Pastor Edward Brouwer 12-17-17 Benedictus Luke 1:67-79
Have you every prayed for something and it just didn’t seem like God was hearing your prayers? Have you ever prayed for something so long that finally you just gave up? I wonder if that’s how Elizabeth and Zachariah felt? After all they’d been married many years and now were getting along in years. They loved each other and they loved the Lord, faithful believers in the God of Israel. Like most couples they longed to have children. But Elizabeth was barren. Sure Elizabeth knew that God is the giver of all good gifts including children since Psalm 127: 3 says children are a heritage from the Lord. They knew that it was the Lord who opened and closed the womb (1 Samuel 1:6). There must have been gnawing questions—God what is the matter with me? The denial, the bargaining the depression. As if it weren’t bad enough that they were not able to have children. The looks of people, the condescension, the judgment. You can just hear it now “I wonder what sin they have committed? Surely this barrenness is God’s judgment on them!” So it’s not hard to imagine that Zechariah had long come to terms with the reality of their life and moved on to other things. One very cool thing for Zechariah is that he was born into a Levite family, which meant he had the privilege of serving at the Temple in Jerusalem for two weeks every year. You see king David a 1000 years before had set up a rotation schedule for the priests—males of the house of Levi who were 30 years old and above. You can read about it in 1 Chronicles 24. Priests were to serve a 2-week stint every year. Twenty- four divisions of Priests were gatekeepers, musicians, officials and judges with many different responsibilities. It is estimated that Jerusalem might have had up to 750 Levites working during each rotation. One time when it was Zechariah’s responsibility, he left his home in Ephraim in the Hill Country of Judah (within a days walk of Jerusalem) and presented himself. Now each day of the year incense was offered (at the hour of prayer) on the altar of burning coals in the Holy Place Temple. A priest was chosen daily, by lot, to carrying the coals from the altar (where sacrifices were made) and place the frankincense on it for a pleasing aroma representing prayer. Zechariah does this and something frightening and mind blowing happens to him.
Read Luke 1: 67-79
Baruch Ata Adonai—the beginning of a very Jewish prayer of praise to God are the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth as he repeats the prayers of the psalms “bless the Lord o my soul and all that is within me bless His Holy Name”. Today I want to look at Zechariah’s personal prayer, his corporate prayer (the prayers that he no doubt was praying on behalf of Israel) and how these inform our prayers.
Zechariah’s Prayer—When Zechariah sees the angel standing to the right of the incense altar he is startled and is gripped with fear. Pretty normal response I would say. The first thing the angel says is “don’t be afraid your prayers have been heard!” What prayers? Could be the prayers that he was offering on behalf of the people, which was his priestly duty and privilege.
As a priest Zechariah would have made intercession for Israel and surely he would have been praying for the thing that Israel had longed for. Lord we are oppressed by enemies on every side. The Romans have occupied the Land. The taxes are heavy, we are an oppressed people. Send the Messiah!
But the clue is answered because the angel says “you and your wife will have a son!” I wonder what Zechariah thought in that moment? What? My wife and I stopped praying that prayer years ago! I imagine that because of what he then says to the angel “how can I be sure of this? How will I know that what you are saying is true? What sign will you give me? After all my wife and I are advanced in years. In disbelief he is saying to the angel—we are beyond having children.
I love the angel’s response! I am Gabriel! I serve before the Lord Himself! He Himself told me to tell you this good news! You want a sign? I will give you a sign! You are struck silent until everything I have said is fulfilled! And little did Zechariah know that in God’s plan the prayers of this sweet couple intersected with the prayers of Israel for a Redeemer and Deliverer.
Israel’s Prayer Because in giving them their son John, God was giving them the forerunner to the Messiah. God was answering both prayers! Their personal prayers and the corporate prayers of God’s people. Like a BOGO! Buy one get one. Throughout the Old Testament God had said he would send a forerunner, in the spirit of Elijah who would announce the coming and prepare the hearts of the people to hear the good news. John was a “voice in the wilderness proclaiming prepare ye the way of the Lord!” John 1:6 says “there was a man named John, who came as a witness to the Light, so that many would believe.
Zechariah, as a priest is an intercessor. Petitioning God on behalf of the people. Not only was Zechariah privileged to serve as an intercessor but also play a role, as the earthly father of John, in proclaiming the coming of Jesus the Messiah.
Our Prayer–I want to challenge us to serve as priests. For we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). What should our prayers look like? Let’s pray for ourselves that we would walk by faith and not by sight. We would not live and walk in unbelief. Listen to Peter’s words in 2 Peter: (taken from the New Living Bible)
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a life pleasing to Him. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the One who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith in Christ with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness,7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our call to live as priests means we pray for ourselves that we would live our lives in and through the power of the Spirit of Christ. Secondly that we pray for those around us, our family and friends, at home and at work. Don’t give up! Our calling is to pray and intercede—and we leave the rest to God. But we don’t just start and end with prayer. We stand as witnesses in the ministry of John who bear witness to the light. Jesus is the Light of the World. He redeemed us, he rescued us from our enemies: Satan, the World and ourselves. Enter into the Song of Zechariah! “you have rescued us from the hand of our enemies, and you have enabled us to serve YOU without fear, in holiness and righteousness before God all of our days. God has answered our prayers in the coming of Jesus—our holiness and righteousness and now we can stand as His Holy people without fear of judgment because he has welcomed us into his family.