Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
(The Advent: Faces within the Christmas Story.)
Luke 1:11-12 (NIV)
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
Luke 1:11-12 (MSG)
Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.
“And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zacharias saw the angel, he was troubled and overcome with fear.” -AMPLIFIED
Yesterday we began our study of the faces of Christmas. We started with Zechariah and his encounter with the Messenger sent by God. We can see from our text that this visitor was unexpected and quite the surprise to Zechariah. Luke says, “Suddenly Zacharias realized he was not alone: a messenger of the Lord was there with him. The messenger stood just to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was shocked and afraid…” (VOICE)
Luke explains further along in the text that this messenger is, in fact, the angel Gabriel. It is the angel, himself, who identifies who he is to Zechariah. He says, “I am Gabriel, the messenger who inhabits God’s presence. I was sent here to talk with you and bring you this good news.” -Luke 1:19 (VOICE)
Let us look a little more closely at our text which gives us this little detail that may make us wonder. It says, “The messenger stood just to the right of the altar of incense.” -(VOICE) What is the significance of where Gabriel stood to our story? Actually there are a few ideas of why this little detail was included in Scripture:
1.)It was believed that the right side was the favorable or advantageous side. It was traditionally considered the side to give a blessing from and received special prominence. The right side was the side of honor.
2.) The right side was considered the stronger side; most people were and still are right handed. In fact, priests who were left handed were often disqualified from service.
3.) The fact that the angel stood at the right side of the altar could also signify that he actually came out from the Holy of Holies. Remember, Gabriel was the messenger who stood in the very presence of the Lord Most High and for him to come into the Holy Place from the very Holy of Holies would suggest that he was coming from the very presence of God.
Although the sight of Gabriel suddenly appearing to Zachariah was quite the shock, we find Gabriel trying to calm him down. Gabriel encouraged him not to be afraid. Remember fear does not come from God and it is not harmonious to the work of God. Fear is used by our Enemy; often to deceive them. So when holy angels appear we will find that they will often say such things as, “Be not afraid.”
The Message that Gabriel had to share was one of good news! Zechariah and his barren wife, Elizabeth, were to have a son in their old age. This son would bring great joy and happiness, not only to Zechariah and Elizabeth, but to many. For this son, John, would be the fulfillment of a prophecy. Gabriel shared these words with Zechariah, “This son of yours will be a great man in God’s sight. He will not drink alcohol in any form; instead of alcoholic spirits, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is in his mother’s womb. Here is his mission: he will turn many of the children of Israel around to follow the path to the Lord their God. Do you remember the prophecy about someone to come in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; someone who will turn the hearts of the parents back to their children; someone who will turn the hearts of the disobedient to the mind-set of the just and good? Your son is the one who will fulfill this prophecy: he will be the Lord’s forerunner, the one who will prepare the people and make them ready for God.” -Luke 1:15-17 (VOICE)
Hallelujah for this Message of good news. We serve a Good, Good God; who hears our prayers and answers them!God is setting the stage for His GIFT to the World.
Lord God, I am so thankful that you are a God who hears my prayers and you answer them too. I see from Gabriel’s part in the story that your angels, Messengers sent directly from you, come in peace and not with fear. You are a good, good God. You have made the way for me to come directly into your presence. You also are the Promise Keeper; keeping every promise that you have made to your people. Thank You God!