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Today we have quite an interesting account and quite a few verses to cover.
We are going to see a supernatural promise of God fulfilled.
Our God is a God who keeps His promises my friends.
There is no promise that He makes that does not come to fruition.
Numbers 23:19 states:
We can always trust our God of promises.
As we move through this incredible account, we will spend some time reflecting on the promise that we have in Christ as well.
We have been promised eternal life through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.
The promise that we are about to study directly correlates with our promise as we see the promise of the forerunner for Christ.
We are going to see the promised coming of John the Baptist.
And as we study this section of Scripture, we are going to see four ways that God is always working in the midst of His promises.
The first is…
I. God is Always Working in the Midst of… The Perseverance of the Promise (5-7)
We are told here from the start the setting of our account.
We are looking at the days of Herod, King of Judea.
This is Herod the Great who reigned from 37 BC- 4 BC.
Without getting into the weeds, this man was a highly successful leader until later in his reign where he had many misfortunes and became a very paranoid and very dangerous man.
Next we are introduced to Zechariah.
We are told that he is a priest - meaning that he was a Levite - and that he was of the division of Abijah.
Abijah was of the 8th division of the Levites as seen in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 (verse 10 specifically).
These divisions were set up so that the work of caring of the temple would be evenly distributed.
Zechariah would have been ministering in the temple during the 8th week or the 32nd week of the year because the divisions served one week at a time twice a year.
Zechariah is married to Elizabeth whose name means ‘oath of God.’ Levites could marry anyone who was a pure Jew but it was especially considered holy if they married another Levite.
Elizabeth was a Levite as well.
So we see that this is a holy couple.
They are both of the lineage of the priests - the Levites.
And not only is their lineage holy but they are as well.
We see that they were both walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
Now we know that doesn’t mean they were sinless.
We know this because the Bible teaches us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23).
Any time we read something that seems unclear then we use Scripture to interpret Scripture.
What Luke is saying here is that they were continually right before God by being a people of holiness and quick repentance when they sinned.
We should live in such a way as that as well.
Despite all of this great information that we are given about this wonderful and holy couple, there is something difficult in their lives as well.
Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.
It is at this point that something seems off in the account.
You see, Isreal was under a covenant of works.
Yes, there was most certainly grace and mercy involved as well.
But simply put, Israel was told that if they obeyed, they would be blessed.
Check out Deuteronomy 7:14:
In fact, this entire section in chapter 7 of Deuteronomy describes the blessings that Israel will receive if they are obedient with verse 14 seeming incongruent with what we are seeing in this righteous couple’s life.
Although one could argue that Israel as a whole was not in great obedience to God and thus blessings were withheld as a whole because of this, we see a more clear answer to this predicament in John 9:3:
God is going to use this sad situation to glorify Himself.
Before we get there, I want to be sure that we understand that we are not under this same covenant as Isreal.
We are under a covenant of grace - meaning that we are not necessarily blessed financially because we are obedient.
We are given grace and mercy even when we don’t deserve it.
And, although we are blessed with closer intimacy in our relationship with God when we obey Him and walk with Him - we are not guaranteed an easy life and prosperity.
This is an important distinction to remember as we go through this account.
But we can learn an important lesson from the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Just because we are living a holy life for the Lord does not mean that things are always going to go the way we want them.
It doesn’t mean we will not have loss and struggles.
Our obedience does give us blessings that are spiritual in nature and sometimes even tangible.
But our best blessings are to come - they are eternal - and we should work and obey the Lord for treasures that are on the other side of eternity.
I pray that we persevere like Zechariah and Elizabeth did.
That we persevere even before the promise is fully realized.
They continued in faith and righteousness even when others might have scoffed at them - thinking that they must have had some form of sin due to Elizabeth’s barrenness.
May we also continue to persevere until we see the full realization of our promise of eternal life to come after our death!
Next we see that...
Scripture References: Numbers 23:19, 1 Chronicles 24:1-19, Romans 3:23, Deuteronomy 7:14, John 9:3
God is Always Working in the Midst of… The Preparation of the Promise (8-10)
As we mentioned before, he was of the division of Abijah and now was his division’s week to serve at the temple.
Part of this service was to continue burning incense to the Lord.
This happened twice each day and there would be a lot cast amongst those in the division to see who would go.
It is estimated that there were around 18,000 priests in Israel at this time and so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to burn incense to the Lord.
This was the closest that a priest would be able to get to the Holy of Holies unless he was the High Priest.
Here is a picture showing the temple in Jerusalem that Harod the Great had built.
If we zoom in you can see more clearly how close the Altar of Incense was to the veil of the Holy of Holies (The Most Holy Place).
So we see that Zechariah was an old man and had served many years.
It is almost certain that he had never been blessed with the ability to burn incense to the Lord.
Year after year he most likely wasn’t chosen to do this great act.
But now was his time to burn incense to the Lord.
Can you imagine how excited and nervous this man was?
He had waited his whole life for this moment and now here it was!
We saw in our last point that God is always working as we persevere before the promise.
Now we see God working as He prepares us for the promise.
You see, this wasn’t just a luck thing.
God was in charge of the lot.
He had determined that it not fall unto Zechariah until this very day and this very time.
My friends, you may be wondering what is going on in your life right now.
You are trying to persevere but it just seems like nothing is coming through.
Be mindful that God is preparing you for the fulfillment of the promise.
He is making you more like His Son as he prepares you for eternal life through sanctification.
Know that He is sovereignly working in each and every situation in your life - even when it seems by chance!
Because He holds everything in His hands - rest in Him as you know He is always working.
And we can know that...
Scripture References: Proverbs 16:33
God is Always Working in the Midst of… The Proclamation of the Promise (11-23)
Now comes the climax of this account.
Any time a sentence starts off with ‘and there appeared an angel of the Lord’ - you can guarantee that is going to be a climactic point of any account in the Bible!
I feel like the word for troubled here is a little underwhelming to what it really was.
This word can mean disturbed as well.
And immediately fear fell upon him.
I love the personification of fear here.
Luke writes as if fear is a person that fell on Zechariah.
That is how fear can feel though isn’t it?
It can be quite a tangible feeling.
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