Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Luke 2:8-20 NLT That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don't be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.
Can you imagine how quiet it must have been in that dark night after the sheep had been bedded down and the shepherds were relaxing from a day of caring for their flocks? When SUDDENLY.....an angel of the Lord appeared among them and the night sky lit up with the radiance of God's glory! In just a twinkling of an eye their whole world changed from dark to light! That's what happens in a person's life when God's glory shows up! Jesus is the glory of God in human form. His message of hope was shared with a group of shepherds. This was the greatest birth announcement ever made and it wasn't given to kings or priests; it was given to lowly shepherds; those who, as an occupation, cared for sheep.
The first thing the angel said to the shepherds was “don't be afraid”! In every visitation that we've seen from an angel that came to give a message to someone from God regarding the birth of Jesus we've heard “don't be afraid”, or “do not fear”. God's love casts out all fear. Fear is not from God, it comes as a message from the evil one who is the instigator of all negative forms of fear. The reverential fear of God is what comes from God; it is a respect, a reverence for who God is to us that causes us to love what He loves and hate what He hates. But fear that causes terror within the heart of a person comes from our enemy, the devil. The angel was instructed to tell the shepherds to not fear because God is the God of love.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
1 John 4:16-18 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other as a result of his loving us first.
It has been said that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Word of God; one for each day of the year. God does not want His children to be afraid and especially not when they are encountering Him, or communing with His Spirit or having a visit from an angelic messenger. If fear is present when you are having a spiritual encounter with the Lord, it may be another spirit other than God's Spirit. We are instructed in 1 John 4:1 to test the spirits to make sure they are of God.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Immediately after the angel gave the shepherds the message from God the night sky became aglow with the heavenly host singing praises to our God! “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Christmas is not about giving and receiving presents, although we celebrate His birth through giving gifts to others. But Christmas is about Jesus! He is the Center of Christmas! He is the reason that we celebrate! Glory to God for sending Jesus to save mankind from their sin! Jesus came to bring peace on earth; peace between God and man and relationally to men with each other. When the Prince of Peace comes to live in the hearts of men we will see the ultimate peace on earth that Jesus came to give us. When we receive Him as Savior and Lord we experience peace with God that dispels all fear and gives us the hope for a bright future filled with His goodness!
Know Jesus—know peace! No Jesus—no peace!
The next thing that we see happening in the life of the shepherds on that night when an angel of the Lord came to tell them of the birth of the King was that they acted on His word. We can hear the word of God spoken to us through His messenger but it's not really ours or appropriated into our lives until we act on it. They could have heard what the angel said and rejoiced in what they heard but it was made more real to them when they acted on it by going to see the baby of which the angel had spoken. When we act on His word we are stepping out in faith saying, “I believe it and I receive it as God's word for me in my life right now”! James calls that action as being a person who is not just hearing the word of God but doing it!
James 1:22-24 NLT And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
The Word of God is exponentially multiplied in your life when you hear AND do it. When you read or hear it you receive one level of power from it, but when you add to it the doing then the reality of it is multiplied to you and change comes into your life. We are changed by what God says to us. His word changes our hearts and lives. We are changed from the ways of the world to know the way God thinks through the renewing of our minds to His word. (Romans 12:2) The shepherds lives were changed that night by what the angel of the Lord said to them and through their obedience to go see the baby for themselves.
When the shepherds heard the word from the angel and went to see the baby Jesus they couldn't contain their excitement and had to go tell what they had heard and seen! When we have an encounter with the living God we are compelled to tell others about Him. We want to share what He has placed in our hearts; we want to give away the salvation that He has given us so others can know Him as well. The shepherds told everyone what had happened to them and what the angel had said to them about his child.
Luke 2:18, 19 And all who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.
They had to tell others about Jesus! When you've had a great experience in your life you want to share it with others. It is natural to let what is on the inside of you flow out to those around you. The greatest story ever told is the story of Jesus!
And the last thing that we see taking place in the lives of these shepherds is that they went back to their flocks praising God for what the angel had told them and having seen the child, just as the angel had said. The outflow of an encounter with the Lord Jesus is praise! When we draw close to Him through a living and vital relationship with Him the natural thing to do is praise Him! Our spirit connects with the Holy Spirit within us and the automatic outflow is that of praise! God fills your life with praise for Him!
Have you had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, or do you simply know Jesus as the baby in the manger? Have you seen Him as Savior and Lord or just a little baby, helpless and defenseless? If you want to see Him as Your own personal Savior and Lord, just ask Him into your heart today and He will come in and save you and give you a new life, filled with His presence.
Father, I pray for those today who may want to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. I pray that they will open their hearts to You and ask You into their lives to change them and give them a reason to continue living. For those who are depressed I pray that they will allow the Prince of Peace to come into their lives and bring peace in the midst of their sorrow. I pray that they will ask You to save them and give them new life. I pray that the eyes of the blind will be opened today to see Jesus in all His glory! In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Won't you invite Jesus into your heart today? If you want to do that please pray this prayer with me and sincerely mean it in your heart,
Father, I come before You this morning to receive Your gift that You gave through Jesus Christ. I believe that He was born into this earth to live a sinless life and die for me that I might have life. I believe that He is the Son of God and that You gave Him to the world as the sacrifice to pay the price for the sin of mankind. I confess to You that I am a sinner, both by birth and by choice. I ask You for forgive me of my sin and to come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and save me. I receive Your gift of salvation today and I confess Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for saving me. I promise I will live this day forward for you! In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
What a wonderful day to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is His birthday! He gave His life for you and now you've given your life to Him. His gift is completely free for you to receive, but it cost Him everything; his deity and His life. Now will you give your all to live for Him? Will you live your life to show the world that He lives within you? From this day forward I vow to live my life for Him. What more could I do? He gave His life for me so I will give mine for Him! Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus!
Monday, December 24, 2012
Luke 2:1-7 NKJV And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and lad Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Tomorrow is the day that we celebrate the birth-day of Jesus! So, in the next few days we will look at the events surrounding His birth.
As the scripture reads it was time in Galilee for all who lived there to be taxed. A decree went out from the Governor that a census needed to be taken for the purpose of taxation. It was customary for the head of the house to go to where their ancestral records were kept to register for the taxation. Joseph, being of the lineage of David, had to make the trip back to Bethlehem, which was known as the city of David, to register. This would have been a difficult trip for Mary as it was nearing the time of her baby's birth. But Joseph, being a just man who obeyed both God's rules and those of man, needed to register to be in compliance with the laws of the land. Romans 13:1 tells us that we are to obey the government, for God is the one who put it in place. In going back to Bethlehem to register for the census Joseph was being obedient to God through obeying the government. The second verse in Romans 13 says: So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.
It is interesting to see how God orchestrated the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2, Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, which meant that instead of Joseph going alone to register for the census, Mary would need to go with him.
Micah 5:2-5 NAS “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” Therefore, He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child, Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. And this One will be our peace.”
When God divided up the Promised Land He gave a portion of land to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah was the tribe in which the city of Bethlehem was established. In Biblical times the names of people and places were significant to the upbringing of a child. A child would grow up in character as a fulfillment of what his name meant. So, let's look at the significance of the names surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Judah – the name means “praise”. In Luke 3:23-38 Jesus' lineage is traced back to God through the tribe of Judah. One of the names of Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. (Revelation 5:5) Judah was the tribe that led the Israelites through the wilderness; the praise-rs went before the Israelites into battle in 2 Chronicles 20 to confuse their enemies and God used them to set up the ambush of their enemies and secure their victory. We are told that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to give us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness in Isaiah 61:3. Psalm 8:2 says that praise silences the enemy in our lives and strengthens us. Jesus referred to that scripture in Matthew 21:16 when He said “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”. Praise is an important part of our relationship with the Lord Jesus. When we praise Him for who He is the devil can't stay in our presence; his voice of condemnation and fear is silenced and we give Jesus the glory that is due His name! We better learn to praise Jesus here on earth because in heaven He is worshiped 24/7.
Revelation 4:8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
We will be joining in with that heavenly group proclaiming His praises!
Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Bethlehem – the name means “house of bread”. Jesus called Himself the bread of life in John 6:48-51:
“I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever' and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
Jesus is the bread of life. When we partake of His salvation that was purchased by Him giving His flesh and blood to pay the payment for our sin, we will live forever, eternally in His presence. We appropriate what He has done for us personally by exercising our faith to receive His death, burial and resurrection as the payment for our sins. It is through receiving Him into our hearts that we become born again. Jesus is the Savior of the world, the bread of life, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and worthy of all our praise!
Luke 2:6, 7 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
“the days were completed”.....Galatians 4:4, 5: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Jesus was born at just the right time; God's appointed time. It was no accident that Mary had Jesus in Bethlehem at the time of the census when there would be so many people that there would be no room for them in the Inn. It was the right time, the appointed time for Him to be born. God knew there would be no room for them in the Inn. Nothing takes God by surprise. It may seem to you that the timing of what you are experiencing is the wrong time, but God orchestrates things in our lives to be for our good, not our harm. Mary had Jesus in Bethlehem in a stable at the “right” time! It was in the “fullness” of the time for His birth. The meaning of the word “fullness” is “that which has been completed”. The happenings of the world had come to completion for the birth of Jesus Christ. It was “time” for His birth.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger....” Mary wrapped the first Christmas present in swaddling cloths. Strips of cloth were used to keep a baby warm and to give him a sense of security. Jesus was born of humble means because He laid His deity aside and came to earth as a human to submit to the obedience of His Father.
Philippians 2:5-8 NLT Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross.
Hebrews 2:14, 15 Because God's children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.
Jesus was born as a baby and laid in a manger to show His humble beginning in the purpose that God had for His life. He had to be born a human being in order to die on the cross to secure our salvation. He had to live a sinless life in order to qualify to be the Savior of the world. All these things that happened at the birth of Jesus were perfectly orchestrated so that He could fulfill the requirement of the law to redeem mankind from their sin. Nothing was left out of God's perfect plan to secure our salvation. Everything happened just as God planned in the “fullness” of His time!
Galatians 3:13, 14 NLT But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
Friends, Jesus was born into this earth for the supreme purpose of dying on a cross to redeem us from the curse of the law; to purchase our redemption and make us acceptable to God as if we'd never sinned. At this time of the year when we celebrate His birth it is important that we do not get caught up in the “baby in the manger” and see Him as only a little baby. He is the Savior of the world; He is the King of kings and Lord of lords; the risen Christ! His birth was just the beginning of His purpose and mission as the Savior and Lord of all who would receive Him.
If you have not received Jesus as your own personal Savior and Lord, He is waiting for you to make that decision. What better time would it be than now when we are celebrating the birth of our King? Won't you pray this prayer with me and sincerely mean it in your heart?
Father, I come before You this morning recognizing my need for Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I see Him as You gave Him to us to be the payment for my sin, my own personal wrongdoing and weaknesses in not being able to save myself. I know that You sent Him to be my Savior. I confess my sin to You today, the sin of being born as a sinner and the sin of my own willful choices. I believe that Jesus died for me, that He was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven and that if I ask Him to come into my heart He will save me from my sins. I ask You to forgive me and save me right now and I thank You for doing that. Thank You for saving me; for making Your home within my heart and for changing my life. From this day forward I will live for You. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer with sincerity of heart, you are now a Child of the King, a born again believer in Christ Jesus and your place of residence is now with Him from this day forward throughout eternity! You have made the best decision of your life. Welcome to the family of God!
And now, Father, I bring before You those who are hurting and lonely today. I ask that You would fill their hearts with a new sense of Your presence; that Your arms of love would wrap around them and carry them through this difficult time in their lives. Father, You are the God of all comfort so I pray that You will comfort them and give them peace. Thank You for being close to the brokenhearted and for healing the hurts that they are experiencing today. Thank You for giving us another Christmas to celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May He be given the pre-eminence that is due Him at this Christmas time and throughout each upcoming day. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Matthew 1:18-25 NLT Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiance`, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this happened to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
God knew who to choose to be the mother and father of His only begotten Son, who would come to save the people from their sins! He chose Mary and Joseph, two who were devoted to Him, determined to do His will and unashamedly determined to moved forward regardless of what might be said of them by their peers and elders in society.
There were three steps in a Jewish marriage. First, the two families agreed to the union. Second, a public announcement was made and the couple was officially “engaged”. This was similar to an engagement today except that in Jewish tradition their relationship could only be broken through death or divorce (even though sexual relations were not yet permitted). Third, the couple was married and began living together. Mary and Joseph were in the second state of that union, the betrothal period. Because they were engaged Mary's apparent unfaithfulness carried a severe social stigma. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had a right to divorce her, and the Jewish authorities could have had her stoned to death.
Deuteronomy 22:23, 24 NLT “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of the town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man's wife. In this way, you will cleanse the land of evil.”
Joseph, being a just man decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace Mary publicly. He was a “just” man. The Greek word for “just” is dikaios and it means “upright, blameless, righteous, conforming to God's laws and man's.” Joseph was fair and righteous, not looking to expose Mary by rejecting or casting her off before witnesses. He was compassionate towards her. He did not want to make a public example of her. This concerned him and as he thought about how he would do this he fell asleep. As he was sleeping the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained how Mary became pregnant. The angel told Joseph that the father of Mary's child was the Holy Spirit and that he did not have to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because she had not been unfaithful to him. Fear, when received, can be a determent to receiving the promises of God. The enemy always speaks fear to us to try to get us off track, to keep us from fulfilling God's plan for our lives. But Joseph, being a godly man, received the message from the angel with faith, just as Mary had when the angel appeared to her to tell of her upcoming pregnancy.
Matthew 1:24, 25 NKJV Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Joseph knew about the prophecies of which the angel of the Lord had spoken; how Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would be with child and bear a Son, and that they would call His name Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. He knew the Word of God as recorded in the Old Testament. And he knew that when the angel of the Lord appeared to him with those prophecies that he could believe him and trust that what God had said He would do would happen. Joseph's faith reached out and grabbed onto the word of God and caused him to step out believing that God would do what He had promised.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Joseph so honored what God was doing in Mary's and his lives that even after they were married he refused to have sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. They did not enter into normal marital relations until after her Son was born. Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born and so the scripture was fulfilled that a virgin would be with child and bear a son!
Joseph called His name JESUS. The name means “Yahweh is Salvation”. The angel gave him instructions from the conception to the birth and even what they were to name the child. The scripture records that Joseph called His name JESUS; he followed the commandment of the Lord in every instruction that he was given. He didn't worry about what the community would think of him; his only concern was that he would do the will of God and care for the wife that God had given him. His full devotion was to doing God's will.
When we look at the life of Joseph we see a man who was not afraid to follow God. He was a disciplined man doing what needed to be done to work with His heavenly Father in order to see the manifestation of the promise of God in his life. He was focused on what God was doing in his life instead of what people and circumstances might dictate. He was determined to obey regardless of public opinion.
Immanuel, God with us, was the promise that the Christ child would bring to the world. God with us, in a different way, the way of salvation. Jesus was born to save His people from their sin. He was not born as a baby to be worshiped in a manger, but as the Savior of the world, who took on human form that He might face all the trials and temptations that we face and yet overcome and become the payment for our sin, our failures, our brokenness and iniquities.
The question we each need to ask ourselves at this time of the year is would we be willing to give up our lives to usher in the will of God in our world today? What would it take for God to be able to depend on us to work with Him to establish His will in the hearts and lives of those around us?
Matthew 16:24 NKJV Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
Philippians 2:5-11 NLT Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Father, I thank You for the story of Joseph and how he obeyed Your instructions regardless of whether it meant public disapproval or not. I thank You for his resolve to obey You in order to see the fulfillment of the plan that You had to bring Your Gift of salvation into our world. I pray that I will be that kind of person to be able to work with You in effecting change in my world as well. Father, I ask You to give each one of us the determination to obey You regardless of the opinion of those around us. May we be people of integrity that not only speak of You in our lives but act out of what You tell us to do. May we walk the talk and not just talk it. Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to save us from our sin. Thank You for being with us in the form of humanity in order to identify with the problems that we experience in our lives. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying a criminal's death to purchase our salvation! To You be all the honor and glory due Your name! Amen.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Luke 1:5-25 NLT 5 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. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 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. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.b 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,c and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was Elizabeth's husband. The scripture records that they were both of priestly lines; they were righteous in God's eyes; both were well advanced in age and they had no children. We learned about Elizabeth's visit from Mary, the mother of Jesus, yesterday. Each morning a priest would enter into the Holy Place in the Temple and burn incense. When the incense was burned and the smoke went up out of the Holy Place the people would see the smoke and pray. Incense in the Bible represents the prayers of the people.
On this particular day the lot fell to Zechariah for this duty. But it was not by chance that God had Zechariah in the Holy Place that particular day for He had a message for him that the Angel was to deliver that morning. While he was in the Holy Place burning the incense the Angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appeared to him and gave him this message: “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.” Zechariah was afraid for he had never had a visitation from an angel. But Gabriel told him not to be afraid because he had a message for him from God. After delivering the message we hear something totally different coming out of Zechariah's mouth than we did from Mary in our lesson yesterday. Zechariah exhibited unbelief in his response to Gabriel where Mary exhibited faith in her response. Zechariah said “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Zechariah allowed his age to speak more loudly than the promise of God or God's ability to bring into manifestation the promise that He had given him. The waves around him were bigger in his mind than his God! He couldn't see past the roadblocks in his life to see that God could make a way where there seemed to be no way!
Have you ever felt like Zechariah in not being able to see that God could do anything about your situation? Faith takes God at His word and expects that word to come to pass; doubt sees only the negative aspects of a situation and doesn't believe that God can do anything about it. Thomas, when Jesus had arisen from the dead and was being seen by all the disciples said, “I won't believe it unless I see....”. (John 20:25) Zechariah said to Gabriel, “How can I know this will happen?”. He was basically saying, “what sign can you give me that this is true?” The difference between doubt and faith is taking God at His word without requiring a further sign or revelation to guarantee it's proof. Just the fact that an angel was standing before him in the Holy Place should have been proof enough to Zechariah that God had given him a promise and He was going to fulfill it! So Gabriel gave Zechariah the sign that he requested but not without consequences. Verse 19-20: Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Sometimes we don't understand the roadblocks along the path to the fulfillment of our promise. But often they are to show us the power of God in our lives so that we will believe what He has promised in it's fulfillment. Zechariah's mouth was shut until the promise could come into manifestation. His ability to pass on a doubtful attitude was silenced because we speak what we believe.
2 Corinthians 4:13 NKJV And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak.
The only way Zechariah could communicate the message of a miracle coming into their lives in the form of a little baby was through gestures and possibly writing. Elizabeth later told Mary that she was blessed because she believed that the Lord would do what he said. (Luke 1:45) Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29: ...”Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway.”
God honors faith! He expects us to believe Him when He gives us a promise. Many are the promises of God and they are all “Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) God's fulfillment of His promises in our lives gives Him glory! He is glorified through us as He brings into manifestation those things that He has promised. When we reach out and take them by faith He opens the door for them to happen and they are fulfilled in His timing. We work with Him in believing that He is doing what He has promised.
Hebrews 11:6, 7 NLT So, you, see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed god, who warned him about something that had never happened before. By his faith he condemned the rest of the world and was made right in God's sight.
Faith brings the grace of God into our lives. Without it God's ability to work in our lives is greatly hindered. According to Hebrews 11:6 we can't be pleasing to God without faith.
Do you believe today that God will perform His promises in your life? Or, maybe I should say, WILL you believe that God will do what He has promised in your life?
Father, I thank You for the accounts in Your word of how You have performed Your promises in the lives of real people to show us that what You have done for one You will do for another. I know that You are no respecter of persons, Father, and I thank You that I have been able to look into Your word and see those times that I needed encouragement through what You have done in someone else's life to enable me to stand firm in faith believing that You would do it also in my life. Thank You for giving us the measure of faith that causes us to believe that Your word is true and that You will do what You promise. I pray for those this morning who may be struggling with their faith walk. I ask You to give them a glimpse in Your word of how You have performed a promise for someone else so that they can have their faith built up to believe that You will do the same for them as well. I pray that they will guard their speech so that they do not negate the promise that You have given them. I pray that their speech will be of only Your word and not their fears. Father, silence the voice of the enemy in their minds that's saying it will never happen or that it's impossible for that promise to be fulfilled. Father, there is nothing impossible with You and You've said that all things are possible to him who believes. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your word to stand on and Your Spirit within to confirm the word to us. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for leading us and guiding us into all truth! Lord Jesus, may You be glorified in us as we believe that the promises of God are Yes and Amen to us in our lives. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Luke 1:36 “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.”
There are so many miracles that occurred with the birth of the Savior that we often overlook them. This is one of them. Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias, the priest. The scripture records that they were well advanced in age and they had no child because Elizabeth was barren.
Luke 1:6, 7 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
We often don't understand why things happen as they do. Here was a couple that had walked before God righteously, had kept all His commandments and ordinances and were blameless in His sight and yet the blessing of childhood had eluded them. There was a stigma that was attached to barrenness in women during Biblical times. It was said to indicate a curse from God upon the woman who could not bare children. It was of utmost importance to women in Biblical times to be able to fulfill their role as a wife in being able to bare children to their husbands that would carry on the family name.
There are many this morning that are praying and have been praying for years to conceive a child and yet find themselves month after month without the good news of pregnancy. Elizabeth had been “called” barren; it says in Luke 1:36. People had said that it was impossible for her to become pregnant. She had been termed as a “hopeless case” for pregnancy. The voices of those around her had reinforced her greatest fear of not being able to conceive. But there was one thing they hadn't thought about.....God's power to intervene and bring into existence the impossible!
God had a purpose for Zacharias and Elizabeth and the child that He would bring into their lives. That purpose had a time for fulfillment and He needed a couple who were dedicated to living according to His will to bring that child up in the way that he should go so he could fulfill the purpose of being the forerunner for the Christ child. Elizabeth had grown wise in her knowledge of the Lord in all those years of waiting. She would be the perfect one to encourage Mary, a little, young virgin to whom He had given the express purpose of being the mother of the Savior of the world. She would be able to confirm to Mary that God is the God of impossibilities and all that He had spoken to her would come to pass because she, herself, was a recipient of His miraculous power at that very moment! Mary knew to go to the one person that would be able to encourage her and share with her about the mighty workings of the Lord. She left immediately after the angel told her that she would give birth to the Son of God to go see Elizabeth because she knew that she would be able to give her wise counsel regarding this miracle.
Luke 1:43-45 “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Mary, immediately after conferring with Elizabeth, wrote what my Bible records as “The Song of Mary”:
Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
Mary rejoiced in the fact that she was blessed to be the one who would bring the Christ child into the world. Elizabeth's son, also, would play an important part in ushering in the Savior of the world. He went before Jesus to pave the way for the people to receive God's perfect gift of salvation.
Elizabeth said to Mary that day, “Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” She had already walked that path of believing; she knew the importance of receiving by faith what God had said through the angel. It was happening to her and she had had to believe when her husband came home unable to speak because of his encounter with the Angel of the Lord that had told him they would have a son in their old age. Elizabeth knew that in order to receive the impossible you had to believe that God was able to do what He had promised.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months after that miraculous conception. I believe she stayed that long to be encouraged in her faith to continue to believe. She had no visual proof of her pregnancy prior to that and it would have been easy to waiver in her faith until the visual manifestation of pregnancy could be seen or felt. But with Elizabeth she could voice her concerns and know that she would be understood and encouraged to continue to believe. She was sheltered from the questions of the community and given time to prepare for that time when everyone would know that she was pregnant and the accusations of being pregnant outside of wedlock would occur. With Elizabeth she could be herself, strengthened in her faith and prepared to walk the walk that, as a young virgin, she could not have even imagined would happen to her.
When God speaks a promise to us we can be sure that if we will receive it by faith and expect it to happen, that it will come to pass.
Numbers 23:19 NLT God is not a man, that he should lie. He is not a human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
Mary believed and received the promise that God gave her through that Angel.
Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Maybe you're in an impossible situation this morning. Has God spoken a promise to you that you have not yet seen fulfilled? Are you wavering in your faith wondering if He really promised that or if you were just presumptuous in thinking you might receive the impossible? God is faithful to keep His promises!
Ephesians 3:20, 21 NLT Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.
Father, I thank You for Your miraculous power that is working in us, Your children. I know You are able to do the things that You have promised us in Your word and through the times we have communed with You in prayer. Father, there are those today who have been standing in faith waiting for the fulfillment of those things that You have promised them. I ask You to encourage them as only You can. Place people of faith around them to help them continue to believe. Father, give them a glimpse of what You are doing in their lives to keep the vision of the promise alive within them. Thank You for showing us through this story of Mary and Elizabeth how You work the impossible in different situations in the lives of Your people. I thank You for the purpose that You have for each of our lives. May we reflect Your glory while we wait for our promises. Thank You, Father! To You be all the glory and honor. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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