December 9, 2020
Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you for your devotion to Christ and commitment to pray for our prodigals and for revival. Believing God when things are pleasant is relatively easy, but believing God when life is desperate requires true faith. The late preacher and apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias once said, “God often reinforces our faith after we trust Him, not before.” How true!
The story of the coming prophesied Messiah is intertwined in the stories of history. As we anticipate the celebration of His birth in the coming weeks, we will look briefly at three stories: the story of the priest, the story of the shepherds, and lastly, the story of the magi.
The captivating story of Zechariah the priest begins this way, “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old” (Lk. 1:5-7).
Herod was king. Zechariah the priest and his wife were righteous before God. She was barren and childless. And they were both old. Life was not easy in the land of Israel under Roman domination, especially under Herod the Great. He was a ruthless tyrant. Things were not as they were supposed to be. Yet in the midst of hardship and difficulty, there was a couple who were simply doing the right thing. Their hearts were right, their behavior was right, and they were honoring God. The fact that Elizabeth was barren, was no small thing. She bore the reproach and stigma by her people that she was under the judgment of God. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “Custom in many Judean circles demanded that if for many years a wife of childbearing age did not bear children, the husband should divorce her so he could father children with a different wife. Zechariah and Elizabeth did not do so.” The fact that they were both old brought a certain finality that things would never change, that this is the way it would always be. But God had different plans.
As Zechariah was serving in the Temple, it says, “While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John’” (Lk. 1:11-13). The NIV says, “He was startled and was gripped with fear.” This seems to be a natural human response after seeing a messenger from heaven. It was all good, though. The message from the angel Gabriel was an answer to prayer, an announcement of joy, a prophecy fulfilled. Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a son whose name was John. We call him, John the Baptist—the man selected by God to introduce the Messiah to the nation of Israel.
As you keep reading the story, you learn that Zechariah didn’t believe what he was hearing. A priest who didn’t believe God, imagine that! He asked the “how” question to one of heaven’s top angels. Of course, he couldn’t understand. He was old, Elizabeth was old, and there was no human possibility for them to have a child. He knew how biology worked, but he temporarily forgot that the God he served was able to do what was not normal or natural, humanly speaking. God was able to do the impossible.
This is a good time for you to stop and remember what God has spoken to you. What truth has He given you that He wants you to live in the good of today? What promises does He want you to enjoy? His help (Ps. 33:20)? His power (Eph. 3:20)? His presence (Heb. 13:5)? His care (1 Pet. 5:7)? His love (Jn. 17:23)? His comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4)?
Because of Zechariah’s failure to believe God, he lost the ability to enjoy the full reality of this announcement. He lost his ability to speak. Unbelief always brings loss, but God was true to His word. The baby was born, and “Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him” (Lk. 1:66). Yes, then Zechariah began to speak. And speak he did! He spoke with power, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, he gave a beautiful prophecy. (You can read it from verses sixty-six to seventy-nine.)
He spoke of how his little son (v76) would be called the prophet of the Most High, to prepare the way for the Lord, to tell people how their sins could be forgiven, and to point them to “the morning light from heaven” (Lk. 1:78). This morning light, this dayspring, this rising sun, was none other than the precious baby Jesus, soon to be born. He is the light of the world, and He is our light.
Whatever the darkness that may be closing in around your present circumstance, turn to Him, look upon Him, embrace Him, and allow the fullness of His presence to fill you with peace and joy.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel