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 Sermon Date: Dec. 5, 2010

Sermon Title: God’s Hope For Your Home

Sermon Text: Luke 1:8-20

Small Group Text: Luke 1:8-23 CATCH GOD’S EYE Live in such a way that God can honor your prayers But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. Psalm 33:18 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; Psalm 34:15 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Peter 3:12 Luke 1:5-6 Zachariah (meaning, Remembered of Jehovah) and whose oath is to God) were notably honorable and upright

his wife, Elizabeth (meaning, One people (Greek, dikaioi, “righteous”). The outward expression of their commitment to God was marked by humble submission to the Scriptures – seeking to please the Lord in everything. Not satisfied with merely looking religious; like the spiritual leaders of their day (whom Jesus called hypocrites), this couple’s obedience to the Lord was from the heart and hence, Luke refers to them as “upright in the sight of God.” In fact, the terms Luke uses to describe Zechariah and Elizabeth are the same words the Old Testament used for other righteous people such as Noah (Genesis 6:9), Abraham (Genesis 17:1) and Job (Job 1:1). None of these people were perfect – by any means. But their hearts were bent toward pleasing the Lord – steering clear of knowingly offending Him. Nevertheless, being righteous did not exempt Zachariah and Elizabeth from heartbreak. It’s a fact of life: even good people face hardships. For this couple, the heartbreak was infertility. But somehow, through it all, they remained faithful to God; and miraculously the presence and power of God was brought to bear to help them through their trouble. Luke 1:7 Describing the spiritual character of this couple is an important part of Luke’s Gospel as he exposes the fallacy of a customary assumption of his day; i.e., that infertility was a divine judgment for incurring the displeasure of God; and of course, people would assume “the worst” of sins. Well along in years and beyond child-bearing age, her barrenness was a constant embarrassment to Elizabeth (1:25). Not only was this perceived as a social disgrace, but to arrive at old age childless was a forecast of being left destitute without help and support. CONSIDER GOD’S PROVIDENCE Recognize God’s hand in the smallest of “chance” happenings Luke 1:8-10 Though not every life-event carries the same weight, there is no such thing as an insignificant occurrence. Everything matters! Zachariah descended from the priestly line of Aaron – a heritage that went back almost 1,500 years to the time of Moses. All male descendants of Aaron were priests which, by the time of Luke’s gospel, constituted over twenty thousand men commissioned to work in only one temple in Jerusalem. To manage such a great number, priests had been divided into twenty-four groups (1 Chron. 24:1-6), each group performing temple duties for 


one week, twice a year. Temple worship included tasks ranging from menial and tedious to the very public and honorable. Obviously, there were more priests and Levites than necessary for any one particular function. And so, during their times of temple service, priests were assigned jobs by the casting of lots (not all that dissimilar from drawing straws). Only a few priests would ever have the privilege of performing the most honorable temple rituals – and even then, once in a lifetime. Every day, mornings and evenings, a series of sacrifices were made for the whole nation: 1. A burnt offering of a year old, perfectly formed male lamb 2. A grain offering of flour and oil 3. A drink offering of wine In addition to these sacrifices, incense was burned on a smaller altar (Exodus 30) positioned out of public view inside the tabernacle, just before the ark of the covenant. The smoke of this burning incense signified: That the daily sacrifices were going up to the Lord engulfed in a sweet-smelling aroma. • That the prayerful petitions of men and women gathered in the outer temple courts were rising up before God’s heavenly throne of grace. Luke records that on this particular day the coveted privilege of burning incense fell to Zechariah. Was this by chance, coincidence, luck? Hardly. Even the casting of lots revealed God’s purposes for Zechariah’s family, for God’s people, and for the whole world. Here’s a thought: Zachariah was a good and godly man. Chosen and ordained by God to be a priest (one of thousands), he accepted his position and dedicated himself to faithfully serving the Lord despite his disappointments and heartache. All the while, the Lord had been working out every detail of his life for the accomplishment of God’s good and perfect will (see Romans 8:28). •

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

CONTINUE TO PRAY Persevere in prayer with full confidence that God will accomplish His purposes Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 1 Chron. 16:11 He will call upon me, and I (God) will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Psalm 91:15

The spiritual practice of prayer seems to be at the heart of this story. As the people offered their daily prayers in the outer courts, Zachariah’s temple service was accompanied by his own petitions. (Luke 1:13) For what was Zechariah praying? The Scripture does not say. But presumably, given Luke’s context, Zechariah’s prayer may have been twofold: 1. That God would ease the pain of his and Elizabeth’s longstanding disappointment – remaining childless into their elder years. 2. That God would redeem (deliver) His people (Israel) from their sins and oppression through the coming of the long-anticipated Messiah. And then suddenly, in a single moment, God folded both prayers together bringing His eternal purposes to light. The angel, Gabriel, appeared to announce the birth of a son to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were to name him, John (meaning, God has been gracious). And John would serve as the prophesied forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 4:5-6). Note the exact words of the Scripture: “your prayer has been heard.” 
 Luke 1:11-17

But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. [14] He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, [15] for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. [16] Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. [17] And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13-17

Here’s a thought: Is it possible that God favored and blessed Zechariah and Elizabeth richly because of their faithfulness to Him? “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God [22] and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22

CURB YOUR UNBELIEF Trust the Lord to accomplish all that He has promised in His Word Luke 1:18-23 Looking only to the natural course of events, Zacharias’ faith was challenged beyond it’s capacity to comprehend Gabriel’s message. After all, Elizabeth’s childbearing age was long past: "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." A promise from God, revealed supernaturally through an angelic messenger, should have tipped Zacharias’ faith toward radical belief – but it didn’t. Instead, He requested additional assurances. One can almost feel the indignation of God’s angelic messenger. As if to add weight to the truthfulness of his prophecy, Gabriel presents an abbreviated resume: The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. Luke 1:19

Gabriel (meaning, the man/hero/mighty one of God) clarifies his identity: 1. He is one of the angels who actually stands in the presence of God – indicating he was highly-honored or favored – permitted to come near to God and experience His glory up close and personal. 2. He is God’s selected messenger who brings good news to men. Side note: This is the same angel who… a. Shared the restoration of Israel with Daniel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21f). b. Shared the birth of the Messiah with Mary (Luke 1:26f). A note on angels The Scriptures say little about the specific nature of angels other than to note they are intelligent spirits (Heb. 1:14) created and employed by God to carry out His purpose of redemption on earth. In fact, though referred to by other names (“sons of God,” “holy ones,” and “heavenly host”), the name, angel (Greek, angelos) simply refers to their task: “messenger.” There are “thousand upon thousands” of them (Daniel 7:10; Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13; Hebrews 12:22-23) organized into differing ranks of dignity and power (Daniel 10:13; 12:1; 1 Thes. 4:16; Jude 1:9; Ephes. 1:21; Col. 1:16). Their work, as far as can be known, includes: 1. Conveying God’s message to humans 2. Worshipping God through service and praise 3. Attending the throne of God – heralding His grandeur, power, supreme authority and mighty acts 4. Performing military-like acts against evil on earth 5. Assisting God’s people in both evident and undisclosed ways All things considered, it would not be a far stretch to imagine Gabriel’s patience being stretched a bit by Zechariah’s unwillingness to accept God’s message of grace. Luke does not indicate the extent of Zechariah’s unbelief; but it was sufficient to cause Gabriel to punctuate the request for a sign by assigning to Zechariah the inability to speak. For the 


next nine months, Zechariah’s inability to utter a word would prove the reality of Gabriel’s message. (Read the first words Zechariah uttered when his speech was restored at John’s birth in Luke 1:67-79.)

The priestly function of burning incense on the altar of incense was usually short work, after which the priest would emerge to meet two other priests waiting outside the doors. A benediction upon the gathered people would then be in order (Numbers 6:24-26). Any delay in the priest’s exit from the altar of incense could indicate trouble. For if the priest had acted unfaithfully in his temple service, it may have cost him his life. When Zechariah was delayed, the people became worried and restless. But when he finally did emerge, the people suspected that something out of the ordinary had detained him. He had come out different from when he went in. Zechariah had been in the presence of God and seen a vision. All he could do was dismiss the people through gesturing. In this one account, numerous lessons abound; but certainly two number among the most apparent: 1. God is trustworthy and honors the persistent prayers of his faithful people 2. God will always fulfill the promises He has made – in accordance with His divine and perfect timing Stay faithful and keep praying!


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