International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 18, 2016
Purpose: To radically trust God’s Word even when it challenges us
Bible Lesson: Luke 1:8-20
Background Scripture: Luke 1:1-23, 57-66.
Key Verses: “Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13b-14).
Luke 1:8-20 (CEB)
(8) One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. (9) Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. (10) All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. (11) An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. (12) When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
(13) The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. (14) He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. (16) He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. (17) He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
(18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
(19) The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. (20) Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Normally our lessons progress forward, but this lesson goes back to the beginning of Luke’s writing.
Luke, who was a companion of Paul, seems to be writing in response to an inquiry about Jesus, by a Roman friend, named Theophilus (lover of God). Paul’s scroll is twofold, first (Luke) a scroll about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The second (Acts) about this group that formed because of His teaching. Luke acknowledges that Matthew and Mark along with a lot of oral history was readily available. Theophilus seems to be looking for some assurances that the stories are all true. Because Luke address Theophilus as “Most excellent” he was a real person with some rank of office.
Because Theophilus was a Roman citizen Luke never blames the Romans for the crucifixion of Jesus. Nor does Luke spend a lot of time explaining Jewish traditions in his writings.
The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is only told in Luke’s Gospel. It is the story of two very devout people from the Sons of Aaron. They were part of a twenty-four-family rotation of duty, for service in the Temple in Jerusalem. As the LORD does things Zechariah won the lottery for this time of service. The casting of lots was a very popular way of deciding issues throughout the Old and some of the New Testament.
By comparing Mary’s response and Zechariah’s we can draw some conclusions. While both were frightened and afraid, one's faith was rewarded, the other was met with a curse. One was actually doing the LORD’s work, the other simply waiting.
Even when Gabriel tells Zechariah, “I just came from God’s side” and this is what will happen. Zechariah doubted. This was an answer to prayer, unlike Mary, who had not asked for anything.
It should also be noted that Luke points out that the service required of this son was so special he would need to refrain from certain things to maintain his purity, and a special relationship and mission with and for God. A practice that is now lost on most servants doing, so called, “God’s work.”
My hymn for today is simply one of my favorite songs of this era “Mary did you Know?”