Story One

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
AT the time when the story of the New Testament began, the land of Ĭś̝ ra-el, called also the land of Jū-dé ȧ, was ruled by a king named Hĕŕ od. He was the first of several Hĕŕ ods, who at different times ruled either the whole of the land, or parts of it.
But Hĕŕ od was not the highest ruler. Many years before this time, the Rṓ mans, who came from the city of Rome in Italy, had won all the lands around the Great Sea, the sea which we call the Med-ĭ-ter-rā́ nē-an; and above King Hĕŕ od of Jū-dḗ ȧ was the great king at Rome, who was called "Emperor," ruling over all the lands, and over the land of Jū-dḗ ȧ among them. So Hĕŕ od, though king of Jū-dḗ ȧ, obeyed his over-lord, the emperor at Rome. At the time when this story began, the emperor at Rome was named A̤u-gŭś tus Cǽ s̝ar.
At this time the land where the Jews lived was full of people. Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm was its largest city, and in Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm was standing the Temple of the Lord, which King Hĕŕ od had begun to build anew, taking the place of the old Temple built in the time of Zē̇-rub́̄ ba-bĕl, which had long needed repair. There were also many other large cities besides Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm. In the south was Hḗ bron, among the mountains; on the shore of the Great Sea were Gā́ zȧ, and Jŏṕ pȧ, and Cæs-a-rḗ a. In the middle of the land were Shḗ chem and Sā̇-mā́ rĭ-a; and in the north were Năź a-rĕth and Cā́ nȧ; down by the shore of the Sea of Găĺ-ĭ-lee were Tī-bḗ rĭ-as, and Ca-pe͂ŕ na-ŭm, and Bĕth-sā́ ĭ-dȧ. Far up in the north, at the foot of snowy Mount Hḗ bron, was another Cæs-a-rḗ a; but so that it might not be confused with Cæs-a-rḗ a upon the sea-coast, this city was called Cæs-a-rḗ ȧ-Phĭ-lĭṕ pī, or "Phĭĺ ip's Cæs-a-rḗ ȧ," from the name of one of Hĕŕ od's sons.
One day, an old priest named Zăch-a-rī́ as was leading the service of worship in the Temple. He was standing in front of the golden altar of incense, in the Holy Place, and was holding in his hand a censor or cup full of burning coals and incense; while all the people were worshipping in the court of the Temple, outside the court of the priests, where the great altar of burnt-offering stood.
Suddenly Zăch-a-rī́ as saw an angel from the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He felt a great fear when he saw this strange being, with shining face; but the angel said to him:
"Do not be afraid, Zăch-a-rī́ as; for I have come from the Lord to bring you good news. Your wife Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth shall have a son, and you shall name him Jŏhn. You shall be made glad, for your son Jŏhn shall being joy and gladness to many. He shall be great in the sight of the Lord; and he shall never taste wine nor strong drink as long as he lives; but he shall be filled with God's Holy Spirit. He shall lead many of the people of Ĭś̝ ra-el to the Lord, for he shall go before the Lord in the power of Ē̇-lī́ jah the prophet, as was promised by Măĺ a-chī, the last of the old prophets (see the last Story). He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and those who are disobeying the Lord to do his will.”
As Zăch-a-rī́ as heard these words, he was filled with wonder, and could hardly believe them true. He was now an old man, and his wife Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth was also old; so that they could not expect to have a child. He said to the angel.
"How shall I know that your words are true, for I am an old man, and my wife is old?”
"I am Gā́ brĭ-el, that stand in the presence of God," said the angel, "and I was sent from the Lord to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. But because you did not believe my words, you shall become dumb, and shall not be able to speak until this which I have said comes to pass.”
All this time, the people outside, in the court, were wondering why the priest stayed so long in the Temple. When at last he came out, they found that he could not speak a word; but he made signs to them, to tell them that he had seen a vision in the Temple.
After the days of his service were over, Zăch-a-rī́ as went to his own home, which was near Hḗ bron, a city of the priests, among the mountains in the south of Jū-dḗ ȧ. When his wife Ē̇-liś̝ a-bĕth found that God was soon to give her a child, she was very happy, End praised the Lord. About six months after Zăch-a-rī́ as saw the vision in the Temple, the same angel Gā́ brĭ-el was sent from the Lord to a city in the part of the land called Găĺ ĭ-lee, which was in the north. The city to which the angel was sent was Năź a-rĕth.
There the angel found a young girl named Mā́ ry̆, who was a cousin to Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth. Mā́ ry̆ was soon to be married to a good man who had sprung from the line of King Dā́ vid, though he was not himself a king, or a rich man. He was a carpenter or wood-worker, living in Năź a-rĕth, and his name was Jṓ s̝eph. The angel came into the room where Mā́ ry̆ was, and said to her:
"Hail, woman favored by the Lord; the Lord is with you!" Mā́ ry̆ was surprised at the angel's words, and wondered what they could mean. Then the angel spoke again, and said:
"Do not be afraid, Mā́ ry̆. The Lord has given to you his favor, and has chosen you to be the mother of a son whose name shall be Jesus, which means 'salvation,' because he shall save his people from their sins. He shall be great; and shall be called the Son of God; and the Lord shall give to him the throne of his father Dā́ vid. He shall be a king; and shall reign over the people of God forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
But Mā́ ry̆ could not see how all this was to come to pass. And the angel said to her:
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High God shall be over you; and the holy child which you shall have shall be called the Son of God.”
Then the angel told Mā́ ry̆ that her cousin Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth was soon to have a child, through the power of the Lord. And when Mā́ ry̆ heard all this she said, "I am the servant of the Lord, to do his will. Let it be to me as you have said.”
When the angel had given his message and had gone away, Mā́ ry̆ rose up in haste, and made a journey to the home of Zăch-a-rī́ as and E-lĭś̝ a-bĕth, eighty miles away in the south country. When E-lĭś̝ a-bĕth saw Mā́ ry̆, she was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed among men shall be your son! And why is it that the mother of my Lord comes to visit me? Blessed is the woman who believed that the promise of the Lord to her shall be made true!”
Then Mā́ ry̆ was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and broke out into a song of praise. She stayed with Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth for nearly three months, and then went again to her own home at Năź a-rĕth.
As the angel had said, to the aged woman Ē̇-lĭś̝ a-bĕth was given a son. They were going to name him Zăch-a-rī́ as, after his father. But his mother said, "No, his name shall be Ran.”
"Why," they said, "none of your family have ever been named John.”
They asked his father Zăch-a-rī́ as, by signs, what name he wished to be given to the child. He asked for something to write upon; and when they brought it, he wrote, "His name is Jŏhn.”
Then all at once the power to hear and to speak came back to Zăch-a-rī́as. He spoke, praising and blessing God; and he sang a song of thanks to God, in which he said:
"You, O child, shall be called a prophet of the Most High; to go before the Lord, and to make ready his ways.”
When Jŏhn was growing up, they sent him out into the desert on the south of the land, and there he stayed until the time came for him to preach to the people, for this child became the great prophet Jŏhn the Băṕ tĭst.
Lesson 1. The Angel by the Altar and in Nazareth.
(Tell Story 1 of Part 6, in "Hurlbut's Story of the Bible.")
1. What angel was sent by God to Jerusalem? The angel Gabriel.
2. To whom was the angel Gabriel sent? To a priest named Zacharias.
3. What did the angel tell Zacharias? That his wife should have a son.
4. What was the name of the wife of Zacharias? Elisabeth.
5. What name was to be given to this son promised to Zacharias and Elisabeth? The name of John.
6. For what did the angel say that John, when he grew up, should make the people ready? For the coming of the Lord.
7. To what city was the angel Gabriel sent after this? To the city of Nazareth.
8. To whom did the angel speak in Nazareth? To a young woman named Mary.
9. What did the angel tell Mary? That she should have a son.
10. What name was to be given to her son? The name Jesus.
11. Where did John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, live while he was a boy? In the desert.