- Sermon Notes
As You Wait for God’s Answer
Illus. According to the plan.
This morning we are going to gain insights and wisdom into waiting for God’s answer in our lives as we look at what God did in the lives of a couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth. The couple had prayed what seems to be many prayers, holding out hope in their lives for a particular answer, but up to this point, they had not received God’s answer.
Their story is intertwined with the story of the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the Messiah who had been promised and prophesied in and throughout Scripture. People had high hopes and had prayed many prayers that the promised Messiah would be given to a people in a dark place, desperately in need of the Deliverer. The True Light that coming into the world would enlighten every person. Israel was in a long night or spiritual darkness, and their only hope was that one day, the Light of world would come break through the darkness.
Isaiah 9:2, The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.
Isaiah 9:6, For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
That light would be a child, that Isaiah 9:6 said would be “born to us.” His presence would bring about great joy and rejoicing. In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi had given a prophesy that the Lord was coming, not only this, there would be a messenger who would come before Him to clear a way for Him (Malachi 3:1). Malachi continued to inform the people of the coming of the Savior, and the one who would come before Him, a forerunner, a voice crying out to prepare the way of the Lord. This was also written in Isaiah 40:3-5.
There were great promises, and high hopes, but as we turn from the last book of the Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament, nothing had happened. The reality of the one who would come before Christ, and the life of Christ Himself coming on the scene, was at that time an unrealized reality in what seemed to be a distant prophecy. The nation was in a 400 year season of waiting. The Lord had not spoken to the nation in 400 years; no word, no prophet, no forerunner, and the Messiah had not yet come as promised.
But in Luke chapter one, the Lord will again speak. To a couple that was a part of the people God has given great promises to. They too would wait in hope of the day where the Lord would bring the Light of the world to their darkened reality. The Lord was going to speak after 400 years. He would speak to a couple who had experience a life filled with unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Specifically, we understand that throughout their lives they had been praying that God would give them a child, but they had lived many years without an answer to their prayer.
So we have a nation that had not received an answer to the promise God had given for 400 years. And a couple who had prayed, drawing near to the Lord asking for an answer to their prayer, much after many years, still no answer. Perhaps the picture of this couple and nation seems familiar to you today. You have prayed, yet no answer, you have prayed, but still you wait. Today I want to encourage you through what God did in the lives of a couple, nation and world 2,000 years ago, and bring hope to your life and some things to know, as you pray and wait for God’s answer in your life.
- Keep Doing Right in His Sight
Luke 1:5-7, 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.
- From verse 5, we understand that Zechariah and Elizabeth were living in difficult days under the rule of a difficult king. Verse 5 begins by revealing the time period they lived in, “during the days of King Herod.” Herod was a wicked king.
- As we are introduced to this couple, we learn that they are 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, “they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
- This would have been a puzzling or contradictory description of this couple for those reading or hearing it in that day because of what we read in verse 7, “And yet they had no child, because Elizabeth was infertile, and they were both advanced in years.”
- To be childless 2,000 years ago, was unlike it is today, it came with great social difficulty. 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 Zechariah and Elizabeth, that they were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
- 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.
- From verse 7, we understand another description of Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were “advanced in years.”
- Though they were advanced in years, though their deepest desires had not transpired, though they likely faced the judgement and questions of others, this couple did not quit, withdraw, or retire from the things of the Lord, 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.
- They were hoping and praying for something they had yet to see. Based upon their age, it would seem that the answer was not likely, yet they kept living righteously. They kept doing right before the Lord.
Illus. What did they say?
- Zechariah and Elizabeth are noted as those who walked blamelessly. This does not mean they were sinless…but rather their lives were characterized by their obedience to God, His Word, and His law.
Psalm 119:1-3, Blessed are those whose way is blameless Who walk in the Law of the Lord. Blessed are those who comply with His testimonies, and seek Him with all their heart.
- Based on their description, people would have has much to say and suggest about this couple, despite that, they did right in God’s sight.
- Regarding what has yet to happen in your life, despite what seems unlikely given your situation, keep doing right in God’s sight. Don’t allow difficulty to stop you from walking righteously.
1 Peter 3:12, For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.
- He Hears Your Prayers
- After the description of this couple, we learn about the circumstances surrounding God’s attentiveness and answer to their prayer.
Luke 1:8-13, 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.
- Zechariah is in the temple for his priestly service. 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 two 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 Zechariah 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.
Luke 1:13, And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
Illus. Incense offering.
- Scripture often associated incense with the prayers of God’s people (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).
- As the incense was poured, smoke would rise… The priest would say a prayer on behalf of the nation.
- It would be a prayer for the nation, the coming Messiah, of thanksgiving, for families, salvation, and peace in the nation.
- The priest would then come out to those outside the holy place and bring a blessing.
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.”
- The other priests and people would be outside the holy place praying and seeing the smoke rise and pray as well.
- As they saw it rise, they would reflect and center their thoughts on their prayers going up to God as the smoke and aroma from the incense would rise.
Illus. As prayer goes up.
Luke 1:11-17, 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.”
- It seems that Zechariah is receiving 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 God had heard their prayers all along.
James 5:16, The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (NIV)
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
Illus. Did you receive it?
- From Revelation 5 we also know that not only does the Lord hear them, however, He holds them.
Illus. Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:3-4.
- It is important for us to realize in our lives that when we pray, our prayers are heard, held, and then at some point, either now or later, hurled upon our lives and the earth.
- 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.
- As the story continues, however, what becomes clear is that Zechariah, due to the delay, as he waited, had begun to think that God’s response to his prayer was a denial, and had ultimately become an impossibility.
- His Delays Are Not His Denials
Luke 1:18, Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her years.”
- Zechariah, “your prayer has been heard!” “Your wife is going to bear you a son!” Your son is going to be John the Baptist, he is the forerunner that was prophesied in Malachi! God is bringing the forerunner to prepare the people for the Lord, the Messiah, it’s happening!
- The response of Zechariah to his answered prayer seems quite similar to the depiction of our way after we pray.
- 18, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
- Zechariah looked at the circumstances first, and what God can do last. Zechariah didn’t believe, and in his asking for a sign, he was a sign, of unbelief.
- Zechariah 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.
- Zechariah 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.
- Perhaps your prayer hasn’t been answered. Perhaps you’ve started thinking that it’s too late, your too old, too young, too in-between, that it doesn’t work that way anymore, the times have changed, you have moved on.
Illus. What about that?
- As you wait for God’s answer in your life, keep doing right in His sight, knowing that He hears and hold your prayers, and when you don’t understand His ways, trust that He is working in the midst of the delay to bring about what is best in your life and this world according to His will and His way.
Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.
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. Help my unbelief.
- As you wait for God’s answer in your life, keep doing right in His sight, knowing that He hears and holds your prayers, and when you don’t understand His ways, trust that He is working in the midst of the delay to bring about what is best in your life and this world according to His will and His way.