1 Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. 2 They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. 3 So I made a careful study[a] of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus, 4 I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard.
An Angel Tells about the Birth of John
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron.[b]6 Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. 7 But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.
8 One day Zechariah’s group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. 9 According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord’s temple that day and to burn incense,[c]10 while the people stood outside praying.
11 All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12 Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13 But the angel told him:
Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14 His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15 Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.
16 John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah[d] had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this is going to happen? My wife and I are both very old.”
19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel, God’s servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. 20 You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.”
21 The crowd was waiting for Zechariah and kept wondering why he was staying so long in the temple. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak, and they knew he had seen a vision. He motioned to them with his hands, but did not say a thing.
23 When Zechariah’s time of service in the temple was over, he went home. 24 Soon after that, his wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself, 25 “What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me.”[e]
1.3a careful study: Or “a study from the beginning.”
1.5Aaron: The brother of Moses and the first priest.
1.9burn incense: This was done twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
1.17Elijah: The prophet Elijah was known for his power to work miracles.
1.25keep people from looking down on me: When a married woman could not have children, it was thought that the Lord was punishing her.
(For the music leader. To the tune “A Silent Dove in the Distance.”[a] A special psalm by David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.)
A Prayer of Trust in God
56 Have pity, God Most High! My enemies chase me all day. 2 Many of them are pursuing and attacking me, 3 but even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you. 4 I praise your promises! I trust you and am not afraid. No one can harm me.
5 Enemies spend the whole day finding fault with me; all they think about is how to do me harm. 6 They attack from ambush, watching my every step and hoping to kill me. 7 They won’t get away[b] with these crimes, God, because when you get angry, you destroy people.
8 You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them.
9 When I pray, Lord God, my enemies will retreat, because I know for certain that you are with me. 10 I praise your promises! 11 I trust you and am not afraid. No one can harm me.
12 I will keep my promises to you, my God, and bring you gifts. 13 You protected me from death and kept me from stumbling, so that I would please you and follow the light that leads to life.
Psalm 56A Silent. . . Distance: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
56.7They. . . away: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
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