Monthly Archives: December 2014

Genesis 31.1-55

Title: Jacob Flees from Laban

Text: Genesis 31

Introduction:

The Blessing was three-fold: Blessing, Land, an Heritage. He has the Heritage – 4 wives; 12 kids; He has the blessing – wealth; Labans’ rd v 1; God has given him great wealth; now – he must return to his home to be given this last of the promise: rd v 2-3;

1.     Jacob’s Plan to Leave (4-14)

exp.:

  • He lays his case before his wives
    • The Situation (5-9)
      • Your father has no regard or favor for me; 5a, 8,
      • But God has protected me. 5b, 9,
    • The Vision (10-13)
      • The animals
      • The call to go (13)
    • Their Response (14-16)
      • Hughes: Particularly grievous to Laban’s daughters was the ugly fact that their father had sold them and devoured the proceeds. The price of the bride (Jacob’s fourteen years of wages) was supposed to be held in trust in the event that they were abandoned or widowed. But Jacob’s long labor had benefited their father alone.
  1. Jacob’s Flight From Laban (17-21)

exp.:

  • He packs up his family and property; (17-18)
  • Laban’s business with work; rd 19a
    • Rachel’s theft; rd 19b
    • Jacob’s trickery; rd 20
      • : Play on words: They both ‘stole the heart’ of (injured or wounded in the side); an English comparative might be – and the stole away in the night or Robbie Dupree from the 80’s: Why don’t we steal away into the night.
    • rd v 21; I love this verse! So, picturesque; commercial break!
  • Laban’s Pursuit of Jacob (22-)

exp.: rd v 22f; 3 days; 7 days; explain;

  • Laban’s Dream: Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. Rd v 24; So, Laban overtakes Jacob; rd v 25-29;
  • Laban’s Accusation: Why did you steal my gods? We would think this would be something that she couldn’t hide; in 1 Samuel 19, Michal puts an image in the bed to make the soldiers think that David was asleep; these gods were pretty small – small enough to put in a saddlebag.
  • Laban’s Search: rd v 31f; Wow! He just signed her death warrant, without even knowing it! rd v 33; explained: rd v 34f; the teraphim were probably small; see pictures on internet;

2.     Jacob’s Declaration (36-42)

exp.:

  • I am innocent! Rd 36-37;
  • I have been honest! Rd 38-39
  • I have been Faithful! Rd 40
  • You have been all the opposite: guilty, dishonest and unfaithful! Rd v 41-42

3.     A Pact is Made (36-42)

exp.:

  • Two memorials: one a pillar and one a heap
  • Two names: Jegar-sahadutha & Galeed; Mizpah – Hughes: The heap of stones was formed to bear witness to their mutual covenant. Laban gave the pile an Aramaic name, Jegar-sahadutha, and Jacob a Hebrew name, Galeed, both of which mean “the heap of witness.” Mizpah means “watchpost.” Interestingly, the careless reading of God’s Word as it is represented in the King James Version (“The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another,” v. 49) has given rise to the popular so-called “Mizpah benediction” that has been used on Christmas cards, inscribed inside wedding bands, and even used as a title for an organization! The Mizpah benediction was ignorantly interpreted to invoke union, fellowship, and trust. But this was the declaration of two men who neither trusted nor liked each other—“Because I don’t trust you out of my sight, may God watch your every move.”
  • Laban swears by many gods – the gods of their fathers; Jacob swears by his God – the Fear of Isaac and offers:
    • A Sacrifice and
    • A Meal
    • A boundary is set

Conclusion: Implications

  1. What a change we see in Jacob. God changes people – He’s in that business. Are you the same person you were 20 years ago?
    1. Character
    2. Honesty
    3. Work ethic
    4. His obedience to God
  2. God is faithfully fulfilling his promises to Jacob. He can be trusted with your life, too – even in the midst of turmoil and struggle.
  3. What passages come to mind as you think of God’s faithfulness? Phil 1.6; Rom 8.28ff; Eph 2.13-21;
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Luke 1.26-38

Title: Nothing will be impossible with God.

Text: Luke 1.26-38

CIT: Very much the outline of Zechariah’s story, Mary’s has a visit from the angel, Gabriel; however, her response and her son are very different.

CIS: Luke’s desire is to demonstrate the grand difference between the forerunner and the Savior. Jesus out distances John for a reason. He’s the Son of God and He will save his people from their sins.

Introduction: Good morning, we’re in Luke 1; This is probably an odd question, but I’m guessing most folks have heard a sermon preached at Christmas time about Mary. But I’ll bet most folks haven’t heard a sermon dedicated to Zechariah; or Elizabeth; or even John the Baptist. At least not at Christmas; usually, these characters are footnotes as the focus is placed upon Mary, Joseph, The Wisemen, The Shepherds and of Course, Baby Jesus.

So, I’m guessing you’ve heard of Mary? I’m guessing everyone has; Begin 1st, by reading the text;

A basic outline for Mary is exactly the same as last week’s message for Zechariah:

  1. The Angel’s Appearance (11-12; 26-27)
  2. The Angel’s Announcement (13-18; 28-33)
  3. The Angel’s Answer (19-23; 34-37)

That’s interesting to me. Is this Luke’s plan? Did it come out this way because as a writer, he wanted to flow and symmetry? I wonder, because upon closer inspection we see some incredible similarities:

  • He was troubled; v 12                  She was greatly troubled v 28
  • The angel said to him; v 13          The angel said to her; v 30
  • Do not be afraid; v 13                   Do not be afraid; v 30
  • Will bear you a son; v 13              You will…bear a son; v 31
  • And you shall call his name; v 13 and you shall call his name; v 31
  • He will be great; v 15                    he will be great v 32
  • Said to the angel; v 18                  said to the angel; v 34
  • And answering the angel               and answering the angel

said to him; v 19                                      said to her; v 35

  • Gabriel…God…sent; v 19             Gabriel….sent…God; v 26
  • And behold – this sign; v 20           and behold – this sign; v 36

Yeah, I think it is his plan. I think he wants to show how these two individuals work together, because they fulfill what was spoken of by the prophets. I read somewhere recently that Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies as spoken of 500 years, 800 years, 1000 years, 2000 years before. But there is more here; I think Luke’s practice isn’t so much to see what is similar, but really to see the differences.

Look at the vast differences between these two passages:

  • Elizabeth has a need – she’s desperate for a child, so that her shame might be taken away.
    • Mary has no such need. Indeed, her situation is going to shame her!
  • Three times the writer places emphasis on Elizabeth’s barrenness. (7a, 7b, 18)
    • Three times the writer places emphasis on Mary’s virginity. (27a, 27b, 34)
  • Gabriel encounters Zechariah in the holy of holies, just before the veil that separated the presence of God and the priest. (8-11)
    • Gabriel encounters Mary when he travels to where she is – Nazareth (26). A place that is considered ‘insignificant, despised and unclean’. John 1.45-46; Can anything good come from Nazareth?
  • Zechariah is a priest, selected by lot, that is to say, by God to serve in the Temple (v 5, 8).
    • Mary is the lowest of the low. She is probably barely a teenage girl from Nazareth. There is nothing special about her – age, gender, maybe even her family heritage; yet she is the one favored by God.
  • There will be what looks like similarities between John and Jesus, but, when it is said and done, Jesus will outdistance himself from John:
    • John will be great before the Lord (15) vs. Jesus will be great – the Son of the Most High God (32); John will be great before him, but Jesus will be his son!
    • John will be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) vs. Jesus’ conception will be the result of the activity of the Holy Spirit (35) John will be filled with the Holy Spirit, but Jesus will be of the Holy Spirit; John will be filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be holiness incarnate.
    • John will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah; John will be a prophet and a priest vs. Jesus will be King in the line of David – he will be prophet, priest and King; (36)

This last point struck me; it really did – it caught me off guard; here’s what I mean: I’ve been amazed at how the 12 disciples were willing to die for their faith in Jesus. Chuck Colson really convinced me of this with the issue of Watergate; three men couldn’t keep a secret; If Jesus were false or fake, if they didn’t really believe him to be the messiah, if they had stolen his body – they would never have all agreed to the conspiracy. No way. They had their property confiscated, their lives threatened, then beaten, and eventually, they all died, except one. Surely one would have turned states evidence! I get that. But John the Baptist?

John the Baptist is Jesus’ relative. They’re cousins. John the Baptist runs parallel with Christ for such a short time. We’re talking months. Then Jesus rises in popularity and John doesn’t fight it. How can this be? Check it out, he’s been the man for a few months now. People are coming out to him in the wilderness in droves. Then, his disciples complain that more and more people are following Christ and less and less are following John. John shows incredible humility. This is the way it is supposed to be. He must increase and I must decrease. Listen, that’s not the way humans respond.

Ill.: I heard an interview with Jimmy Johnson this week. He’s the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys – super bowl champs in 92, 93. Then Jimmy left. What? He was asked why? He said one day he made a trade for Tony Casillas. It was a big deal. He walked down the hall to Jerry’s office and told the owner that he’d made the trade. Jerry hadn’t even heard of Tony Casillas. Less than two hours later, the coach, Jimmy Johnson hears Jerry on TV announcing this blockbuster trade he just made for Tony Casillas. As soon as Jerry gets back to his office, Jimmy comes down there and asks what just happened. Jerry said: there’s a lot of attention out there and I want to get some of it. Jimmy Johnson said he knew that it was just a matter of time and he would be gone. Jerry wasn’t going to share the spotlight.

Ill.: I think of Basketball – remember Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil? 3 championships in a row! They probably could have kept going, but neither one could let the other one take the credit! They blew up the team. Shaquille then played for the Heat, Suns, Celtics and Cavilers; honestly he just faded from the scene. I never even heard of his retirement. All because he couldn’t share the spotlight! He wanted all the credit.

App.: what will become of John, staggers the human mind. His willingness to let his cousin take his place in the spotlight and surpass him in popularity shakes us as we think deeply about it. It’s just not natural! I’ve seen this played out in the church and people don’t like someone else rising above them. Whether it is on the praise team or in the Bible Study class or the one who holds the power on a committee – people don’t like being one-upped.

I can see some of you disagree. Not you! You’re incredibly humble. If the Bible were written all over again, it would be said of you, that you are the meekest, must humble person on the earth. Have you ever thought?

  • Why do the elders get to decide…
  • Why do the deacons or why don’t the deacons…
  • Why does she get a bigger, why does he get a better class room than me? One so close to the kitchen, so close to the bathroom – why do they get a bathroom in their class?
  • Why does Venture get to…
  • Why does Bridgemark have a…
  • Why does she always sing on the praise team?
  • Why does he always play on the praise band?
  • Why does that committee get so much money?
  • To quote Abe Lincoln: Why is this thus and what is the reason for this thusness?
  • Why does KK get… or have… or need…
  • Why does Wendy get…or have…or need…
  • Why does New Beginnings Deaf Fellowship get or meet or have…
  • Why didn’t they ask me to serve on that committee… why did they ask her or him be that representative or…?

Listen, you may not voice your objections to someone else’s success – but the fleshly part of us cries for some recognition and hates it when we’ve been upped by someone. Even if you’re someone who works behind the scenes, you still want the credit due you! Especially if we think we deserve that…whatever it is.

There are some similarities, but the differences are greater by far. John is filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth; But Christ is Holy. He is the Son of God. He will be King.

Here’s another stark contrast between the two stories:

  • Zechariah responds in disbelief; 18-20
    • Mary responds in belief; rd v 38; Lit.: Behold, the slave of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.

Exp.: you don’t see it in the English, but the Greek has word that appears in both v. 37 and v. 38; ῥῆμα; It’s translated: Nothing; the word ῥῆμα means word or thing; So lit.: No thing (event, matter) will be impossible for God. I like: No word, spoken by God will be impossible. Then she says: Let the word of God, that you have spoken happen to me.

There is some OT imagery here. Think of Sarah in her later years. God says: Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing. What He says – that is what will be accomplished.

There is still another difference:

  • We mentioned Zechariah’s disbelief; but what amazes me is the focus on his righteous and blameless life. Things are right and he’s willing to enter into the holy of holies with a clean conscience. But when it comes down to it – he rebels. That’s what disbelief is – it’s rebellion. When God tells you something – and you don’t believe him – you’re rebelling against him. Think of the Hebrew Children coming out of Egypt, getting ready to enter in the Promised Land. Here’s where I’m going with this:

App.: Some people are happier with their rules and regulations than they are with simple obedience. We line up with the Religious Rulers of the Old Testament when we live by a standard and a system but not by a surrendered obedience. We go to church, Bible study, serve under the bridge and look down upon those who don’t meet our standard. That’s Zechariah – obedient, blameless according to the Law, righteous in his actions, but when it came down to it – he rebelled;

  • Mary simply believed and obeyed; γένοιτό μοι; But, you may say the Bible doesn’t say she believed? Yes it does, Rd v 45

What does it mean to believe? Mary is a great example. It’s not about who has the best attendance or who memorizes the most verses or who gives the most money. It’s about a surrendered life that says: God, here is my life. I’m willing to be shamed for your glory. I’m willing to be used for your glory. I am your slave. γένοιτό μοι; Have your way in me!

*** Meghan O’Gieblyn: How do you sell God in the 21st Century: More Heaven, Less Hell. The Guardian – Liberal Newsmagazine. I was drawn to the article because of it’s title. Many of you probably remember my illustration a few weeks ago of the article recommending a Christianity without hell. I wondered if Meghan was commenting on that in any way. She doesn’t. Meghan is a former believer. According to her testimony, she got saved when she was 5. She doesn’t remember it though – all she knows is what her mother told her. Her struggle was and is over the issue of hell. No one could ever explain hell to her. She never really got over that: Why would a loving God ever send anyone to hell?

I would have stopped reading, but she began to really struggle with a particular issue, which she never resolves. She clearly understands the concept, but struggles with the reality. She participated in Street Evangelism as a student at Moody in Chicago. She traveled out to see what all the fuss was over this mega-church, Willow Creek. In her struggle with the doctrine of hell, she found it interesting that Bill Hybles never mentioned hell. She writes that she began to make it a game to watch him skirt the issue of hell. And it wasn’t just him, but the teachers as well.

Meghan was attending Willow Creek when 9/11 happened. She writes that Bill Hybels addressed the what had happened from the stage – and for the 1st time, she heard Hybels address evil.

I started my sophomore year at Moody in September 2001. The Sunday after 9/11, Willow Creek was one of many American churches filled with newcomers. I was eager to see how Bill Hybels would handle the event – whether he would demonise the enemy or invoke safe platitudes about the brevity of life. As it turned out, he did something completely different.

One of the biggest lessons of the past week, he began by saying, was that “evil is alive and well”. It was the first time I’d heard the word from his pulpit. He proposed that the evil we’d experienced was not limited to the men who flew the planes. He alluded to the terrorists’ accomplices and the people in other countries who were shown celebrating the tragedy. The pastor paused for a moment, and then said, “Let’s bring it close to home – what about the evil in me? Because boy, I felt it this week.” Hybels described his own anger when he was watching the news footage, his immediate craving for revenge. “What is it in us that makes some of us want others to pay a hundred times over for the wrong done to us?” he asked. “Well, that would be evil, and I felt it in me. Did you feel it in you?” With regard to the military response, he argued that Jesus’s teaching to not repay evil with evil was just as relevant at a national level. The vindictive rage we felt watching the attacks from our kitchen televisions was the same emotion that was creating hell all over the world.

At this point in her article, I think she misses the whole point of the message. She writes: I don’t know what prompted Hybels to diverge from the market-tested optimism that day, but it was a powerful sermon – people at Moody were talking about it all week. At the time, I didn’t appreciate just how radical it was. In speaking about his own capacity for revenge and hatred, he had opened up a possibility, a way of talking about evil that felt relevant and transformative. It wasn’t fire and brimstone; it wasn’t condemning the sinner as some degenerate Other. Rather, he was challenging his congregation to exercise empathy in a way that Jesus might have, suggesting that he among us without sin should cast the first stone.

Here’s what get’s me: Each of us has evil in us. That was my point earlier when I asked if you’ve ever felt bothered by being one-upped. If you’ve ever felt jealousy toward another or if you’ve ever coveted someone else’s position or place. In her article, she acknowledges the evil within. But, instead of seeing the salvation from this human condition she explains it away.

Part of what made church such a powerful experience for me as a child and a young adult was that it was the one place where my own faults and failings were recognised and accepted, where people referred to themselves affectionately as “sinners”, where it was taken as a given that the person standing in the pews beside you was morally fallible, but still you held hands and lifted your voice with hers as you worshipped in song. This camaraderie came from a collective understanding of evil – a belief that each person harboured within them a potential for sin and deserved, despite it, divine grace.

You see that last line – that’s where Meghan missed it. The Bible never teaches that we deserve divine grace. Instead, it teaches that because we’re evil, because we’re sinners, we deserve hell. Please don’t miss this: God is infinitely holy. There is no sin, blame, fault, or blemish in him at all. We are infinitely sinful. Just one sin separates us from God – so far that to explain it in earthly terms will limit that separation. God created a place of torment for those angels that rebelled against him. And, the Bible teaches as well, that the sin in us will be punished there, too.

That’s the whole point of the Christmas message! Listen to Matthew 1.18-21, where Gabriel appears to Joseph: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

That’s the gospel message – not that we deserve the grace of God – but that in spite of what we deserve, God grants it.

Let’s pray…

Conclusion: Invitation to come to Christ

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Luke 1.5-25

Title: Breaking the Silence

Text: Luke 1.5-25

CIT: This passage is the introduction section to a greater section communicating the birth of the Messiah. John’s birth was fulfillment of prophecy and designed to prepare the people for the coming Messiah.

Introduction: Luke 1 & Malachi 4; We’re in Luke chapters 1-2 this month. Turn to Luke 1; Zechariah gives us a little insight into what’s going on at the end of his prophecy – his Magnificat, the Magnificat part 2; rd 1.76-79; Indeed, for the Israelites, it had been a long, silent night. They should have known what was coming. They should have been watching for it.

Malachi closes and there is silence for 400 years. Read Malachi 4. The next time you hear from God, it will be through Elijah, whom the Lord will send. Amos warned Judah about it this silence long before Malachi (8.11-12).

11    “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

“when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the Lord.

12    They shall wander from sea to sea,

and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,

but they shall not find it.

Luke sits to write his Gospel and it’s been more than 700 years since Amos told of the silence and 400 years since Malachi put down his pen and the silence began. Israel was plunged into utter darkness and silence as they awaited the promised sun of righteousness to rise with healing in its wings and to hear the words of God once again.

Luke begins his story with a time period and a place. rd v 5a; the reign of Herod and in Judea; specifically, we’ll see where in Jerusalem multiple times in this passage: in the Temple; we see more in v 5-7; Zechariah and Elizabeth – the characters in our story, but not our main focus:

  • Righteous
  • Blameless according to the law
  • Childless;

This doesn’t make sense to the Jewish mind – there is a contradiction in v 6-7; God blesses the righteous, the blameless with children! Here we see a holy woman forgotten by God? Can’t be! Either she isn’t really holy and blameless or God isn’t good. Here’s another contradiction. She barren and scorned, but God has chosen Zachariah for something incredible. Their fortunes appear to be up in that God has chosen Zachariah to serve as The priest to offer the incense in the holy place at the Temple.

There were so many priests, that they served in the Temple for on a rotating basis. Groups would serve from Sabbath to Sabbath and lots were casts for duties. From what I understand, 5 priest were selected during this time to offer incense. Actually, three worked outside and two inside. One actually offered the incense and the final priest served as his assistant when needed. We see that is what happens here to Zechariah in v. 8-9; the lot falls to Zechariah and he’s chosen (by God) to offer the Incense. V. 10 gives us a bit more information about the happenings in the Temple. Rd v 10; The people were praying. I saw this as a bit of a chiastic structure. Note verse 21-23; the structure looks like this then:

  • Service to the Lord begins(8)
    • In the Temple (9)
      • People watching and praying (10)
      • People waiting and wondering (21)
    • Exits the Temple (22)
  • Service to the Lord ends (23)

So, what’s in the middle? I’ve outlined this middle section, the section of focus into three parts:

  1. The Angel’s Appearance
  2. The Angel’s Announcement
  3. The Angel’s Answer

Transition: Let’s look closely;

1.     The Angel’s Appearance (11-12)

exp.: read v 12; in the holy place; right side of the Altar of Incense; between the altar of incense and the lampstand; 5 pieces of furniture That named: (1) the brazen altar of burnt offering, and (2) the laver, in the court of the tabernacle; (3) bread on the table of presence, (4) the lampstand, and (5) the golden altar of incense, in the holy place; and (6) the ark of the testimony in the holy of holies or the most holy place.

The Bible Exposition Commentary lists the many responsibilities of the priests: Lighting the lamp, washing at the laver, offering sacrifices and Burning the incense (Exod. 30:7–9). There were two altars in God’s sanctuary, a brazen altar that stood at the door and was used for the blood sacrifices, and a golden altar that stood before the veil and was used for the burning of incense. The golden altar pictures the offering up of prayer to the Lord.

ill.: Ps. 141:1–3: O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! 3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Revelation 8.3-5: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

I’m reminded of another man who saw an angel. This angel promised a son to a couple who was barren. Manoah and his wife, who had a son, Samson. They offered a burnt offering and when the flames went up before the Lord, the angel of the Lord when up in the flame.

app.: Do you think of your prayers like that? Consider this: when the priest was through with his offering, he would come out of the holy of holies and back to where the other priests were and then the people. As he left, the fragrance of Incense offering would be on him.

ill.: campfire; my clothes still have the smell. I wonder if this isn’t a great analogy for our prayers and presence with the master. Maybe others who encounter us would notice a spiritual fragrance about us, as having been with the Lord. Martin Luther is credited as saying, “We are all priests, and our praying is the burning of incense.”

Transition: Well, let’s look now at

–     Zechariah’s Reaction: rd v 12; He was troubled – that is shaken or stirred up; and fear fell upon him; rightly so! Only one priest would be selected to do what Zechariah is doing here. You don’t get a lot of traffic in the holy of holies! The priest would never have to say, “Hey, you’re in my way!” So, to see someone else in there would have caught him of guard.

Now, I have no idea if the angel looked human or massive or what? But whatever form this angel took, it must have been a pretty awesome sight to shake up Zechariah. Also, Do you remember what happened in Leviticus 10.1-3; Nadab and Abihu;

t.s.: We first see the angel’s appearing to Zechariah positioned between the Table with the Bread on it and the altar of incense. Then, the Angel of the Lord speaks:

2.     The Angel’s Announcement (13-18)

exp.: This is why he’s come, to make an announcement; look w/ me at this announcement: rd v 13; There are two parts to this announcement. The 1st deals w/ ‘you’ – Zechariah; the 2nd deals w/ the one to be born to you, namely John.

  1. What God is going to do in answer to your prayer
  2. What God is going to do through the answer to your prayer (i.e.: what God is going to do through John)

What God is going to do in answer to your prayer

  1. Do not be afraid; a common theme in Luke and a common phrase used by the Angel of the Lord; μὴ φοβοῦ
  2. Your prayer has been heard; You’ve been praying for a son, well…
  3. Your wife will bear a son! And, as confirmation to this…
  4. You shall call his name John.
  5. You will have joy and gladness, and furthermore…
  6. Many will rejoice at his birth

What God is going to do through the answer to your prayer (i.e.: what God is going to do through John); v14

  1. For he will be great before the Lord; this word ‘before’ is often translated ‘in the presence’; in the face, lit.: he will grow up in the presence of the Lord. So, because of this…
  2. He must not drink wine or strong drink; that’s because he’s gonna be a Baptist! John, the Baptist! No, I’m just kidding; there is nothing that I can find in the Bible that speaks against wine and beer (i.e: strong drink) except when:
    1. The Priest is in service in the Temple
    2. The Nazarite Vow – which was only for a short period of time
    3. During pregnancy for certain women
    4. I think it would be fair to say that the Bible warns against those whose goal for the day is to drink wine or strong drink. I think the point here is that John is going to be in service to the Lord his whole life long. Rd v 16;
  1. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit – From his mother’s womb
  2. He will turn many to God; not everyone, but many; rd v 17;
  3. He will go before the Lord
    1. In the Spirit of Elijah; we see that in his clothes, his persona;
    2. With the purpose of:
      1. Turning the Fathers hearts to their children
      2. Turning the Disobedient to the Wisdom of the just
      3. Making ready for the Lord a people prepared; he is going to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

exp.: wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend some time right here on these three objectives: repeat. Well, look at

Zechariah’s Response: rd v 18; It’s hard to notice at first, but Zechariah doesn’t believe the angel; Zechariah makes three statements to declare his unbelief:

  • How shall I know this?: According to what shall I know this? Middle voice: for myself; Now, to be fair, Mary asks a question, too. But hers is much different. We’ll look at that later, and I’ll explain the difference then; however, here He shows his disbelief by his statements:
  • I, myself, am an old man.
  • My woman is late or really advanced in her days. Her child-bearing days are behind her. Evidently, You don’t know my situation!

ill.: What Zechariah failed to recognize is the Angel’s 1st statement: God has heard your prayers!

app.: This makes me think of my prayers. Do I pray to God for miracles and respond in disbelief, before he’s even answered!?!

t.s.: Hold that thought, because Gabe’s going to make Zechariah some promises:

3.     The Angel’s Answer (19-20)

exp.: rd v 19-20; Be careful what you ask for!

I myself am Gabriel; the one who is standing in the presence of God; sent: to speak and to bring good news (evangelism); Gk is still one sentence: being silent, unable to speak; and being silent and not being able to speak; until the day these things take place. Why? Because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their day.

app.: I wonder if we too often miss out on the blessings of God – if we miss out on answered prayer because we never really believed God anyway.

t.s.: In this passage, we see Zechariah has been praying and so have the people. And in response, one answer is given answering both requests! Rd v 21-22;

The people, too, have been praying. And yet, they don’t know that God is answering their prayer.

Conclusion: How do I know this? Because, the people have been in darkness and have experienced silence from the Lord for a long time – some 400 years. And now, he is breaking his silence. And now, a light is beginning to dawn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s what Christmas is really all about.

So, what are our take-a-ways?

  1. The Christmas story begins and ends at the Temple. What a great reminder for us to acknowledge the perfection and holiness of God. For in so doing, we see ourselves for whom we really are.
  2. The Christmas story is filled with prayer. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the people, the incense. What are your prayers for this Christmas? Are they filled with selfish wishes or are they seasoned with concerns for others? Can others tell you’ve been with the master? Is there a spiritual fragrance about you?
  3. The Christmas story is good news. Evangelism is our English Equivalent. Have you ever thought that Christmas just might be the best time to share Christ with those around you – with whom you work: your boss or your employees? What about with your neighbors? Why do we give gifts and decorate? It’s an opportunity to share!
  4. Finally, I’m amazed that John has been praying and Gabriel says – Good News, Dude! God has heard your prayers. And yet, when John is given this positive response – he doesn’t believe it. Do you pray believing? Isn’t that how this journey with God begins? You believe God for his forgiveness and you surrender yourself to his Lordship.
  5. It had been a long 400 years of silence from the Father for them. And they should have been watching and waiting. It has been 2000 years for us. When Jesus comes again, will we be ready? Are you watching and waiting?

Invitation: Maybe it’s time for us to break the silence – to begin sharing – to begin praying – to begin believing

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