Promises, Promises

Posted: April 24, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 1:5-25, “Promises, Promises”

Promises, promises.  Some are simple; some are important.  Some are like pie-crusts: easily made, easily broken.  Others are firm enough to stand the test of time.  As humans, we have difficult times when it comes to promises, simply because we cannot make any true guarantees.  If we take out a loan with the promise to repay, we might have the best of intentions to do so, but we have no guarantee of waking up tomorrow – much less staying alive long enough to satisfy our debt.  It may be morbid, but it’s the fact.  God, on the other hand, has no such difficulty.  When God makes a promise, He not only has the intentions to fulfill it…He has the ability to do so as well.  As Dwight Moody is reported to have said, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.”  He has the ability to keep every promise ever made.

God made promises to the Jewish people, as well as to all humanity, when He gave prophecies concerning the Messiah.  All the way back to Abraham, God spoke of giving him a nation of descendants from which would come a blessing to all the earth (Gen 12:3).  Back even further to the Garden of Eden, God promised to give a specific Person (the Seed of the Woman) who would crush the head of Satan & reverse the curse brought on by sin (Gen 3:15).  Those promises may have been given long ago, but they are valid.  God does not forget His promises; He keeps every single one.

As Luke began his gospel, he promised to give an accurate, orderly account of the events surrounding Jesus, in order that his reader (Theophilus) would have the assurance that it was all true.  IOW, Luke promised to give an accurate history.  To do that, he has to go back to the very beginning, which means he even has to go back a little further than we might expect.  Jesus’ earthly ministry doesn’t begin the moment He is implanted into the womb of Mary – it actually begins a few months earlier when His relatives become pregnant with His older cousin John.  As the Messiah, Jesus had an announcer – a herald to the King – an ancient PR man: John the Baptist.  And just like Jesus came from a miraculous pregnancy, so did John.  Only Jesus was born of a virgin, but John was also born from what would have seemed to have been an impossible circumstance, as he had parents not only elderly, but barren.  But John’s parents sought the Lord, and the Lord heard them.  When He did, God answered not only the prayers of Zacharias & Elizabeth, but the entire Jewish nation.  They sought a Messiah, and God would give Him, who would be announced by this herald.  Believe the promises of God…He is able to keep every single one!

Luke 1:5–25

  • The people of promise (5-7)

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

  • We mentioned in our study of the prologue that Luke is a consummate historian, and he is.  Yet here, we don’t see too many details about the date – just a general reference to “the days of Herod.”  Most of Luke’s details are reserved for the Messiah Himself, which makes sense.  As he did his research here, he was told the recollections of Zacharias and Elizabeth (providing they were still alive – most likely, it was from people who knew them well), and they gave what details they knew.  FYI, this Herod was Herod the Great, someone who is featured more prominently in Matthew’s telling of the gospel.  Although Luke often writes of the Herodian family/dynasty, this is his only mention of Herod the Great.  Although he was technically “the king of Judea,” he was not of the lineage of David.  This was a political title granted to him by Rome, and the title wasn’t guaranteed to any of his children.
  • For Luke, evil king Herod I isn’t the issue; he’s just the background setting.  The real story lay with Zacharias, who was full-blooded priest in the line of Aaron (by his own lineage & by his marriage).  Zacharias was able to trace his ancestry back to Abjiah, of whom we know nothing as a priest, other than the fact that he was a priest – specifically one that was named in the records of the Jewish people when they returned from Babylonian captivity (1 Chr 24:10, Neh 12:4).  Of the men of the tribe of Levi who had gone to Babylon, only those with proven bloodlines were able to serve in their duties once they returned to the land.  That was necessary in order to preserve the purity of the priesthood.  (Which serves as a picture of the fact that only those who truly belong to Jesus by faith are part of the priesthood of believers.  If we’re not born into the family of God by faith, we have no access to His promise of salvation.)
  • Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth are aptly named for what they were destined by God to experience.  Though they had no way of knowing it, God intended to keep His promise of the Messiah and (specifically) the Messiah’s forerunner through them.  Zacharias = Zachariah (זכר’ה ) = “God remembers.”  Elizabeth = Eli-sheba (אל’שבע ) = “My God swears an oath” or “My God is the one by whom to swear.”  God remembers His promises, and what He swears, He performs.  It is impossible for Him to lie, so we can take Him at His word!

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

  • Their names said that God remembered them, but they must have felt forgotten.  However long they had been married, they had been childless.  Over the years, Elizabeth was found to be barren, and she eventually passed the age of childbearing.  Keep in mind, that in the eyes of the culture, this was degrading.  Elizabeth would have been viewed as less than a woman, and Zacharias less than a man, due to their lack of children.  Not only did Zacharias lack an heir, but he might have even been thought of as being under God’s punishment.  There must have been something one (or both) of them did wrong in order for God to withhold children from them.
  • Yet we know that wasn’t the case.  This wasn’t a case of God’s discipline, for these two people were faithful.  They were “righteous [and] blameless.”  Obviously they weren’t perfectly sinless, as only Jesus is without sin.  According to the standard of perfection, no one is truly good (perfectly righteous) except God (Mt 19:17).  But that’s not what Luke was referencing.  Here, Luke was using the typical standard of the day: the righteousness according to men, or according to the tradition of men.  Even Paul, while knowing the utter lack of righteousness he had without Christ, could write of himself that he was blameless concerning the righteousness found in the law (Phil 3:6).  No one can keep the law perfectly, but according to how people can keep some parts of the law as judged by human standards, some people do better than others.  That’s all Luke is saying here regarding Zacharias and Elizabeth.  As people go, these were really good folks.  They were a good Jewish couple who loved the Lord God and tried to always do the right thing.  And yet they were barren.
  • Faithfulness does not guarantee physical blessing.  Obedience does not guarantee prosperity.  Granted, Zacharias and Elizabeth would soon have a son of their own after all these years, but they mourned the lack of children for most of their lives.  According to Luke’s description of them, many would think that if anyone would be “blessed” by God, it would have been them.  We’ve got to change our idea of “blessing.”  We make blessing equivalent with health, wealth, and prosperity – and there’s no doubt that God can and sometimes does increase those things.  Those are good gifts, and every good gift comes from God (Jas 1:17).  But those are not the only ways that God blesses us.  If those things are withheld from us, it doesn’t mean that God has forgotten us or doesn’t love us or is punishing us.  Many Godly people have suffered tremendously through the years who were not punished or forgotten by God.  They suffered simply because they (like we) live in a fallen world.  They suffered because they shared in the sufferings of Jesus.  Jesus suffered immensely, and He was perfectly obedient to God – something which none of us can ever claim.  If HE suffered, surely we can expect times of suffering as well.  TV preachers and others who promise a life of ease in exchange for obedience are promising a false gospel and they exchange the true blessing of God for a vile system of divine bribery.  (Don’t buy into it!)
  • Notice how Zacharias and Elizabeth responded to their circumstances of suffering: they remained obedient.  They didn’t change a thing.  They kept walking with the Lord, no matter what.  Those are hearts dedicated to the Lord!  They didn’t need material prosperity to bribe their obedience.  They were obedient simply because they loved God.  That’s the heart of worship the Lord God seeks.
  • The place of promise (8-12)

8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

  • Luke gives a bit of background here.  Because there were so many priestly descendants, even out of those verified to come from legitimate bloodlines after the Babylonian captivity, not everyone was able to serve the Lord at the temple (if at all).  This was an honor that would come only to a handful of people in their lifetimes.  Lots were used to determine who served when.  It was the fairest system available, and culturally was seen to give the choice back to the Sovereign God.  God chose His own priests, through the lots that were cast.
  • At this particular time, the lot fell to Zacharias, and he got the chance to serve.  What did he do?  His job at this time was to “burn incense” in the temple.  Basically, he was to pray.  Remember that there were two altars associated with the tabernacle/temple: the bronze altar of sacrifice (outside), and the golden altar of incense (inside).  One was used to seek atonement for the sin of the people – the other was used to seek favor with God and offer praise to His name.  As the incense would burn, the smoke would rise to heaven, and it pictured the prayers of the priest rising up to God.  While Zacharias prayed for the people, he also prayed for himself – the whole service being one of worship and praise.
    • We don’t need to burn incense in order to pray, but we do worship a God who welcomes our prayers!  When we go to God rightly (through Jesus Christ), then our prayers and praises are a sweet-smelling aroma to Him.  He wants us to pray – to spend time with Him, just like the ancient priests spent time in the presence of God.  Remember that in Christ, we are a royal priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:9).  This is our priestly service, and we do not have to wait for the lot to be cast in order for us to do it.  We can (and should!) offer praise and prayers to God at all times.  (So what are you waiting for?)

10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.

  • While Zacharias was inside, the people were outside.  Not only did his friends and family come out to help him celebrate the honor of serving, but seemingly a great “multitude” had gathered.  It makes sense, when we think about it.  After all, he (as the priest) was praying on their behalf.  They had a vested interest in knowing how the service went, and they were surely praying for him as he was praying for them. 
    • Thankfully for us, the only priest we have is Jesus.  We can go directly to Him with our prayers, and still have the assurance that He constantly prays for us (Heb 7:25).
  • The presence of the crowd has one added benefit: witnesses.  No one had a clue what was about to take place, but there would be immediate witnesses to the event.  They saw Zacharias enter the temple in one way; they would see him come out completely different.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

  • It was special enough for Zacharias to minister inside the temple (something most people would never get the opportunity to see).  While there, he received the surprise of his life!  While offering his prayers & incense, he saw “an angel of the Lord.”  Keep in mind, Zacharias was supposed to be alone.  Anyone inside would have caught his attention, but this one couldn’t be missed!  The angel was standing right beside the altar of incense, as if he was giving an immediate answer from the Lord regarding a prayer that had just been offered.
  • Zacharias saw the angel & feared…and rightly so.  No one needed to tell him this was an angel of God – he knew immediately, and his reaction was completely understandable.  No doubt a vision of a glorious heavenly messenger would be truly terrifying – especially in the temple.  Until the angel opened his mouth, Zacharias had no idea of this would be a message of comfort or of judgment.  That’s when the angel spoke up…
  • The promise made (13-17)

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

  • Zacharias didn’t have to be afraid.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, God heard his prayer.  Knowing that God heard him could give Zacharias supreme confidence.  No longer did he have to worry about judgment, for God only hears those whom He receives.  God hears the prayers of His people.  God hears the prayers of those who belong to Him.  People all over the world pray, but not everyone prays to the true God – and many pray not only to a false idea of God, but in ways that are abhorrent to God or with false selfish motives.  God is under no obligation to hear every prayer.  God is God, and hears the prayers He chooses to hear.  And God chooses to hear the prayers of His people.  He chooses to hear the prayers offered by those who worship Him in spirit and truth.  He chooses to hear the prayers of those who knowingly go to Him through Jesus Christ.  Zacharias prayed to God in the true worship of God that was available to him, and God had heard him (and the proof was in the fact that after seeing the angel, Zacharias didn’t drop dead!).
    • God hears us when we pray in spirit and truth through faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s not the precise words that we use – it’s not the physical posture that we take – it’s not any of those outward things.  What is the state of our heart?  Do we worship God as He has revealed Himself to all the world (i.e. through Jesus)?  If so, then we can have the grand assurance that He hears our prayers!  If not, we don’t.  Those who pray to the generic “Man upstairs” have no assurance of God hearing them.  Why would they?  If you want someone to take your phone call, you have to dial the right number on an actual telephone.  You can’t pick up your TV remote & punch in a bunch of numbers.  Yet that’s what many people do through false religion.  To talk with God, you have to approach Him rightly – and the only way to do so is through Jesus Christ.
  • Second, God not only heard his prayer, but answered it.  God would give him & Elizabeth a son.  After all these years, Zacharias’ beloved bride would bear a child, and his name was even chosen in advance for him.  John = Ιοαννης = Yohannan ( ‘וינן ) = “God is gracious.”  Amen!  God showed His great grace in answering prayer.  He gave them great favor in hearing their prayer and granting their request.  And God’s favor went further than Zacharias could yet comprehend.  Not only was God being gracious to him & his wife, but God was being gracious to the whole Jewish nation.  For Zacharias & Elizabeth, they would rejoice over their son.  For the Jews, they would rejoice at the start of the fulfillment of the Messianic promise.  The forerunner of the Messiah was being born, thus the time for the Messiah was at hand!  God was keeping His promise!
    • We can rejoice in the promises of God, for He keeps them!  Through Jesus, we have the promise of forgiveness, of resurrection, of eternal life, and much more.  These aren’t imaginary pipe-dreams; they’re real!  Through Christ, all of humanity has the chance to be reconciled with God, and the promise is real that He will right everything that went wrong in the fall of creation.  The promise of God is that through Christ the whole universe will be set in order again.  This is something in which we can rejoice!  Every time we gather for worship is another opportunity in which we can celebrate the promises of God. 
  • And all of those Messianic promises began with John.  The angel went on to speak about John’s ministry…

15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

  • John would live a life of purity and power.  From the description, his lifestyle was to resemble that of a Nazirite.  Typically, Nazirite vows were temporary.  It was something an ancient Hebrew did as an outward sign of his/her dedication to the Lord, particularly if there was some certain vow he had made, or some answer from God he was seeking.  They were to abstain from wine & hard liquor, abstain from anything that came from the grapevine entirely, abstain from shaving or getting any sort of haircut, abstain from touching dead bodies, etc. (Num 6).  The whole idea is one of total dedication to God.  The person under the Nazirite vow was to look different & act different, being specifically & purposefully separated unto the Lord.  But again, it was usually temporary.  The Bible pictured one other man under a lifelong Nazirite vow (Samson), but not even he was successful in keeping it.  That said, the instructions given to Zacharias about John only indicate one aspect of the Nazirite (abstaining from alcohol).  The only other set of people who were to regularly abstain from alcohol were priests as they were preparing to minister unto the Lord in the tabernacle/temple (Num 10:9).  Potentially, John doesn’t picture a Nazirite so much as a priest ever-ready to serve – which would make sense, considering his priestly lineage.  Either way, the overall picture is one of purity and dedication.  His lifestyle would reflect his devotion to God.
    • As an aside, be careful o fallowing conveniences & pleasures get in the way of your ability to serve God.  Avoiding alcohol wasn’t a matter of legalism for John; it was a symbol of purity.  If there is anything that has the potential to cause you to stumble, or otherwise prohibits you from being an effective representative for Jesus, get rid of it.  It isn’t worth keeping.
  • The abstinence from alcohol was the symbol of John’s purity – the power was seen in John’s standing with the Lord & his filling with the Holy Spirit.  John would not be an ordinary man; he would be “great in the sight of the Lord” – in fact, Jesus went so far to say of him that among men born of women, there was none greater than John (Mt 11:11).  Prior to Jesus, there was no greater prophet – no greater man than John the Baptist.  That truly is the highest of compliments!  John performed no miracle, wrote no books, but made a tremendous impact upon history because he prepared the way for the Messiah.  He made the way ready for Jesus, and God gave him the highest honors.  John was great in God’s sight, and great in God’s Spirit.  From birth he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God, even being empowered by God the Spirit while still in the womb!  Without the power of God, it didn’t matter how John was born, or how he lived his life, or what he said.  Without the Spirit of God, John would have made no impact whatsoever.  The Holy Spirit working in his life made all the difference, and John would be filled with the Spirit his entire life.
    • That same power and same Spirit is available to us as well!  The Holy Spirit indwells us at the very moment of our salvation, and we have the opportunity to constantly ask for His power and filling.  As an author, Luke is going to concentrate on the Holy Spirit more than any other gospel writer – and for good reason.  He personally saw the results of it as a first-hand witness to the explosion of the gospel message all over the Roman Empire.  He knew what a man or woman who was filled with the Holy Spirit could do for God.  (So can you!)
  • That’s who John would be.  What would he do?  He would preach three things.  Vs. 16…

16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.”

  • He would preach repentance.  The essence of the word “repentance” means “to turn,” and the hearts of the children of Israel would need to turn to the Lord their God.  They worshipped God in creed, but few worshipped Him in truth.  When Luke records some of John’s teachings later on, it’s apparent that he called the Jews to the carpet in regards to their sin.  They were estranged from God, and they didn’t even know it.  They needed to know how they were sinning if they were ever to repent & turn back to God in humility.
  • He would preach reconciliation.  This is a direct reference to the close of the Old Testament prophecy given by Malachi.  God had promised to send Elijah the prophet prior to the coming of the Lord, and this Elijah would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children & the hearts of the children to the fathers (Mal 4:5-6).  This was to be the specific role of John the Baptist.  He was not a reincarnated Elijah, but he was indeed in the role of Elijah.  As the forerunner of the Messiah, he preached not only repentance in outward deeds, but in interpersonal relationships.  Remember the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  What better way to demonstrate love for our neighbor than to truly love one another within our own families.  Sometimes it seems the deepest scars we carry are the ones inflicted by our own family members.  Those closest to us can hurt us the worst.  Yet John preached reconciliation.  Hearts needed to be humbled in preparation for the Lord.
  • He would preach readiness.  When the people repented towards God and sought reconciliation with one another, they would also prepare their hearts to see the Lord face-to-face.  This was John’s primary duty: to prepare people to receive their King Messiah.  Jesus would soon arrive, and the nation of Israel would finally see the King long-promised by the Lord God.  If they weren’t ready, they would miss the grandest blessing ever given to mankind.
  • This was John’s mission among the Jews, and this is our mission among the world.  Today WE are the ambassadors of Jesus.  John was the forerunner of Christ, being the ambassador going ahead of his King.  We are the citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, proclaiming His work to all the world.  Thus we also are to preach repentance, reconciliation, and readiness.
    • Today the time has come for all men everywhere to repent.  We need to turn back from sin & turn to the Lord Jesus in faith.
    • Today is the day we need to be reconciled with one another.  Life is too short to carry grudges against our families or friends.  Jesus came to give us peace.
    • Today is the day we need to be ready to see the Lord Jesus.  John preached His 1st coming, but Jesus is coming again.  If He came today, would you be ready?
  • This was a great message!  Great news!  All that was needed now was faith, and Zacharias could watch it all come to pass.  Sadly, it was slow to come.  Vs. 18…
  • The promise doubted (18-22)

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

  • Zacharias doubted the word of the angel.  Some people have wondered the difference between Zacharias’ question and Mary’s question (seen later in Ch 1), when they seemed to ask something similar.  It’s similar, but it’s not identical.  Mary was puzzled at the process (the how-to); Zacharias distrusted the message.  He asked for a sign that what the angel told him was accurate: “How shall I know this?”  How could he know?  He was speaking with an angel of God.  Other signs weren’t necessary, because a giant one had already been given.  The angel was a sign.
  • Even Zacharias’ objection is grounded in doubt and disbelief.  On one hand, he was a faithful priest who genuinely worshipped God.  On the other hand, he seemed to forget that he worshipped the God of Abraham.  His very nation existed because God promised to give a son to an old man and woman who were far beyond the age of childbearing.  Zacharias and all of the Jews were the living embodiment of God’s ability to keep His promises (specifically those regarding supernatural births).
    • Never forget the power of the God we serve.  This is the God who created the heavens and the earth by His command.  This is the God who holds every atom in the universe together by His sheer will.  What could possibly be too hard for Him to do?  Has His arm been shortened – has He grown tired and weak?  Perish the thought!  He is the Almighty Lord!
    • Never forget the promises that God has already fulfilled.  Zacharias could have looked at the nation of Israel and seen a perfect track record from God.  We can do the same.  God promised to send Jesus, and He did.  God promised that Jesus would die for us and rise again, and He did.  God promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, and He did.  If God did those things, what makes us think He would neglect the others?  God remembers His people & His promises, and He fulfills every word!

19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

  • At this point if Gabriel seems annoyed, he has every right to be.  He was the very angel who had been watching over the Messianic promise for centuries (if not from the very dawn of humanity).  Gabriel is first introduced in the Scriptures during the Babylonian exile when speaking with Daniel regarding the Messianic promise.  In Daniel 8-9, he goes so far as to tell the prophet when to expect the arrival of the Messiah, as well as tell him of the fact that He would be cut off from the people (Dan 9:26-27).  Gabriel’s other duties aside, his very presence ought to have been enough evidence for Zacharias.  The name Gabriel either means “God is mighty,” or “God’s mighty man,” and he is indeed valiant, as a trusted warrior and angel of Almighty God, blessed to stand in God’s very presence.  Zacharias could hardly have received a more important messenger!  Gabriel was a VIP of the highest caliber!  And yet the news he brought was doubted.  What should have been great news bringing immense joy received only doubt and questions.
    • Before we cast too much fault at the feet of Zacharias, we might examine ourselves.  Do we do something similar with the promises of Scripture?  To be sure, there are some things in the Bible which seem a bit mysterious to us, but there are other things that are crystal clear.  God promises to forgive those who confess their sins to Him through Jesus (1 Jn 1:9) – God promises to give wisdom to those who ask in faith (Jas 1:5) – God promises to give peace that passes understanding to those who entrust their requests to Him (Phil 4:6-7).  These aren’t unclear promises requiring interpretation…they are as plain as day, just like Gabriel’s word was to Zacharias.  Do we believe God at His word, or do we doubt & try to qualify things?  Trust God & act!
  • Zacharias asked for a sign, and he would be granted one: his own silence.  The priest had questioned the messenger of Almighty God, so now he would be physically unable to question any longer.  His ability to argue with God would be taken away until the day he witnessed God’s promise come true with the birth of his son.
  • Was this discipline?  Yes.  But it was also mercy.  Zacharias could have died that day.  He could have had his opportunity taken away & see it given to another.  Yet none of that happened.  He was disciplined, but he was still beloved by God.  God loved him enough to allow Zacharias still to see all of this come to pass, even in silence.  God gave him the undeniable opportunity to witness the truth of God’s promises, even forcing him to have a front-row seat to it all.  For Zacharias, the next 9 months wouldn’t only be discipline; it would be a wonderful growth in his faith!
    • Likewise, we might be disciplined by God, but He still loves us.

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

  • All the people waiting outside for Zacharias soon became witnesses to what had taken place.  They likely didn’t understand everything that had transpired, but they could verify that this was a work of God.  They definitely witnessed the results.  Zacharias had entered the temple with the ability to speak; he came out silent & signing.  There wasn’t any doubt in their minds God had done something.  When God moves, it’s evident!
  • So now what?  They had to wait.  The promise was given – it needed to be fulfilled.  And it was…
  • The promise fulfilled (23-25)

23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

  • Eventually Zacharias went home.  Luke doesn’t tell us how much time passed, though it likely wasn’t much.  Yet even this speaks highly of Zacharias’ character.  After all, he still served God in the temple.  He didn’t finish out his service with a bunch of sick-time – he kept serving until his appointed time was completed.  He was faithful, even in silence.
  • Faithfulness matters.  Diligence matters.  Maybe you’re under God’s discipline.  It doesn’t mean that He’s done with you – it certainly shouldn’t mean that you’re done with Him.  It doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t continue to use you.  Be faithful to do what God has given you to do in the time He’s given you to do it.  Whatever restriction you think you might have, be diligent with the opportunities God gives.

24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

  • Exactly according to the word of Gabriel, Elizabeth become pregnant.  Without getting too graphic, obviously Zacharias’ own faith increased at least a bit by this point.  After all, his involvement was required.  Even at their age, both of them must have believed God, and they acted in accordance with His word.  They took a step of faith, and they were blessed with the result.
    • Even if what God promises seems impossible, take a step of faith.  What God promises, He performs – every time.
  • Question: why did Elizabeth hide?  Probably for the obvious reason: she wanted to avoid questions as long as possible.  She knew God had taken away her “reproach,” but that doesn’t mean she wanted the limelight.  A pregnant elderly lady walking through town (especially one who had been barren for so long) would attract a lot of rumors and unwanted attention, and Elizabeth wanted to avoid it as long as possible.  She wouldn’t remain hidden forever, and would eventually even greet the soon-to-be-pregnant Mary.  At that point, even John wouldn’t be able to contain his excitement!

Conclusion:
God keeps His word.  God never forgets His people nor His promises, and He is able to make every promise come to pass.  He remembered His faithful servants of Zacharias & Elizabeth, granting them a son even while Zacharias temporarily (yet foolishly) doubted the promise of God.  He remembered His own people of Israel, for whom He would send His only begotten Son as Savior and King.  That mission would begin with the mission of the other promised son, John, who would declare the good favor of the Lord.  The King was coming, so the people needed to repent, to be reconciled, and be ready for His arrival.

That was the promise of God given through Gabriel to Zacharias.  All he needed to do was believe, and he would see it come to pass.  Zacharias doubted, but thankfully, it didn’t last for long.  And guess what?  God was good to His word, just like He could be trusted to be.

What have you doubted the Lord for?  Stop doubting!  What God has promised, God will fulfill.  If you are in Christ, He has not forgotten you – He is not ignoring you.  In Christ, you can be sure that God has heard you, because you have God the Son Himself interceding on your behalf.  Believe God at His word. 

That said, what are you doing in the meantime?  Be diligent!  Maybe you’ve found yourself under God’s discipline – don’t give up.  Maybe you’re just in a period of waiting – keep going…persevere!  You may be waiting on something from the Lord, but there’s no doubt that God has given you something to do in the meantime.  There’s something God has for you right now – there are people in your life right now with whom you can share the gospel – there is some way you can serve Him, guaranteed.  Do it.  Be faithful in the small things, and let God bring the rest as He may.

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