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What happened before John the Baptist was born5 There was a man whose name was Zechariah. He lived when Herod was king of Judea. Zechariah was a priest and he belonged to a group of priests from the family of Abijah. He had a wife called Elizabeth. She also was from the family of the priest called Aaron. [a] [b] 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth obeyed God all the time. They obeyed God's rules and they did not do wrong things. They lived in a way that pleased God. 7 But they had no children. Elizabeth could not have a baby and they were both getting old. [c] 8 One day, Zechariah's group was working at God's Great House . He had a special job to do there. 9 The priests chose one of their group to go into a special room inside God's Great House . This time they chose Zechariah. His job was to burn incense there. [d] 10 While Zechariah was burning incense in the special room, many men were outside in the yard. They were praying to God. [e] 11 The incense was burning on a special altar , when one of God's angels appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right hand side of the altar . [f] 12 When Zechariah saw the angel , he was very surprised and very afraid. 13 The angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid. God has heard what you prayed. He will give you what you asked for. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a baby boy. You will call him John. 14-15 He will be very important to the Lord God. So, he will make you very happy. Many other people will also be very happy because he has been born. He must never drink anything with alcohol in it. From the time that he is born, the Holy Spirit will live inside him. 16 He will teach many people in Israel . Then they will turn their lives back to the Lord their God and they will obey God again. 17 John will prepare the people for the Lord to come to them. The Holy Spirit will lead John as he led Elijah. John will do powerful things as Elijah did. He will help fathers to love their children. He will teach people who do not obey God. Then they will know what things are right. And they will do them. Then they will be ready when the Lord comes.’ [g] [h] 18 Zechariah asked the angel , ‘How can I be sure about this? You know that I am an old man. My wife is also old.’ 19 The angel answered, ‘I am called Gabriel. My place is to stand in front of God. I am always ready to work for God. He has sent me to speak to you. He told me that I should tell you this good news. 20 Now listen to me. Because you did not believe my message, you will not be able to speak. You will not speak again until the time that your son is born. My message will really become true at the right time.’ 21 While this was happening, the people outside were waiting for Zechariah. They were thinking, ‘Why has Zechariah stayed for such a long time in the special room? Why has he not come out yet?’ 22 When he did come out, he tried to talk to them. But he could not speak. So they knew that God had showed him something special in the room. He was moving his head and his hands about, to tell them what had happened. But still he could not speak. 23 When Zechariah had finished his work in God's Great House , he returned home. 24 Soon, a baby was growing inside his wife Elizabeth. She stayed in her house for five months. 25 ‘The Lord has now given me a baby,’ she said. ‘He has been kind to me. Because of this, other people cannot say bad things about me now.’
- [a]1:5 This Herod was called Herod the Great. He was king in Judea from the year 37 BC to the year 4 BC .
- [b]1:5 A priest is a special servant of God. He worked at the Jewish meeting place or at God's Great House in Jerusalem. All the priests came from the family of Aaron. He was the brother of Moses. They both lived a long time before Jesus. We can read about Aaron in the book called Exodus. There were 24 groups of priests . One group at a time worked in God's Great House . Every group had a name. Zechariah was in the group of Abijah.
- [c]1:7 At that time, people without children thought that God was angry with them. Elizabeth and Zechariah would have felt very sad because they had no children.
- [d]1:9 They did a special thing to know who would go into the room. It was something like a game that we play. But it was serious and important.
- [e]1:10 The Jews made incense from special sticky liquid that they got from certain kinds of trees. It makes a sweet smell when it burns. They used it in God's Great House . They burnt incense in God's house while they prayed. God had said in his rules that they should do this.
- [f]1:11 An angel is a servant of God that brings his messages. The ‘right hand side’ means the place of importance.
- [g]1:17 God chose Elijah to speak for him. The Holy Spirit showed him what to say. Elijah gave special messages from God to his people. He taught them to stop doing the things that God did not like. He told them that they should obey God. We can read about Elijah in 1 Kings 13.
- [h]1:17 The people of Israel came from the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their children. We call them Jews. God chose them as his special people. He gave the name Israel to Jacob. We can read about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the book called Genesis.