints of God, in addition to the righteousness and godliness we have already discussed, a sufficient measure of faith in God and in His Word that made that Word effective and operative in them.

By custom, every king has a forerunner, to prepare the way before him. God chose to prepare the way before His Son by sending a holy man to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to His chosen people. We have seen that about 400 years had passed since the last prophet had lifted his voice to proclaim the message of God; and, significantly, that prophet was the one who gave us the clearest picture of the coming of the next prophet -– the forerunner of Jesus Christ, (Read [Malachi:4:4-6]; [Luke:1:16];[Luke:1:17]; and [Matthew:11:7-15].)

How could the coming of this forerunner be properly introduced? By angelic announcement! Who could be trusted with this vital message from the Throne of God? The archangel Gabriel who stood in the presence of God! He was commissioned with the duty and responsibility of bearing this and other messages concerning the Christ of Glory. We have seen the qualification of those to whom he came -– trusted ones who were chosen to receive and fulfil this phase of God’s will for fallen mankind. And we have also seen from Scripture how wonderfully that will was carried out, to the very letter, through the days of the forerunner’s life.

Gabriel’s Visit to Mary
The same archangel appeared again to bring the most important message of all to a holy, consecrated, and humble woman of Galilee. She was a chaste virgin and was espoused to a man named Joseph. The message from God told her that she was highly favoured and that the Lord was with her. She inquired how the things she was told were to come to pass -– not with doubt, but only that she might know God’s will for her and what she was expected to do to carry out that will. She was told that the Holy Spirit would make possible that which is impossible and would bring to pass God’s will.

Here, too, is a lesson for us. We know that God’s commands are always His enablings. When God directs, He makes a way. It is not our place to question His will nor doubt His provision for us as we obey His will for us. We can ask, as Mary did, the methods, or the time, or the place that God is choosing. But we can neither doubt nor quibble. If we obey, there is blessing for us. If we disobey, there is trouble.

The Angel’s Visit to Joseph
Joseph, too, needed reassuring. God never leaves one of His people without the comfort or reassurance he needs. He is always present to help, to encourage, and to point the way when we cannot tell which direction we should go.

We do not know the name of the angel who appeared to Joseph. It is not important that we know it, or the Holy Spirit have told us. The important thing for us to know is that God sent the message Joseph needed, and that He will do the same for us when difficulties come to us and we need help and instruction. God can do this in any way He chooses, but in this Gospel Dispensation He has made His Word the principal medium of bringing His will and commands to us. In that Holy Bible we find also the encouragement and inspiration we need for the carrying out of those commands. How gracious and merciful is our God!

The angel pointed the just man, Joseph, to the Word of God for a confirmation of the message that he brought from God. In the words of the prophets concerning Jesus was found the clarification of the facts that were troubling Joseph. Here, too, is a lesson for us. “To the law and to the testimony,” should be our motto at all times. If we receive what we feel is a message or command from the Lord, we should go to the Word of God and see if that message or command is absolutely in accord with the Word of God. Only in this way can we be sure that we are hearing the voice of God, for God will not contradict His Word.

The Coming of the Son of God
Thus we have a summary of the appearances of the angels prior to the birth of Christ, and some practical applications may be garnered from them. This was an important time in the history of Israel. It was an important time in the history of the entire world. The Son of God was to become also the Son of David. He was to be born so that He could suffer and die for us, to redeem us from our sins. His coming was no casual, everyday event in this world’s history. It was the most important event that has ever taken place, for without His birth there could have been no sacrificial death. Without His death there would be no resurrection. Without His resurrection our faith would be vain and we would yet be in our sins.

But thanks be to God for Christ’s birth, that made possible His death and resurrection for our justification! And thanks be to God that He has given us sufficient evidence of the truth of all these events, having spoken of them by the prophets through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and having made them possible through the willing service of sanctified men and women such as Zacharias, Elisabeth, and Mary. Thanks be to God that He announced and certified these important events by miraculous appearances of the highest archangels in Heaven, which appearances are now established historical facts. Thanks be to God that He carried out these predictions -– the angelic and the prophetic -– to the fullest perfection of detail, thereby attesting to the truthfulness and completeness of His plan for us.

Questions: 

1. What is the purpose of the Gospel of St. Luke, as announced by the writer in its opening verses?
2. What can you remember that the Scriptures say concerning the spiritual qualifications of Zacharias and Elisabeth?
3. Where was Zacharias when the angel appeared to him?
4. Recount the occasions when we are told that Gabriel appeared to men or women.
5. What was the message that the angel gave Zecharias? And how was it received?
6. What message did Gabriel give to Mary?
7. What was the message that Joseph received?
8. Relate some of the practical applications you have received from this lesson.
9. Did Mary doubt the word of the angel?
10. Quote [Luke:1:37] and other similar statements to be found in Scripture.