(Originally published on this blog on 23rd January 2014 and now re-published in view of the increasing expectation lately among Jews of the appearance of their Messiah.)
Angel Gabriel’s introduction of himself is familiar from Christmas scriptures. Yet I propose to connect his messages with the concept of prophesying into Time, especially about the Holy Spirit – and with an intriguing prophecy for Jewish people today.
This post’s title is from Gabriel’s response to an elderly Jewish priest’s disbelief, to which I refer below. Several months later Gabriel was sent to a betrothed teenager, as depicted in 1898 by Henry Ossawa Tanner in Annunciation (click image for gallery).
The maiden’s visitor greeted her,
“Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
It wasn’t so much the surprise of an invisible spirit becoming visible that troubled her, as what he’d said and how it was said. But this messenger then reassured her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Although not disbelieving what he’d said, the young lady posed a logical question because she was a virgin, “How can this be since I know not any man?” So Gabriel explained,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
At this Mary responded laudably, “Behold the maid-servant of the Lord. Let it be according to your word”.
How different was the young maid’s acceptance of this decree about her own future to that of the very much older priest Zacharias when Gabriel had visited him a few months earlier. Apparently, Mary hadn’t heard about what had happened. Otherwise, there would have been no need for Gabriel to have confided the news of that first miraculous conception.
So what went wrong for her cousin’s husband?
Zacharias had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of burning incense in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In view of its performance being in the Holiest of Holies, this duty was done by drawing lots rather than by a rota from many teams of priests.
Whilst Zacharias was officiating, an invisible, supra-natural spirit subtly scintillated at the side of the altar. It proved to be a holy messenger – an archangel, so some believe. He brought news of the future mission of a mightily powerful man of God – the priest’s own son! But Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were childless for she was well past child-bearing age!
However, their prayers for a baby were to be answered and the angel prophesied this special one would be filled with God’s Holy Spirit from before his birth! It isn’t any wonder the priest was in disbelief! When he asked, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” , the angel’s response was most emphatic,
“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (emphasis added)
If you’re unfamiliar with physician Luke’s investigation into those encounters with Gabriel and what happened when the two cousins met, and to Zacharias too, I’d recommend reading his full account here, by courtesy of BibleGateway.com.
Points to Ponder
Prophesying is speaking forth the mind and counsel of the Lord God, as communicated to an individual. Therefore, it’s a declaration that cannot be known by natural means – a direct revelation from God. [For more see An Introduction to Prophecy.]
Now let’s check Gabriel’s announcements in the light of John Kilpatrick’s message of the first Sunday in 2104, as outlined in my recent posts (ie January 2014):
1. In that last quotation, Gabriel issued a decree that happened immediately but which had a limited duration. That is, he spoke into Time by prophesying, did he not? Right away the priest became dumb until he was released from the decree’s power when the baby came to be named months later.
My underscoring of “my words…will be fulfilled in their own time” indicates New Testament support for ‘talking into Time’. Gabriel’s words brought from God were not only welcome news but also, and far more importantly, announcements on earth of declarations that had been issued in heaven. They’re excellent examples of oral statements of God’s will and are thus prophetic and creative, in we can understand from the Word of the Lord given to prophet Isaiah (Isa 55:11 – emphasis mine):
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
2. From the principles of Genesis 1 the power of divine and human speech is creative, . The presence of Holy Spirit is necessary to bring about a divinely created manifestation. A Hebrew understanding of ‘over’, or ‘hovering’, in Genesis 1:2 is that Holy Spirit was next to or immediately adjoining what was about to be acted upon – all that was required to start the process was a spoken word.
Therefore, when Gabriel spoke to Zacharias the combined action of his words and the Holy Spirit fully rejuvenated his wife’s body. She was no longer barren but could carry and bring a child to birth normally. And even in her womb Holy Spirit was present to make baby John respond to the sound of Jesus’ mother’s voice!! (Luke 1:39-41)
The same happened when Gabriel spoke to Mary. The ‘overshadowing’ power of the Most High that he referred to carries the same meaning as that of ‘hovering’ in Genesis. Being of the Holy Spirit, the same creative power that was ‘In the Beginning’ brought about an ‘immaculate’ conception after the angel’s prophetic announcement. That is, it would not happen until a decree, a spoken announcement, had been delivered and received. Once again Gabriel had spoken into Time – into the next nine months!
3. The creative application of Gabriel’s prophetic description of Jesus’ kingship and its relevance to a possible prophecy given to the late rabbi Kaduri warrants consideration in another post. Read about him meanwhile in Who are the Jewish people expecting?