GOD AT WORK
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 13, 2016
5 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. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 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 call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And 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 kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
— Luke 1:5-25, ESV
Luke’s immaculately researched Gospel begins with two miraculous birth prophecies and the ensuing fulfillment narratives. The birth of John the Baptist, like Abraham’s and Sarah’s son, Issac, was foretold by an angel and delivered to parents too old to normally conceive a child. The birth of Jesus Christ is even greater, as Joseph and the virgin Mary receive their angelically promised child without the normal means of conception. Two miracles result in two births which produce two men who build a bridge for us to crossover into the redemptive plan of God.
In short order Luke is going to record God’s work through the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and the ultimate work of God in the messianic ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This work and these workers, of course, are outstanding and easy to see. Other workers and works of God, however, are harder to spot. They do their work behind the scenes, so to speak. This is true when it comes to the parents of the great prophet John the Baptist.
Could you name them, if their names had not been brought to the forefront by this text? The only mention of their names in the entire Bible is right here in Luke’s Gospel. Their contribution to Christianity is very significant. But even more important than studying their work is watching the way God works. God works through certain people, speaking to them in certain ways, to bring the certainty of His blessings.
God Works Through Certain People
Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist. Not much is known about them, except what is revealed here in Scripture. They were devout Jews, well placed in the religious and cultural life of Israel, chosen by God to bring into the world the man who would simultaneously be the last Old Testament prophet and the first New Testament herald. Why would God chose them to do this important work?
First of all, because they were extraordinary. Actually, they were ordinary, but God chose them for an extraordinary work. This was true about Abraham, Moses, and David in the Old Testament. There will never be any more like them in Israel. This was true about Paul, John, Peter, and John the Baptist. There will never be any more exactly like them in the church. God chose, by His sovereign grace, to involve Zechariah and Elizabeth as special people in His special plan of salvation, making them the parents of the forerunner of the Christ, John the Baptist.
Now, let’s get back to the ordinariness of Zechariah and Elizabeth, in the sense that they were ordinary believers who were wholly dedicated to the Lord. God chose to work through them because “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” They attained this lofty status in the same way as every other believer, Old Testament and New, by God-given grace through grace-induced faith in God’s revelation of Himself to us. Such grace that imputes righteousness also has an output, obedience to God’s word and doing God’s work.
If you want God to do a mighty work through you, get busy working for the Lord. Believe in Him and be faithful in worship and Bible study and daily obedience. If that is all you ever do, and if that was all Zechariah and Elizabeth had ever done, it would be great in the eyes of the Lord. And, it could also set the stage for something even more significant in the service of God and God’s people.
God works through righteous, faithful people. So trust in the Lord, be faithful, and be watchful. Obey God in the little things of the Christian life, and He just might do something big through you one day. And when He wants you to do something, small or great, you will know, because God will tell you.
God Speaks in Certain Ways
God spoke to Zechariah in extraordinary and ordinary ways. In this particular episode, God spoke in a rare and spectacular way to this man about the man to come. God sent His angel, Gabriel, to detail God’s plan to give them a son, a special son with a special name with special orders. John would be Spirit-filled from conception and come into the world to bring about a revival and a revelation concerning the coming Messiah. No wonder Zechariah had a little trouble believing it and was made mute until John was born. This was an outstanding revelation, a once in a lifetime moment, a monumental piece of God’s plan to change the world.
By the way, Gabriel was seen in the Old Testament, by the prophet Daniel. He appears here to Zechariah and will appear again in the next story to the virgin Mary. In both testaments, Gabriel’s message from God has to do with God’s Son and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was called to be the bridge from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, for the people of God to find the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world. Given the importance of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, it is no wonder that God sent a special messenger with this special message. You and I will likely never see Gabriel in our lifetimes.
But, we can see something else Zechariah saw. We can see, read, hear, and obey the word of God, the Bible. God had spoken to Zechariah for many years, through the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets, what we now call our Old Testament. Zechariah believed in God and was faithful to God’s word, becoming a priest himself while married to the daughter of a priest. But you do not have to be a priest or a preacher to hear and heed the word of God, you just have to be a child of God to hear God speak to you through the certain means of Holy Scripture.
Today we have the word of God more sure today than Zechariah and Elizabeth had in their day. We have a complete Bible before us, Old and New Testament, and it is through the inspired word of God that God steadfastly speaks to His people. When you read the Bible, God is speaking His word directly to you. When you hear the Bible accurately preached and taught, God is speaking to you personally and powerfully. Read it, hear it, obey it, and watch and wait for God’s blessings to arrive.
God’s Blessings are Certain
God’s blessings are certain to those who believe in Him and obey His word. Zechariah and Elizabeth trusted God, albeit not without some difficulty and doubt, and took Him at His word. Zechariah and Elizabeth served God, consistently and completely. And Zechariah and Elizabeth were certainly blessed by God, in a certain way, by giving them a certain and very special child.
Now let me say something certain about this. I do not expect that you nor I will be visited by an angel in our lifetime. I cannot guarantee that if you love and obey the Lord that He will automatically answer you prayer for a child if you do not have one, or a cure for cancer if you cannot find one, or a new house or car if you’d like to have one. Such blessings can come, no doubt, but they are not certain.
Here is the blessing that is certain if you trust and obey the Lord: God will use you in His work. He will use you to preach or share the gospel, mentor someone to come to Christ, or do some other good deed in Jesus’ name. He will use you to build up His church, His body and His bride, which He loves more than any other entity on earth. He will take away your sin, and use you to spread the sin-cleansing, soul-saving, reproach-removing good news of Jesus Christ. You will be blessed and you will be a blessing, and this is certain — if you love, trust, and obey the Lord your God.
Look around. God is at work. Look within. Let God go to work in you.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org