The following lesson was adapted for a small group of children age 5-10. The students discover that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous and blameless before God in a time that God had been silent for 400 years. Believers can trust God to keep all His promises and obey Him as they wait for His promises to be fulfilled.
Bible Passage: Luke 1:5-25, See also Malachi 3:1-4
Bible Story Title: John the Baptist’s birth is predicted
Target Age Group: Ages 5-11 (K-5th Grade U.S.A.)
Target Time Frame: 60 Minutes
Original Teaching Context: Sunday School
Supply List: Bibles, Activity pages, pens/crayons, charade index cards, diagram of Herod’s temple,
Learning Goal: Students will learn that believers should continue to read, study and obey God’s Word as they wait for Him to fulfill His promises.
Learning Activity #1: Charades (On index cards write statements about God’s future promises. Here are some examples we used: Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11), Jesus will wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4), Jesus will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16), Jesus will ride a white horse, fight His enemies and win the war (Rev. 19:11-21), Jesus is coming in the clouds (Acts 1:11, Rev. 1:7), Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for all who believe in Him (John 14:2-3)
Learning Activity #2: Activity pages
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Luke 1:76-77 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins,”
Bible Lesson: John the Baptist’s birth is predicted
(Begin with prayer)
The last time we met together we learned from the Book of Malachi. Malachi’s message to God’s people was that He loved them very much and yet He was very disappointed in how they had turned away from Him. They weren’t giving Him the best offerings as He required but were giving Him blind and sick animals for their sacrifice. The priests were not teaching the people God’s truth and the people were robbing God by not bringing their tithes and offerings to Him. God promised that He was going to send a messenger that would prepare the way for the Messiah and that the day of His judgment was coming. Malachi was the last prophet that God sent to His people. 400 years passed and God’s people did not hear from Him.
During those 400 years how would God’s people know how to live to please Him? (Allow answers) (Hold your Bible up in your hands) God had given His people 39 books, the section of our Bible we call the Old Testament. In these 39 books God had given His people His promises, His laws and how to live a life that pleased Him.
Every year that passed and God didn’t send another messenger to the Jewish people they had a choice, to trust and obey what God had already told them or turn away from Him. This is true for all of us today. It has been over 2000 years since Jesus came to the earth, died on the cross, was buried and rose again. How are we supposed to live our lives to please God when so much time has passed and Jesus has not returned to take His followers home? By believing and obeying what we do know from the Bible. We have both the Old and New Testament to read, study and obey until Jesus comes back or takes us to heaven when we die.
With this in mind we are going to turn to Luke 1. How long had it been since God had sent a messenger (prophet) to His people? (400 years)
Zechariah and Elizabeth-God’s faithful (Luke 1:5-7)
In Luke 1:5 we are introduced to a couple Zechariah and Elizabeth. Let’s discover some details about this couple from Scripture. Let’s read Luke 1:5-7. (Zechariah was a priest, both were righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord, had no child, advanced in years-old)
Is it possible to continue to trust and obey God even when it seems like He is silent? (Yes) How long had God been silent with His people? (400 years) How do you think Zechariah and Elizabeth knew how to live righteous before God and walk blamelessly? (Zechariah was a priest and must have been taught the truth about God’s Word and he and Elizabeth trusted and obeyed God)
Zechariah serves in the temple (Luke 1:8-10)
It was Zechariah’s turn to serve as a priest in the temple. His job was to enter the temple (show a diagram of the temple and point out the altar of incense) and burn incense on the altar. Let’s read Luke 1:10. What were the people doing outside the temple while Zechariah was serving inside? (Praying)
What do you think the people might be praying for? (Answers will vary-God to send the promised Messiah)
Gabriel’s message to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-17)
While Zechariah was burning incense an angel of the Lord stood on the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled and very afraid. Choose a volunteer to read Luke 1:13.
The angel told Zechariah that their prayers were heard and they would have a baby boy and they would call him John. Many people will rejoice at his birth. John would be great before the Lord. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit even while he was in Elizabeth’s womb.
Read Luke 1:16-17. “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
The angel of the Lord spoke words that Malachi said 400 years ago. Malachi 3:1a “Behold, I send My messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me. Malachi 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Zechariah’s unbelief (Luke 1:18-20)
Zechariah and Elizabeth must have prayed and prayed to have a child and when they became old may have felt that they would never have a child. God hears and answers prayer. He answers yes, no, or wait. God heard all of their prayers and saw their tears of disappointment each year that passed without a child. God’s answer for most of their married life seemed to be “no” that they would ever have a child.
The angel’s message from God was that they would have a baby and he would be the one that was predicted to come and prepare the way for the Messiah. Zechariah didn’t believe that it was possible because they were old, too old to have babies.
Because Zechariah didn’t believe the message from the mouth of an angel sent by God, Gabriel told him he would be silent until the child’s birth.
Zechariah was a priest. He knew God’s Word. He knew God’s promises. Surely he knew that Abraham and Sarah had a baby when they were old. Nothing is impossible with God. (Mark 10:27) Priests are given a big responsibility to know God’s word and teach it to His people. To those who God gives much, much is required. (Luke 12:48)
- Followers of Christ know the Good News. We are priests. We are called to go into the world and share the Good News with others. Do we believe and obey what God tells us in His Word or are we like Zechariah who did not believe the angel’s message? (1 Pet. 2:5)
Elizabeth conceives (Luke 1:21-25)
The people outside the temple began to wonder why it was taking Zechariah so long to come out of the temple. When he came out of the temple he began making hand gestures to them. They realized that he must have had a vision in the temple. (Choose a volunteer who can pretend to be Zechariah and act out without speaking what happened in the temple) He tried to explain through hand motions what had happened in the temple. We don’t know if the people could understand but no matter how hard Zechariah tried he could not say a word. After his time to serve at the temple was complete, he and Elizabeth went home. God kept His promise to Zechariah and Elizabeth became pregnant.
God had predicted the birth of John the Baptist many years before it took place. The name John the Baptist is not written anywhere in the Old Testament. Knowing what God said about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah was so important to understanding that God was about to fulfill His promise and get His people ready to meet His promised Savior.
Closing: Today we have a complete copy of God’s Word. In His Word we learn that man sinned against God. The punishment for sin is death. God promised that He would send a Savior who would take away our sins. God kept His promise and sent Jesus. Jesus came to earth as a baby born to Mary. He was fully God and fully man. He obeyed God His Father and never sinned. He was nailed to a cross, shed His blood and suffered as the perfect sacrifice. He was buried and God raised Him from the dead three days later. All who believe by faith in Jesus for His sacrifice for our sins are forgiven and receive eternal life. The moment a person believes, the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside his/her heart. The Holy Spirit gives each follower of Christ wisdom to understand God’s Word and power to obey. Believers are waiting for Jesus to come back as He promised. While we wait let’s be faithful to trust and obey what we know God has told us from His Word.
(Close in prayer)
Review Question activity: The questions are multiple choice. Read questions and have students hold up 1 finger for A, 2 fingers for B and 3 fingers for C answers.
Closing Activity: God’s promises charades
- After God sent Malachi to speak to His people, how long was He silent? A) 40 years B) 400 years C) 4000 years
- Where did Zechariah work? A) Temple B) Bread shop C) Candle shop
- What answer best describes Zechariah and Elizabeth? A) Young and hardworking B) Old and sad C) Old and righteous
- What happened while Zechariah was in the temple? A) An angel appeared B) Earthquake C) Nothing
- What was Gabriel’s message? A) God is going to destroy the temple B) God is going to give Zechariah and Elizabeth a son C) God is going to punish the wicked
- Why did Gabriel say Zechariah would be silent? A) Zechariah interrupted him while he spoke B) Zechariah fell asleep during Gabriel’s message C) He didn’t believe Gabriel’s message
- How often should followers of Jesus read, study and obey God’s Word? A) Rarely B) Never C) Regularly