- Sermon Notes
God Has Not Forgotten
Illus. According to the plan.
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 not yet received. They had likely prayed and prayed, looking for the Lord to make a way, but when the answer did not come, it 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.
At this time, 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 the Lord had last spoken through, and what he spoke of was a forerunner who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Isaiah 40:3-5, The voice of one calling out, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the uneven ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Matthew 3:1-3, Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “
“The voice of one calling out in the wilderness ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’”
We know John the Baptist was the one to come before the Savior, however, not even he had come. In that day it may have been easy for many to feel as if God had forgotten them…But God had not forgotten…Their wait was only a divine delay and this morning at the reality of God’s working His will and His way in that day, I pray we would stirred in our hope and faith that even today in a time where many may feel like there is a divine delay, that God is still working His will and His way, today.
Read: Luke 1:5-25
The couple at the center of this text was living in difficult days, and the predicament for Zacharias and Elizabeth seems a picture of the times. Verse 5 begins by revealing the time period they lived in, “during the days of King Herod.” Herod was a wicked king.
Zacharias and Elizabeth were living in that difficult day, and in the midst of it all, had difficulties of their own. Verse 7 reveals that they had no child, that Elizabeth was barren, and they were advanced in years. It seems that for a child they had prayed, but from the Lord regarding that request, He was silent, and at this point, the hopes for that had likely long passed away, perhaps feeling that their prayers had been forgotten…But God had not forgotten… It would be a lesson for Zacharias (Hebrew; Greek: Zechariah), whose name means “God Remembers,” and his wife, whose name means “my God is an oath.” Through their story we will see that both of their name meaning are true and on full display!
The context of this text 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. Your current condition is not final, divine delays are not denials.
I. Keep Walking According to His Will
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.
They were upstanding citizens in the household of God, yet they were unable to have a child.
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.
Therefore, the description of Zacharias and Elizabeth, that they were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord,” for an ancient reader…would have been contradictory to their culture.
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.
From verse 7, we understand another description of Zacharias and Elizabeth, they were “advanced in years.”
Though they were advanced in years, though their deepest desires had not transpired, they kept walking according to God’s 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.
Illus. Who are you living according to?
1 Samuel 16:7, The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
2 Chronicles 16:9, For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
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.
To say Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless does not mean they were sinless…but rather their lives were characterized by their obedience to God, His Word, and His law.
1 Peter 3:12, For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.
Draw Near Knowing He 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, it was a high honor which many priests never would have the opportunity to do.
The priest would go and pour incense on coals… The incense was a special mixture of fine and specific spices that mixed together was holy to the people and before the Lord…
In Scripture incense is associate with the prayers of God’s people…(Psalm 141:2; 5:8)
And I wonder…as Zacharias entered to the holy place…Seeing the altar of incense…With incense in His hands…putting the incense on the fire, seeing the smoke rise…What might he have thought about prayer?
The prayer he had prayed, for a child had up to this point been unanswered and he and his wife were beyond the time in their lives whereby they could expect any change to their situation. It is there that God sends and angel to meet him.
Luke 1:13, But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.
It seems that the answer Zacharias is receiving is the answer to 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 years of praying, and year after year without and answer, it was clear here, that their prayers God had heard. God had not forgotten.
Zacharias heard Gabriel clearly, but responded with unbelief…Vs. 18, How could that be…I am old, my wife is advanced in years, barren…
I am not sure what prayers you have left behind and forgotten…but the Lord heard your prayer…He has not forgotten….
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. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
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.
Revelation 8:3-4, Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
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.
Since you know He hears you, pray and then…
Look to What Only 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 did not 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 must continue looking for Him to do what only He can do. And we are good at reminding God, and others of how impossible the situation is.
Luke 1:19-20, The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
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 he was mute. Unable to speak and unable to hear because of his unbelief.
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 Peter.
Illus. What about that?
Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.
There are two types of unbelief.
1. Not believing in Jesus.
2. That He can’t.
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.
Luke 1:16-17, He (John) will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
If you once had a prayer the Lord laid on your heart, would you pick it back up and begin to persist in it? He has not forgotten.
Luke 1:24, After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. And yet they had no child, because Elizabeth was infertile, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. Now an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” And meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple, and he repeatedly made signs to them, and remained speechless. When the days of his priestly service were concluded, he went back home. Now after these days his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among people.”