Today’s message summary of February 11, 2018 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:
Miracles are rare in spite of what a televangelist preacher may tell you. They are divine acts that cannot be explained by natural events. They are truly acts of God and come from God.
The first miracle of the bible is when God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). In the book of Jonah, God sent the fish that swallowed him and redirected him to preach to the people of Nineveh. After the fish, there were no additional recorded miracles until the days of the birth of Jesus Christ.
When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”
Luke identifies that it was Zechariah’s turn, as a priest, to burn incense. He was one of a number of priests in a large group of people who was selected to serve. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this. It was not a coincidence or a random event. He was chosen by lot, but this event was pre-ordained by God.
Even the act of casting lots was under God’s control.
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.
So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles.
God does not leave anything to chance.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Zechariah was inside the temple burning the incense while the people were outside gathered to prayer. It was an act of worship to burn the incense. Normally, if he was not burning incense, he would be outside of the holy place with the other priests performing sacrifices.
May my prayer be set before you as incense,
the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
It was here, in the holy place, where he had his encounter with the angel of the Lord. The angel was really there standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was very afraid because he knew that the angel was much greater than himself.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Angels are outside of our reality. They are supernatural beings, and our minds cannot comprehend the glory that come from them because of our fleshliness and our fallen state.
The angel reassured Zechariah and told him that his prayers has been heard (Luke 1:13). What was Zechariah’s prayer? We can guess that, as a priest, he was praying for his people in Israel and also for the coming Messiah in order to have Israel become a sovereign nation (they were occupied by the Romans). We can only guess that he had abandoned his prayer to have a child as he and Elizabeth, his wife, were childless. (To be childless in that era was a matter of shame within the community.) God answered his prayer with the miracle of Elizabeth bearing a son, who would be John.
Imagine how Zechariah must have felt when he heard that he and Elizabeth were having a child! He couldn’t believe it!
“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
Why the the child to be given the name “John”? The meaning, and message, of John’s name succinctly means “God is gracious.” Jesus’s name means “God is with us.” God was acting on behalf of His people by being gracious towards them.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.
People have often measured themselves by their social status. Greatness is up for interpretation; however, John’s greatness was not measured through earthly interpretation. He was raised in a priestly household and had a humble appearance.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight!
Now John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
John was great for the right reasons. He was set apart for God to serve Him. John was great because he was filled from the Holy Spirit before and through his birth. We know this to be true because he was filled from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41-42), and Elizabeth was then filled with the Spirit. This was certainly special in that John had a sinful nature but his filling by the Spirit meant that he was under direct influence of the Holy Spirit instead of some other fleshly influence.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit.
John was set apart for the plans of God. He was elected to salvation even before his birth!
I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
God had declared John to be righteous before Him. The normal process of salvation is regeneration, justification and sanctification. John being filled with the Holy Spirit was a promise from God of his special purpose.
Was John the prophet of Elijah? No, but he would come in the power and the spirit of Elijah. He did receive the power that Elijah had to perform his work for the Lord.
2 Kings 2:9
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you.”
So Elisha answered, “Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit.”
“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.
Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
The prophet here was speaking of John the Baptist, who would prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ.
God has divinely intervened within human history. Zechariah and Elizabeth gave them the ability to have a child…a divine intervention. Mary’s ability to have a child without being intimate with a man was a divine intervention. The setting apart of John as one who had the Spirit at birth was indeed a divine intervention. John’s speaking the words to draw people nearer to God and to prepare the way for Jesus Christ was divine intervention. Finally, the act of salvation—Jesus Christ’s intercession for each person who believes in Him—is divine intervention.
Has God intervened for each of us? Is He interceding for us? Yes, He is. It takes God to reach into reality to intercede for those that He loves. God has stepped in and invaded history for us.