When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the division of priests named after Abijah. Zechariah's wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had God's approval. They followed all the Lord's commands and regulations perfectly.
Yet, they never had any children because Elizabeth couldn't become pregnant. Both of them were too old to have children.
Zechariah was on duty with his division of priests. As he served in God's presence,
he was chosen by priestly custom to go into the Lord's temple to burn incense.
All the people were praying outside while he was burning incense.
Then, to the right of the incense altar, an angel of the Lord appeared to him.
Zechariah was troubled and overcome with fear.
The angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.
He will be your pride and joy, and many people will be glad that he was born.
As far as the Lord is concerned, he will be a great man. He will never drink wine or any other liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
He will bring many people in Israel back to the Lord their God.
He will go ahead of the Lord with the spirit and power that Elijah had. He will change parents' attitudes toward their children. He will change disobedient people so that they will accept the wisdom of those who have God's approval. In this way he will prepare the people for their Lord."
Zechariah said to the angel, "What proof is there for this? I'm an old man, and my wife is beyond her childbearing years."
The angel answered him, "I'm Gabriel! I stand in God's presence. God sent me to tell you this good news.
But because you didn't believe what I said, you will be unable to talk until the day this happens. Everything will come true at the right time."
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah. They were amazed that he was staying in the temple so long.
When he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. So they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. He motioned to them but remained unable to talk.
When the days of his service were over, he went home.
Later, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and didn't go out in public for five months. She said,
"The Lord has done this for me now. He has removed my public disgrace."