The darkest 400 years of Israel’s history have just passed. God had not spoken to His people during that time, and we do not have any written records of the Holy Spirit descending or filling any one person in Israel.
Luke is the New Testament evangelist that gives us the most detailed account of the miraculous events that broke this 400 year silence.
The appearance of the angel Gabriel during Zechariah’s service in the Temple is the first in a series of supernatural events heralding the birth of Christ. Zechariah’s shock and disbelief is evidence that he personally has not encountered such an event before, and the same goes for his colleagues, given the long inter-testamental silence.
This was the beginning of the most amazing work that God has ever performed on earth up to that point.
These are the first words from God through Gabriel, words that broke the spiritual darkness surrounding the land: “Do not be afraid…” (Luke 1:13). And it is a fitting message given the awesome display of the work of the Holy Spirit that is about to begin in Israel.
But for me the most intriguing part of Luke 1 is the way the angel identifies himself and his job…
Imagine having a casual conversation with someone you met for the first time. Their name and occupation is usually one of the first things we address in an attempt to find some common ground with them.
Zechariah finally gets to that point in the conversation with Gabriel… a point of shock… a point of awe. Gabriel introduces himself and his occupation: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19).
My dear reader, you and I cannot comprehend what this means. There is no common ground here between a mortal man who has not yet been glorified, and Gabriel whose job is to literally stand in the presence of God and to serve God as His messenger.
Reading the account of this magnificent event and absorbing the stunning statement “I stand in the presence of God” is revealing and humbling at the same time. Knowing what we know about God from Scripture, how can someone assert such a claim? The only explanation is that Gabriel is an angel of indescribable holiness, faithfulness and responsibility. To be able to serve God face-to-face in His presence is unbearable and unfathomable for the human mind while here on earth.
But the children of God saved through the precious blood of Jesus should get used to this concept rather quickly. The Bible speaks of our glorification in the presence of God. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Just like Gabriel, we will spend an eternal lifetime standing in the presence of God. Only then will we find common ground in conversation with Gabriel and the hosts of heaven.