“In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah…” vs. 5
Tell Me One Thing You Want
This is the time of year for making Christmas lists. We make a list of things we want and then sometimes someone else may have gotten that same gift for them. I know better communication would work but sometimes we don’t talk about those things. So I came up with this thought; Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone just told you one thing they wanted? I could tell one person I want a Starbucks card, another I want a new pair of pants and yet another a new pair of hiking pants. See you tell each person something different, but just one thing. It makes it easier for them and probably easier for you too.
Case in point: Last week during the boutique my sister texted me and asked me how the boutique was going. I told it was going pretty well. Since I had her on the line I asked; “What does mom want for Christmas?” She texted back that I should ask her, she is in the parking lot. I said what parking lot. She said your church parking lot. My parents and sister came to visit our boutique. That was a nice surprise. So as they are walking around my mom gets to the booth where Margie had her neck warmers. I told her to try them that she would really like them. So we heated one up and she tried it on…and loved it. So my sister takes me aside later and says mom would really like one of those for Christmas. I’m thinking that this is great so I’ll just get one a little later. But then, a few minutes later, I see my sister buying it! So there goes that idea.
Can you name the one thing you want for Christmas? It could be a present. It could be a resolution to a difficult situation in your life; a job, a relationship issue, physical problem, etc. Today we are going to look at a guy who had something taken from him and then given back. Luke 1:5-25:
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. 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. 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. 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.”
Today we are looking at a guy named Zechariah. Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh remembers.” God always remembers. That makes this story have an interesting twist. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth have been married quite a long time, they are old, and they don’t have kids. I Am assuming they had prayed to God numerous times, if not daily in their younger years, to allow them to get pregnant but those prayers went seemingly unanswered, it didn’t seem like God remembered. If there was one thing Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted it was to have a child. Not having children in their culture was a stigma of disgrace. It was a sign to some that maybe you had done something wrong and that God was angry with you or punishing you.
Zechariah was in a mode of waiting and he may have even gotten to the point where he had given up. Though his name meant “God Remembers” he didn’t feel that his name was accurate to his life. How do you feel when you have to wait? Anxious? Frustrated? Disappointed? Angry? Forgotten?
We live in a world of immediacy and it becomes more and more difficult to wait.
Ex. Cell phones are a perfect example of that. We feel that if someone has a cell phone and we call them, they should answer and be available. We get angry and frustrated if someone doesn’t answer their phone. We feel like we are being ignored. I mean their name and number come up on the screen and they should see it’s me and pick up. Forget whatever else they are doing. We become so anxious we go on the hunt. We call their office, their home, their spouse, and maybe even their kids! And usually, usually, it is something that is not that immediate or could wait.
Here’s a more difficult question because God doesn’t have a cell phone; What do you feel like when you have to wait on God? Do those same feelings and emotions cone up?
Zechariah’s experience was one of waiting. He had a life of waiting. It’s easy to see why his story is in the Bible; because he is the father of John the Baptist. Let’s not stop there though. Let’s look a little deeper into his story and see what you and I learn from him.
- Doubts: We All Have Them
One thing about Zechariah’s experience is that waiting can cause us to doubt and that is exactly what happens to him. Verse 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.” vs. 18
It is possible for people of faith, even great faith, to experience times of doubt. The text is clear in verses 5-7 that Zechariah was a man of true faith. He was a man who genuinely believed in God and the passage tells us he obeyed all of God’s lawas and decree’s. It even says that he was righteous in God’s sight. This guy was pretty solid in his beleifs. He served God faithfully in the temple and In his book, Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
“Doubts are not incompatible with faith.…Some people seem to think that once you become a Christian you should never be assailed by doubts. But that is not so, Peter still had faith (as he panicked in the storm in Matthew 14).… His faith was not gone, but because it was weak, doubt mastered him and overwhelmed him and he was shaken…Doubts will attack us, but that does not mean that we are to allow them to master us.”
That’s one thing about being a Christian, some people think you somehow magically riase above a lot of the daily things that bother the average person, this is especially true if you are in ministry. That being said, even he disciples had doubt. Point in case, in Luke 24 after Jesus has risen and they see him Jesus utters these words in Luke 24:38:
“He (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” Luke 24:38
It’s interesting, even those closest to Jesus had doubts. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we feel a lot of pressure from the world to be “perfect” in a sense or maybe just a little bit better. I think that is one of the great things about how God calls us, he doesn’t throw out the old you. You are still you, but now God can work in you to refine you.
2. God Works Through Our Silences
A second thing that we see in Zechariah’s experience is that God works through our silences. Verse 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.” vs. 20
The quiet times of our life can be great times of reflection. It is important for us to build into our lives times of silence and reflection so we can hear God. Let me help you understand how you might be able to do this. If you have the time, you can go on a retreat, get away and really distance yourself from the busy-ness of your life. But you know, many of us don’t have the time or the ability to do that. But…here is what you can do. Remember those cell phones? You can turn them off for a while. You can take a walk in the hills or even around the block. You can even just sit in your office, living room, den, family room, etc. and just close your eyes for 5 minutes.
Ex. Pastor Chris takes TAWGS Time Alone With God
“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” Ecc. 9:17
Ex. I once worked for Pastor Jon Peterson. One day on the way to work he lost control of his car and as it swerved off the road it rolled. Amazingly he was okay. Not a scratch on him. But…he couldn’t talk. For the first few months he could only communicate by writing. He slowly regained his speech but it took almost 9 months. Wghe you talk to him about it, he feels that God was using this time of silence to talk to him.
3. He Remained Working
And finally, Zechariah continued to work and we might say work through his issues. Verse 23:
“When his time of service was completed, he returned home.” vs. 23
The passage implies that he finished his time of service before he returned home. One thing about our faith, God rarely calls out of a situation completely but usually asks us to continue to work through those times. Think about it, rarely do things happen miraculously where our problems are completely gone in an instant. It is a gradual recovery…like my friend Jon who lost his speech. As I said earlier, it took almost nine months for him to be able to communicate well again and even longer to really regain his full speech. Life is a continuing process and part of our charge is to keep on going.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” Phil. 2:12
Working out is continuous process. It takes determination, it takes strength and it takes time. I would say, in the mean time, you keep on, keep on praying, keep on learning, keep on striving, maybe what we learn best from Zechariah is to keep on listening.
Ex. It like getting in shape. We work out, exercise, and et right to keep our bodies in good working order and in shape. But you know as well as I do that staying in shape is almost harder than getting in shape. Once your in shape is doesn’t remain that way. You build in good habits and a steady routine. You keep on working out and you stayed determined and focused because we all know that if you don’t, you loose it.
The Joy In The Waiting
Let me end with this challenge to you. We talked about the difficulty in waiting and how we want everything now. But I think there is joy in the waiting. Listen to the two ways that this situation was approached in our story. Verses 21-22:
“Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them.” vss. 21-22
And verses 24-25:
“After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said.” vss. 24-25
Let me point out an interesting thing that is going on here. God has to quiet Zechariah. In a sense, he shuts him up. He can sign and gesture and try to communicate but he has to be quiet. They had less sophisticated ways of being able to communicate. He couldn’t text or write on a computer. If he was lucky he would have had a small chalkboard and been able to write that way. But something else is happening here too. Elizabeth goes into seclusion (verse 24). Zechariah is forced to be quiet and Elizabeth chooses to be quiet. Solomon said in Ecc. 9:17:
We can choose to be quiet or it just might be that God needs to quiet us.
What happened over the next few months. The anticipation must have been incredible. This is what they always wanted. They were probably counting days and weeks. There was a joy in what was now coming to reality. They were having a son. They were going to be parents. When God works, there is joy that comes; also awe. Psalm 65:8 says:
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders…” Psalm 65:8
When God works, it is awe-some.