Sunday, December 2, 2012

Countdown to Christmas Part 1 - God Hears


2 Chronicles 7:14  If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Matthew 9:38  "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Psalms 34:15 (1 Peter 3:12) The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers.

Today we begin our Countdown to Christmas by confirming through undeniable scripture that God Hears, and He answers prayer.

We begin our journey together this morning by turning to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. Beginning with verse 5, allow me to give commentary as to the circumstances and situations of this particular moment in history.

Luke 1  NKJV
5 ¶  There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8  So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9  according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10  And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
11  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13  But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is 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 in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also 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  "He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord."
18  And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
19  And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20  "But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
21  And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
22  But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23  And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
24  Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25  "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

·        It is certain that our prayers are heard in heaven. – God hears!
·        It is also certain that our prayers have purpose. – God answers!
And so is it certain that our purpose filled prayers which seem to go unanswered are not denied but only delayed and will be fulfilled:
·        In God’s time
·        For God’s glory
·        Done God’s way
Additional Personal Sermon Notes:

Our admonition as we begin our Countdown to Christmas is to simply keep praying, keep waiting and keep working.

Herod the Great – 74-4BC  39BC King of Judea  37BC Captured Jerusalem

Herod built Masada; Caesarea Port & Palace & Aqua duct; expanded Temple Mount, walls and reconstructed the Temple, Herod’s Temple

Herod & Cleopatra shared a monopoly on mining and selling asphalt from the Dead Sea which was used in ship building

Herod was one of the wickedest and wealthiest people in the world throughout his lifetime even though he was a ruthless and paranoid murderer, executing his sons in fear of their imagined take over.

Deut 7:14 (No male or female barren among you) - certain general promises of the scriptures seem to contradict some common experiences

The incense came before the blood – to prepare a way for the people. Intercession before sacrifice. A cleansing of the altar …

4 Courses – this a part of the first – morning and evening for a week in their course – this is the evening when the whole multitude would come, both men and women to the courts to pray – some scholars imagine this to be on a Sabbath due to the “full congregation” as mentioned – Ethiopic

sprinkling a one of a kind incense on hot coals and intercedes to God for man as prayers are lifted in the sweet smell of Christ.

every grain of precious prayer is indeed fragrant to God

note that Zacharias was not visited at home in prayer but rather in the temple as he came to honor and serve the Lord on behalf of the people – in fact … God answered his prayer when he was in the act of praying for others.

It has been 400 years since Malachi with no further word or visitation.

Right Side – North side – shew bread side - of this 3’ high, 18 inches square, golden altar of incense … blood only once each year on the day of atonement – but perpetual prayer

You prayer is heard – First aorist passive indicative. A sort of timeless aorist, "was heard" when made, and so "is heard" now. This is but one confirming principle which indicates that prayers which have been heard are not forgotten but they are as though presently being heard.

Not concerning the prayers of intercession made here at this time or even necessarily ever here in this place but rather personal prayers concerning him and his wife Elizabeth, so named by the angel, in regards to her barren state of life, which prayers reasonably had long ceased being offered in respect to their age.

John – Hebrew: Yochanan – God is gracious; God is merciful. Jesus’ name means Jehovah saves, because that is what His life and message would be. John’s name was also representative of the testament of his life and message to the grace and mercy of Yahweh.

We have a natural ambition to be great, but it is only to be great in the sight of men; thence one man covets riches, another honor and reputation; but the true greatness is to be great in the sight of the Lord – for so was Noah and even Christ.

Leviticus 10:9  Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (intoxicating)

A ministry of turning people to the Lord - meaning Messiah by choice to turn and not God from privileges of birthright, legal duties, or righteousness - - - turn in both the sense of return and conversion.

He shall go before Him – connects Messiah with Lord Jehovah.

There are I believe, in God’s eyes, legitimate quest and questions and there are illegitimate ones. It seems at first glance that Zacharias has ask nothing more than Abraham or Gideon did and nothing more than would Mary ask of the same angel. However, God knows wherein a question lies in the heart, life and faith of an individual. Only God truly knows how and when faith and confession works and evidently He answered Zacharias’ request, gave a sign and a rebuke at the same time plus disallowing verbal disbelief from Zacharias or anyone else outside to which Zacharias may have spoken.

Face it … the testimony of an angel in this place at this time should have been enough.

We also, like Zacharias, are not always equal to our prayers. When we rise from our knees our prayer-filled confession is often contrary to our walk and at times even our hope and the very substance of our prayer. Some even doubt the answer of their prayers once fulfilled.

I like the answer beginning with who is standing before him. (almost like: “Hello … do you know who I am?” “do you understand who is talking to you buddy …?” “How dare you question me … I am the might of the strong God – the man of God, Gabriel, who has trust and favor with God, allowed into His presence to observe His glory … you better look out … I didn’t come here of my own accord ya know!”  “and by the way … I was sent here to give you some good news mister! you need to listen or take notes or something … and believe me when I tell you that you’re gonna have a son and you had better name him John” “now shut up and get outta here”)

Gabriel was the same angel who appeared to Daniel near 500 years earlier and was set to make another appearance about 6 another six months to a young virgin named Mary who lived in the town of Nazareth.

Some imagine their ages to be anywhere between 60 & 90 years.

Because you did not believe … signifies a just reward or consequence for the lack of faith in the message of God … lack of faith, lack of testimony – nonetheless a gentle consequence of a 9 month absence of speech

Evidently there is some respect from heaven, as there should be on earth, not only for God’s Word in person and in writing, but also by messenger.

There seems nothing more aggravating to God or His messengers than unbelief. Evidently it can also get under an angel’s skin.

Perhaps many, by giving way to the voice of unbelief, have lost the voice of praise and thanksgiving for a season or at least until they experience change, instead of being able to praise and thank God that change is coming even while in the process of life.

Evidently, although unmentioned herein this initial judgment, Zacharias was also deaf as well as dumb. (Luke 1:62  So they made signs to his father — what he would have him called.)

The priests were used to complete the burning of incense and prayers of intercession in a half hour, in which there was also a holy silence of mental prayers being lifted without by the people – more time, especially much more time, would have concerned the people without that something had gone wrong and perhaps the priest was dead. They wanted their blessing.

He continued in his service (liturgy) – so as not to quit for trifle or transient personal circumstance. Nor did he run home to tell Elizabeth the news …

Scripture for further consideration:
Genesis 15:8  And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"

Judges 6:17  And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

Habakkuk 2:3  For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.

Revelation 8:1ff  And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour … incense which came up with the prayers of the saints …