Have you ever wondered why God didn’t answer your prayer or why He hasn’t removed you from a tough circumstance? Hopefully, today’s message will be healing for you as you tune in to listen how God has not forgotten you.. Visit section 4 today @ https://www.harmonychurch.cc/timeline-of-jesus/birth-preparation/. IT’S EASY TO GIVE, text any amount to (859) 459-0316 to get started (or give online @ my.harmonychurch.cc/give ).
When I was a student pastor I was at this Summer camp and there was this girl that had an amputated leg. It was Middle School camp and if you know anything about middle school, you know kids can be merciless. We had been in worship for the camp and I noticed she got up and went outside. I went out and asked if she was ok. She was broken, kids had been making fun of her because of her disability. She told me she just sometimes wanted it all to end… She wanted to know where God was, why did he let this happen to her…
We can all feel that pain, right?
We’ve all questioned whether God even cares
The problem is, most of us never take the time to actually answer the question
and we’re left with a weak faith that fails at the first sign of negative circumstances.
This morning, I want us to look at an early story of from before Jesus’ life of John the Baptist’s birth…
-did you know John the Baptist was mentioned by the ancient Roman/Jewish Historian Josephus? Not just a myth, but a real person who really lived in history…
We’ll look at this story that so many can identify with and then out of it we’ll come back and answer the question – does God even care?
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
I need us to slow down here because I have known several families in my time who have struggled with not being able to have children. It is a deep pain for them to watch their friends have kids, to play with nieces and nephews and long to be able to have their own children and not be able to. I have had them sit in my office and weep as they mourn the children they are unable to bring into this world. It is absolutely heartbreaking. And if that has ever been you, then I want you to hear. Elizabeth and Zechariah know that pain.
One of the things I love about the bible is the real stories of real people with real struggles
In Zech & Betsy’s day, this would not have just been seen as something to be sad over, there is a strong likelihood that they would have been understood as not being righteous enough…
Luke makes sure to mention how good they were – “they were both righteous and observed everything, and still they remained childless…”
How many nights did Betsy weep over those children
How many times did Zech come back after being mocked for not being able to produce a son
What would they do with their inheritance
Now, they are past the age of bearing children…
The dream is gone…
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
You ever had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? You actually met Elvis while he was alive? Ate dinner with a president?
For Zech, that’s what this moment is like. The Talmud tells us this is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You got chosen for this event one time… Every single day, twice a day, a priest would go into the Holy place, this is the lobby to the Holy of Holy’s it was only the place where only a priest could go. There was a table for the showbread (the bread of the presence – this is the bread David eats and was only for the priests). There is also a menorah – an olive oil lamp. And the table of incense. The priest would go in at the time of prayer and pray this prayer while burning this special incense:
HaShem (a name the Jewish people use in place of God because His name is holy) of legions is with us!
A stronghold for us is the G-d of Yaakov (Jacob), selah!
HaShem of legions, happy is the man who trusts in You!
HaShem, deliver us!
Our King, answer us on this day we call out to You!
May the offerings of Yehudah (Judah) and Jerusalem please HaShem, as in the past and bygone years!
This is the prayer Zech is praying – can you imagine him reveling in it? He has not been in this room before – he’s dreamed of this moment his whole life, probably thought he may never get to do it… and then his number gets called! He’s praying, “Our King, answer us on this day…”
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
Always the response of someone who meets an angel
13 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 call him 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 before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel 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 parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “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. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Gabriel – the same Gabriel that announces to Mary is now telling Zech he is going to have a son and his son is going to turn Israel back to God… That’s like Moses stuff, that’s Elijah stuff – that’s prophets of old stuff
But Zech can’t believe Him… Impossible – we are both old…
So Gabe tells him he’s going to not be able to talk till the boy is born…
I always crack up when I read Elizabeth saying:
“The Lord has done this for me,”
I know she’s talking about the baby, but come on, some of it has to be about her husband not being able to talk 😉
It’s an incredible story, but maybe you’re sitting there going, “but Kent, what does that have to do with where’s God when hard stuff happens?”
Can I point out something maybe you missed because I zoomed past it?
Remember, Zech is praying “Our King answer us…”
and Gabe says this:
13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.
Which prayer? Which prayer has been heard?
The context of the angel’s answer is not the prayer that Zech is praying right now…
The context is that the prayer God is answering is the prayer about Zechariah & Elizabeth being childless
But get this…
They are old at this point… I can’t prove it, but they have likely stopped praying that prayer…
The prayer of, “God give me a baby,” is the prayer of a young family.
I’m pretty sure that Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up on that prayer years ago…
But God never did.
Can I say that again…
You may have given up, but that doesn’t mean that God has given up…
“your prayer has been heard.”
God heard the prayer of Zech & Betsy and he responded, not when they thought He should and not in the way they would have had it. But He did.
Some of you are probably still wondering what happened to the little girl at the beginning of my sermon, “kent, was she ok?”
She was fine and we talked and she understood that God had made her stronger than most and she could endure it.
One of the things I’ve found is people HATE it when I tell half a story in my sermons to get to a point I want to make and then never finish. When there is a cliffhanger. We want resolution…
Part of the problem for humans is we live in a world and story that is unfinished, and a lot of times we judge our story before the conclusion has been revealed.
We want resolution and God is after restoration…
I think that’s part of the reason Pauls said:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let your hope be in the fact that God’s love for you in Jesus is unshakeable and know that He will work out circumstances in His time – whether it’s in this life or the next…