Tag Archives: character study

Day 16: Wise Men Still Seek Him

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones . . . A discerning man keeps wisdom in view but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” (Proverbs 17:22, 24)

Wisdom is a divine gift that is acquired by “seeking” Wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on the knowledge and the understanding of the heart. Biblical wisdom comes from humility in our reverence to God. They who are wise are seeking to follow and obey.

Would you consider yourself wise?

I myself haven’t been asked that question in my twenty-six years in this world…I’ve been called a wiseacre, but don’t consider myself wise. Would you?

In the biblical sense of the term, God calls His children wise…wise beyond human understanding.

The Bible speaks of many wise men and women who sought after the Lord. Men such as Enoch (Genesis 5:22), Noah (Genesis 6:8, 22), and David (Psalm 23:1). Women such as Ruth (Ruth 1:16) and Anna (Luke 2:36-37). There are those like Nicodemus (John 3:1-2) who acknowledged the goodness of the Lord in spite of their own lack of faith and sought to know more of Him. Then…there were the wise men who came from the East to see the King of Israel after His birth.

But…the wise men? They weren’t called wise because of the knowledge they possessed or their stature in society. No. They were wise because of who they sought, how and what they gave and by how they lived and listened to God.

If we are to be wise today, we must still seek Jesus; seeking Him with all that we have and are, much like the wise men who came from the East.

The Wise Still Come: In verses 1-10, we see these men (no number given…we assume three due to the number of gifts presented) setting out on a journey (a lengthy one) to follow a star that had been prophesied…that it would rise in the East. Upon arriving in Judah, they followed the direction of the star to the place where the boy Jesus was. These men were willing to follow/go wherever necessary to see the Lord. Are we willing to make a similar sacrifice in our own lives? Do we trust in His Word in such a way that we will alter our course when necessary?

The Wise Still Worship: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

Many today think it an awful thing to travel a bit to attend worship service (harsh, but true). For these men, it was a lengthy journal (probably many months…possibly a couple of years), not a jaunt around the corner. We’re not sure what they knew about Jesus, but they had studied the scriptures and knew that it was worthwhile to seek out this King. Their main goal was to come and worship.

When they finally arrived, they fell at His feet and gave gifts in abundance…items that were not cheap – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Are we willing to be like these wise men? Are we willing to go the distance; to do whatever it takes when it comes to our relationship with God? Are we willing to freely express our worship to Him, not caring what the world around us thinks? Do we truly know Who the Lord is and why He is worthy of worship? Are we willing to make the sacrifice?

The Wise Still Give:

Let me pause a moment to mention the symbolism in these gifts:

  • Frankincense represents the death of Jesus. In His day, incense was burned as it was believed that it carried prayers to heaven, the sweet aroma that was pleasing to God. In a similar way, Paul teaches in Ephesians (5:2) that we are to be an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma, signifying the connection between the death of Jesus and frankincense.
  • Myrrh represents His burial. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ body was anointed with myrrh for His burial, fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 45:6-8.
  • Gold represents His resurrection and just as gold neither rusts nor shows any signed of aging, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

These wise men freely gave and, as I mentioned before, these gifts were not cheap. It also wasn’t common for men of a high rank in society to bring gifts for someone beneath their status. Jesus was a child, He was a King, and so they honored Him with these valuable gifts from their own respective countries. Likewise, we are also called to bring gifts to the Lord.

In Romans 12:1, Paul pens that we should give our bodies to God because of all He has done for us; that they should be a living and holy sacrifice  – the kind that He would find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. We need to give Him our most valuable possession: our lives.

The Wise Still Listen:

Recall what Herod had told these men: They were to return once they found the place where this King lay…so he could come worship Him too. This was part of Herod’s plot to kill the threat to His kingdom…and in turn, these men were forewarned by an angel of God to return to their homelands another way.

It’s wonderful for us to have made the effort to assemble in worship.
It’s great that we are attentive in seeking and pleasing God.
It’s appropriate that we offer everything we are.

But it’s not enough.

It’s not enough that we reserve all of this for Sunday mornings and holidays. We need to be in a constant state of worship; giving our all every single day that God has given us.

When we depart from the assembly and fail to heed the divine instruction on our way, in every single portion/aspect of our lives, the rest is for nothing. Serving Him is not just when we gather for worship. Consider how the lives of these men were changed after their encounter with Christ, the King. In the same way, our lives should reflect the time spent worshiping God in every area of our daily lives.

Seek Him first.

O, come let us adore Him
O, come let us adore Him
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Day 15: A Stretch of the Imagination

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. Luke 2:8-9

No Christmas program is complete without its little band of gunnysack shepherds. Frightened by the angel’s sudden appearance, they marvel at the good news from the angel and rush to Bethlehem to the see the Savior-King. As they return to their flocks, they praise God and tell all who will listen about the birth of the chosen Child.

They finish spreading the good tidings, leave the stage, and we hardly give them another thought.

It may seem like a stretch of the imagination, but try it anyway: If you were God and could announce the arrival of the Savior of humanity, would you send your messengers to some shepherds out in the fields as they whiled away their nighttime watch? Why not instead send angels to an assembly of the religious council in Jerusalem? Why not to the megalomaniac King Herod? How about Caesar? Wouldn’t that be a night’s work – to blow open the doorways of society; to change everything with a few simple words.

Yet God chose the shepherds. Rough characters at that time; laborers who performed the tedious tasks that many others were unwilling to do. They appeared ragged, smelled of the flocks, and were used to sleeping on the cold, hard ground.


In Christ’s day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers. Only Luke mentions them.

During the time of the Patriarchs, shepherding was a noble occupation. Shepherds are mentioned early, in Genesis 4:20, where Jabal is called the father of those living in tents and raising livestock. In nomadic societies, everyone–whether sheikh or slave–was a shepherd. The wealthy sons of Isaac and Jacob tended flocks (Gen. 30:29; 37:12). Jethro, the priest of Midian, employed his daughters as shepherdesses (Ex. 2:16).

 

When the twelve tribes of Israel migrated to Egypt, they encountered a lifestyle foreign to them. The Egyptians were agriculturalists. As farmers, they despised shepherding because sheep and goats meant death to crops. Battles between farmers and shepherds are as old as they are fierce. The first murder in history erupted from a farmer’s resentment of a shepherd (Gen 4:1-8).

Egyptians considered sheep worthless for food and sacrifice. Egyptian art forms and historical records portray shepherds negatively. Neighboring Arabs–their enemy–were shepherds, and Egyptian hatred climaxed when shepherd kings seized Lower Egypt.

Pharaoh’s clean-shaven court looked down on the rugged shepherd sons of Jacob. Joseph matter-of-factly informed his brothers, “All shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians” (Gen. 46:34, NIV).

In the course of four hundred years, the Egyptians prejudiced the Israelites’ attitude toward shepherding. Jacob’s descendants became accustomed to a settled lifestyle and forgot their nomadic roots. When Israel later settled in Canaan (c. 1400 B.C.), the few tribes still retaining a fondness for pastoral life chose to live in the Transjordan (Num. 32:1-42).

After settling in Palestine, shepherding ceased to hold its prominent position. As the Israelites acquired more farmland, pasturing decreased. Shepherding became a menial vocation for the laboring class.

Often, the Bible tells of extraordinary shepherds. A millennia earlier, David, the “shepherd-king” of Israel, had cared for his people, just as he had cared for sheep when he was a boy shepherd in the fields outside Bethlehem. David could write the incredible words of Psalm 23, because he knew what it meant to be a good shepherd, and he knew that God was his good shepherd.

David tells us, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (vs. 1-2). And that isn’t all. The Lord guides. He protects with his rod and staff.

Jesus, the descendant of David, came to be the good shepherd. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that he knows us as his sheep, and we are to know him (10:14-15). He promised to defend us from wolves, and not run away. But most importantly, he said that the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

So consider this: On the night Jesus’ life began in this world, an inexorable process was set in motion-leading to the day when he would lay down his life for the world. All this in the fashion of a truly good shepherd. So an angelic visitation to shepherds in Bethlehem-men who understood feeding and guiding and saving-was the best way for Chapter One to begin.

Day 14: Great Faith and Grace and Seeing the ‘More Than’

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. -Matthew 1:18-19

Can you imagine what it would feel like to find out that the person you had been pledge to marry was with child? Or, for us girls, the equivalent: having a child with another woman?

Joseph. A name meaning he will add or the more than. God did both.

We know so little about Joseph. He is only mentioned in the birth and childhood stories of Jesus. He was named after an ancient patriarch who used his success in Egypt to save his family and a  future nation. Joseph was a carpenter who lived in the town of Nazareth. His ancestors were from Bethlehem, so when a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, wanted a census, Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem, even though his wife was well along in her pregnancy. Joseph was not the father. While Christ came as the Son of Man, He was never the son of man.

The most important thing we know about Joseph is that when the time called, he displayed great faith and grace. Mary was the pure young woman he had fallen in love with and was about to make his wife. He then found out she was pregnant. While Mary had the benefit of the an angel to explain her unique conception, Joseph had not been visited yet. All he had was Mary’s word. So what was that conversation like? No, she hadn’t slept with another man. Yes, she was pregnant. And yes, a spiritual being had told her that she would conceive by a unique act of God-and as though that wasn’t enough-the child in her womb would be the Savior of the world.

Joseph didn’t act rashly, even though he was baffled by her condition. He instead sought wisdom and carefully thought of others. He was disappointed in the apparent betrayal, yet believing, he made no haste. He contemplated putting her away. He considered divorcing her quietly, so as not to bring her shame.  As a praying man, he waited on God, and his love and patience for Mary were rewarded.

Why did Joseph believe her? Why did he change his first plans to quietly divorce her so as not to expose her to public shame? Engagements were so serious then, to break one off amounted to a divorce. Why did he choose instead to take her as his wife-and then abstain from sexual relations with her until the birth of the child? If you were in his shoes, would you have believed Mary?

God understood that Joseph couldn’t wrap his mind around the situation and He rewarded Joseph’s patience and attitude towards Mary by revealing His redemptive plan. Joseph received a direct and distinct revelation from God, and once his fears were banished, his line of duty was made clear. God revealed the more than of Joseph’s life. God added.

Where suspicion once lurked, strong faith now reigned as he looked into the lovely face of Jesus. He tenderly cared for young Jesus as if the Child were His own. Filled with more awe than a person could possibly bear due to the fact that his wife Mary had been handpicked by God to be the mother of the Lord his people had eagerly waited for, we can imagine how he would manage every detail of the Nativity. At last God’s promise had been fulfilled and before him was the Babe through whom God’s covenants would be established.

Little more is shared about Joseph beyond that point, but can be sure that between Joseph and Jesus there was an affection strong and deep.

Think of Joseph. Think of him looking into Mary’s eyes, hearing her account, knowing in his heart it was true, and having the courage to act on that faith, even though he may have had doubts. As nonsensical as it seemed, he believed it. As much as the idea of a virginal conception violates both logic and science, he knew it was possible with God. As risky as it was to stay with Mary and be branded by others as the hapless dupe of an immoral woman, Joseph decided to take that leap of faith.

That is true faith. It wasn’t just that he trusted Mary; he trusted God. That God could; that God might; that God would.

Day 13: I am the Lord’s Servant

Mary is a pivotal figure worth consideration this Christmas season. She stands at the crossroads between the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New. The channel for the old prophecies to be fulfilled, and the new salvation given-the womb that carried the Heaven’s prince, the woman who had faith enough to bring to term our liberator from death.

Can you fathom the immense amount of faith Mary was called to have? She was young. She was a virgin. She was probably expecting to lead an ordinary existence in the small town in Galilee. It’s hard to imagine being in Mary’s shoes when the angel first appeared to her. I haven’t met anyone who has seen an angel in today’s world. Have you?

Then, the message came from heaven in Luke 1:28-30: Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God!’

We can’t help but wonder what the angel may have looked and/or sounded like. Be honest, you would probably have been confused and disturbed too…this wasn’t just a normal, everyday occurrence.

To be visited by an angel would be a miracle in itself. But imagine hearing those words! The Lord is with you. This is true for all of us – The Lord is with YOU. Perhaps, the line would be better  understood (in this situation) if it read, The Lord is with you, Mary. The God of the universe handpicked her. As with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Ruth and David, God had chosen Mary to be His instrument, to do His work in this world. A high favor indeed!

As frightening as this event may have been for Mary, it must have been even more so to process what the angel had told her: that she would become pregnant even though she had never been intimate with a man. Oh the scandal! Everyone would talk about it, she could be shunned and even sent away by her fiancé, Joseph, because she had been unfaithful to him.

You will be with child, in a way that no other woman had been before or would be after her. A virgin, yet, with child. This concept is difficult for us to grasp. God did something utterly unique (not too hard for Him to do), but complicated enough that we can’t understand it. Is it too hard for the Creator of the universe to cause a woman to have, but an act of creation, a complete zygote that would become and embryo, which would become a fetus, which would become a newborn baby?

No.

Who can make up such rules for God? We tend to put Him in this box, limiting Him to what our minds can understand.

Yet, faced with numerous fears and questions, Mary responded to the angel in a way most of us wouldn’t. I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true. She was saying: God, I’m yours. You can do anything you want with me. She must have known the situation would be very hard for not just her, but for Joseph and her entire family. But, she had faith enough to let God take care of her; to let Him meet her needs while the prophecy was fulfilled through her.

It’s easy for us to be thankful for the good things that happen in our own lives, but when difficulty/tragedy strikes, we don’t see them as integral parts of God’s good plan for our lives…His divine plan for all. Mary’s example proves that we can also welcome those things, confident that His gifts can sometimes come in perplexing and painful packages. We belong to God and in knowing that, He will use whatever He allows into our lives for good. In God’s hands, those things become gifts of His grace towards us.

It takes faith; faith to rest in who God is – faith to let His love wash over us – faith to be confident that He is doing something good in and through all of our circumstances, both the good and the bad. It takes faith to see the hard things in our lives as gifts of God’s grace.

Mary was asked to believe something that many of us struggle to even imagine. From that frightful day when she was face to face with a strange messenger, to the cold night in the stable, to the mournful day her son was mounted on a cross-Mary’s entire life witnessed and nurtured Jesus’ message. Stop and ask yourself: If Mary were here today, how would she celebrate Christmas?

When you find yourself lost or in despair, know that you have the same capacity for the extraordinary faith that Mary did. She was human, as you and I are. Ask yourself, how might I fortify my faith every day? Who else inspires me with their extraordinary faith?

Will I be prepared when a time comes for me to have great faith?

Will you claim to be His servant today?

Day 12: The Impossible – Zechariah & Elizabeth

In my search for information on Zechariah and Elizabeth, I stumbled on this article. Check it out and enjoy!

There has been a class consciousness in almost every culture in history, and the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was no exception. The upper class of that social structure consisted of the descendants of Aaron, the officiating priesthood. There were about 20,000 of them in and around Jerusalem at the time, and unfortunately many were proud, bigoted, overly indulgent, self-seeking men, religious only in those external matters that would impress other people. The priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan was a typical example. He considered himself to be above helping the unfortunate victim of a mugging and robbery.

But there were a few who were different and among them was an old priest named Zacharias, whose name means “the Lord remembers.” Since the law of Moses insisted that a priest marry only a woman of highest reputation, Zacharias had chosen the daughter of another priest to be his wife. Not only was she a descendant of Aaron, but she bore the name of Aaron’s own wife, Elisheba or Elizabeth, which means “the oath of God.” Their names would spring alive with new significance before the sun set on their life together.

Look, first of all, at their devout example, “And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). The lives of both Zacharias and Elizabeth were pleasing to God. They submitted to the will of God and obeyed the Word of God. And they did it “in the sight of God,” that is, to exalt the Lord alone rather than to make a good showing before men. In that they were different from most of their contemporaries. They did not even care about the status that went with the priesthood. They lived in some obscure village in the hilly region south of Jerusalem rather than, as the other priests, in the elite section of the city itself, or in Jericho, the luxurious city of the palms. Their piety was no outward show; it was a heart relationship with the Lord. They cared more about what God thought of them than what men thought. And that, incidentally, is an important foundation on which to build a good marital relationship. The quality of our walk with God determines our ability to walk happily and harmoniously with each other. And that walk with Him can only grow as we seek to please Him rather than impress men.

That is not to say that Zacharias and Elizabeth had no problems. While many of our problems stem from our own sins, God does allow some to invade our lives for no other purpose but to help us grow. He wants them there, and no amount of obedience can possibly bring immunity from them. Zacharias and Elizabeth had one like that, and it was a big one. “And they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). It is difficult for us to imagine the intense stigma attached to childlessness for them. Many Jewish Rabbis insisted that it was an evidence of divine disfavor. While Zacharias and Elizabeth may have been righteous before God, some of their friends probably suspected them of serious secret sin. And there was no way to erase that blot. The phrase “advanced in years” meant at least sixty years of age, well beyond the time of childbearing. It was a hopeless situation.

Zacharias could have exonerated himself by divorcing Elizabeth. In their society, barrenness was a commonly accepted grounds for divorce. Zacharias could have gotten rid of her, married a younger woman, had children by his new wife, and gotten that damnable curse off his back. That was the route many other men would have taken. But not Zacharias. Instead he prayed (cf. Luke 1:13). He committed the situation to the one person who could do something about it. And while I cannot prove it, I would imagine that he prayed about it together with Elizabeth, and by that means ministered to her spiritual needs. He was also a man of the Word, as his famous “Benedictus” later revealed (cf. Luke 1:67-79). So he probably shared with his wife the great Old Testament Scriptures which would console her and encourage her in her plight.

That is a husband’s responsibility as the spiritual leader in his marriage. The short time he has known the Lord may hinder him from fulfilling this role effectively at first, but as he grows in his understanding of the Word he will feel more comfortable encouraging his wife through the Word. Too often a wife has to drag her husband along spiritually; she coaxes, begs, and badgers him for every step he reluctantly takes in his spiritual growth. God does not want any of us trying to drag others along spiritually, but he does want husbands out in front, taking the spiritual lead and ministering to their wives and children in the things of Christ.

After Zacharias had committed his problem to God, he simply kept on with the job God had given him to do. He did not stop praying and bail out because his situation looked hopeless. And neither should we. Our God is the God of the impossible! He delights in doing impossible things for us when He knows we shall give Him the glory. It is so much easier to quit and run away from difficult circumstances, but that usually compounds the problem. God wants us to take our difficulties to Him in prayer together, search the Word together for encouragement and direction, and then wait patiently for Him to work.

Look next at their most memorable day. The day began with a great deal of excitement for Zacharias. “Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:8, 9). It was his turn to minister before the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place, possibly for the first time in his priestly service. The priests had been divided into twenty-four courses by King David, and the order of Abijah, to which Zacharias belonged, was the eighth in line. Each course would be called to minister in the Temple on only two occasions during the entire year, each occasion lasting for one week. With nearly a thousand priests in each course, it becomes evident that entering the Holy Place and kindling the incense upon the golden altar was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But this was Zacharias’ day.

First he would choose two special friends to assist him. One would reverently remove the ashes from the previous evening’s sacrifice. Then the second would enter worshipfully and place new burning coals on the altar. Finally, Zacharias would enter the Holy Place alone, bearing the golden censer, and at the given signal he would spread the incense over the coals. As the incense kindled and a cloud of fragrance arose from the altar, the prayer of the worshipers outside would rise into the presence of God (cf. Luke 1:10). It was a beautifully symbolic experience of worship.

The ritual was finished now and it was time to leave the Holy Place. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing to the right of the altar of incense. The personal visit of an angel from God was a distinction that had been afforded only a few people in the history of the human race. And as you might imagine, it was a frightening experience. But immediately the angel spoke: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13, 14). God can do impossible things, and that is exactly what he promised to do for Zacharias and Elizabeth. But their child was not to be just any ordinary child. He would be the forerunner of the Messiah predicted by the Prophet Malachi (Luke 1:15-17; cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5, 6).

All this was too much for Zacharias to grasp. He had been praying for a son, but admittedly, his faith had been weakening. Now this Word from God—it was too good to be true. Before he had a chance to get his thoughts together, he blurted out, “How shall I know this for certain? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). Zacharias was a man of God, but he was a man, and he had human weaknesses. God understands a weakness like this faltering faith. He is not exactly ecstatic about it, but He does understand it, and He goes to great lengths to stimulate and strengthen that faith. That is one reason he gave us His Word, and one reason He includes these great historic events in the Word. God’s Word excites faith as we meditate on it and its application to our lives. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Zacharias knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew how God had given a son to Sarah in her old age. But he did not think about that great Old Testament precedent at this moment of need. Even men of the Word may fail to appropriate it at times. But God did something very gracious for Zacharias to help him believe. He gave him a sign. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time” (Luke 1:20). It was not very pleasant for him to lose his voice, and his hearing, as we later learn (cf. Luke 1:62). But I don’t think Zacharias minded very much. His inability to speak and hear were God’s confirmation of His Word, and they served to strengthen his faith in God’s promise.

When Zacharias emerged from that Holy Place he was a different man. He had long been a godly man, but his encounter with the angel Gabriel left him with a new awareness of God’s greatness, a new sense of his own unworthiness, and a strong, virile faith. When his week of priestly service was over, he hurried home to share with Elizabeth every detail of that memorable day, and they rejoiced together in God’s grace.

“And after these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant; and she kept herself in seclusion for five months” (Luke 1:24). That conception was a miracle. Impossible things do happen! And God is the same today as he always was (cf. Mal. 3:6; Josh. 1:17). He can solve our problems, and He put this story in His Word to prove it and to strengthen our faith.

Knowledge of this miracle stimulated the Virgin Mary’s faith. God told her she would conceive a son without ever having relations with a man. That was rather hard to believe. But listen to the angel’s reassuring message to her: “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God!” (Luke 1:36, 37). And with that amazing news, Mary responded, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Some will invariably protest, “But you don’t understand. My situation is impossible.” “My husband will never change.” My wife will never learn.” “We’ll never get out of debt.” “I’ll never be well again.” “My unsaved loved one will never come to know Christ.” “This job will never improve.” Listen to God’s Word again: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Believe that. Obey him. Then keep on keeping on.

The next major event in the lives of this godly couple was their visit from Mary, Elizabeth’s young cousin from Nazareth, and through this visit we gain a little deeper insight into Elizabeth’s character. It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, and no sooner had Mary greeted her than her unborn baby leaped within her as if prompted by the Holy Spirit to salute the Son of God. Then, illuminated by that same Holy Spirit, she uttered these amazing words: “Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42, 43).

Her words are unusual for several reasons. For one thing, they reveal that she understood who Mary’s child was. She calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” “My Lord” was a messianic title taken out of Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord….” She acknowledged by divine revelation that Mary would give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. But more amazing than that was her attitude toward Mary. While she knew that she herself had been honored of God, she realized that Mary had been infinitely more honored; in fact, more honored than any woman on earth. She did not even feel worthy of Mary’s visit. Such utter humility and self-abasement are rare qualities. And although she was older than Mary and had every right to ask, “Lord, why didn’t you choose me?” there was not one trace of jealously or self-seeking in her spirit. We can understand why God could bless her so richly.

Jealousy is a destructive emotion. It eats at our own souls, creates a hostile atmosphere in our homes, and ruins our relationships with our friends. But there is no jealousy in the life of one whose trust and hope are in God, as with Elizabeth. If we believe that God is doing what is best in our lives, and if we expect him to work out our impossible problems in His own time and in His own way, how can we be jealous of anybody else? We know that we are God’s ill-chosen vessels to fulfill His special purposes for us. We know that He is at work in our lives to accomplish His own good pleasure, and there can be no higher calling than doing His will. That confidence gives us an inner contentment, and contentment removes all jealousy. Learning to believe God will flush the biting jealousy out of our lives.

The last thing we want to notice in the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth is their miracle son. I am sure they pored over the Old Testament Scriptures during the last few months of her pregnancy, reading every passage they could find concerning the Messiah and His forerunner. The nation had looked forward to this for centuries, and God had chosen this godly couple to be part of these thrilling events. Their excitement mounted daily, until “the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son” (Luke 1:57).

As the custom was, their relatives and neighbors gathered to rejoice with them over this extraordinary event, and on the eighth day, at the child’s circumcision, they tried to call him Zacharias after his father. But Elizabeth protested, “No indeed; but he shall be called John” (Luke 1:60). Why John? This was unheard of. Nobody in either of their families had ever been called John. Maybe this was just Elizabeth’s folly. They had better ask Zacharias. “And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God” (Luke 1:62-64).

John means “The Lord is gracious.” And how very gracious He had been to them. They merely asked for a son to carry on the family name and priesthood. God gave them the forerunner of the Messiah, a child upon whom the hand of God was evident from his earliest days, a man whom Jesus Christ would call the greatest among men (cf. Matt. 11:11). God does not always give according to our asking, and certainly not according to our deserving. He gives according to the riches of His grace. He does “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). And He loves to do that for people who trust Him and obey Him, even in impossible situations.

The greatness of God’s grace inspired Zacharias to utter a magnificent song of praise to God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father” (Luke 1:68-73). That oath which God swore to Abraham is a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant in which God promised to bless the descendants of Abraham and make them a blessing to the whole earth. Many Jews were beginning to think God had forgotten His promise, that their national situation was hopeless. But Zacharias and Elizabeth never thought so. Together their names were a constant reminder that “Jehovah remembers his oath.” And their miraculous experience proved it to be true. God not only remembers His promises, He keeps them!

Maybe you think the Lord has forgotten you in your hopeless situation. He hasn’t. He does impossible things for people every day, and you may be next. So don’t chafe and fret under the burden. Believe him. Keep on faithfully living for Him and patiently waiting for Him to work, just as Zacharias and Elizabeth did. While their names are not mentioned again after the birth of John, they have left us a lovely legacy of faith in the promises of God, the God of the impossible.

 

http://bible.org/seriespage/impossible-things-do-happen%E2%80%94i-story-zacharias-and-elizabethi