- Sermon Notes
God Has Not Forgotten
Illus. Anything left?
As we head into the Christmas season of messages this morning we are going to look into the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth, a couple advanced in years who it seems had prayed prayers, and held out hope in their lives for a particular answer that they had never received. They had likely prayed and prayed, looking for the Lord to make a way, but when the answer did not come, its seems that hope had begun to fade, what they would learn is that God was going to make a way, their wait was only a divine delay. God had not forgotten.
Read: Luke 1:5-25
The couple at the center of this text were living in difficult days, and the predicament for Zacharias and Elizabeth seems a picture of the times. There was a wicked king, and the Lord had not spoken to the nation in 400 years; no word, no prophet, no Messiah as previously promised. It was the prophet Malachi who had spoken of a forerunner who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah, yet even the forerunner had not yet come.
Elizabeth was barren, she and her husband were advanced in years. They had prayed many prayers, yet no news to see or to share. Despite the silence and difficulty in the air, God had not forgotten, He had heard their every prayer.
The context is well worth your consideration because you may be in a season or a situation, whereby the prayers you have prayed have thus far gone unanswered, leaving you dismayed. If that is you I want to encourage you this morning, because He hears you when you call, and has not forgotten. The current condition is not final, divine delays are not denials.
I. Keep Walking According to His Will
Luke 1:5-7, …There was a priest named Zacharias, of the
- As we are introduced to this couple, both of the priestly line, their description is striking and for those in that day, their current condition was contradictory.
- Though not found in the Bible, the Rabbi’s in that day wrongly taught that if a couple couldn’t have children, it was due to sin in their life.
- People would have assumed that there was something wrong, either couple was not obeying, walking righteously, or following God’s commands.
- Yet regarding this couple, God had something completely different to say.
- The Lord identifies them both as righteous in His sight, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.
- They were devoted to the Lord and His ways.
- Called righteous, but without a child, Zacharias and Elizabeth were not experiencing the assumed spiritual result.
- Whatever judgement, talk, chatter, or gossip others would had given, had likely been given, and was nothing new to these two.
- They were advanced in years. And based on the facts of their life, there seemed to be no reason to expect a change to the reality that they did not have a child.
- Though they were advanced in years, thought their deepest desires hadn’t transpired, though they faced the judgement of others, this couple did not quit, withdraw, or retire from the things of the Lord, they kept walking according to His will.
- How easy it would have been for them to give up, give in to the words of others spoken over their situation, but they chose to walk righteously.
Psalm 119:1-3, Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
What do you do when your deepest desires haven’t transpired? When words come from others in the form of wounds about the way it should be?
Illus. 4 years of silence.
Deuteronomy 28:14, Do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
- Hold onto the One who hears
- In that day and time, there were roughly 20,000 priests throughout the country.
- This was too many to serve in the temple at one time, therefore, the priests were divided into 24 separate groups of priests with around 800 priests per group. This was according to David’s instructions in 1 Chronicles 24.
- Each division would serve at the temple in Jerusalem 2 weeks per year. They had 48 weeks per year since they went by the lunar calendar, this would ensure that the entire year was covered.
- It was at this time that Zacharias was chosen by a process of casting lots which was done each day to determine who would enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.
- Offering incense before the Lord was a great privilege. A once in a lifetime opportunity for a priest if it happened. It was a high honor which many priests never would have the opportunity to do.
Luke 1:13, The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.
- “Your petition has been heard” The angel declared.
- It seems that the answer Zacharias is receiving is the answer to the THE petition, THE prayer…The big one, the prayer he and his wife had prayed for many years for a child, perhaps particularly for a son. Here we see, the answer had come!
- And after year of praying, and year after year without and answer, it was clear here, that their prayers God had heard.
- Based upon His response (Vs. 18), it is clear that Zacharias was not praying for a son or for children in that moment. But God had not forgotten.
- At some point Zacharias seemingly had stopped praying that prayer…We’re old, beyond the years of having children, it’s not happening.
- But the angel says, your prayer has been heard!
- And for you today, there is something that scripture makes clear; your prayers, He hears.
1 Peter 3:12, For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.
James 4:2-3, You do not have because to do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 5:16-18, The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- Zacharias and Elizabeth hadn’t received a response, but the Lord had heard their every prayer. The answer would come in His time, and according to His good and perfect will.
Illus. Did you receive it?
Revelation 5:8, …The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
- Your petition, your prayer has been heard, said the angel. Zacharias must have thought, what do you mean? I haven’t prayed that prayer in years…But they never left God’s inbox, they were read, received, with a check mark.
- The prayer they prayed was being answered, in a way in which God’s power and will would be displayed not only in their lives, but in their country, and the world, as their son would be the fulfillment of prophecy and would prepare the way, for The Way, who would make a way for generations to come.
- Look to what He can do
- The response of Zacharias to his answered prayer seems quite similar to the depiction of our way after we pray.
- Vs. 18, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
- Zacharias looked at the circumstances first, and what God can do last. Zacharias didn’t believe, and in his asking for a sign, he was a sign, of unbelief.
- We are tempted to do the same, thinking it is logical, but when we place our prayers before the Lord, we have to continue looking for Him to do what only He can do.
- Zacharias is made mute, and from verse 62, we also understand that people had to make gestures to him in order to communicate with him. He was unable to hear and mute. Unable to speak and unable to hear because of his unbelief.
Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”
- And this seems a picture of what unbelief does in our day as well. We are neither able to hear it, nor speak it.
- Zacharias would be unable to speak until the child was born. The Lord was going to do what only He could do. Doubt had no place in the discussion.
- And when God’s plan is put forth in your life and mine, it isn’t a doubtful commentary that should remain on the agenda, rather we need to believe and not doubt.
- Are you there this morning? Are the prayers going up and being sent without a hint of hope, trust and faith in Him?
James 1:6-7, when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Illus. Couldn’t be Pete.
Illus. What about that?
Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.
- The Bible points to the importance of persistence in prayer.
Matthew 7:7-8, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Illus. According to His will.
Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42, Matthew 26:44, 2 Corinthians 12:8, Mark 8.
- The Lord had a plan, a promise in place, and He was bringing it about in the life of Zacharias and Elizabeth. It was 400 years before that a word was spoken.
He remembers: Malachi 4:5-6, Luke 1:16-17.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. 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. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 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. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 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. 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.” 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. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “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.”