TEEN TREE OF LIFE
God Is Full of Surprises!
March 12, 2017
BEFORE we begin, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take a moment to name your sins to God the Father. This will allow you to be filled with the power of The Holy Spirit as you read this booklet (EPH 5:18 & 1JO 1:9). IF YOU HAVE never believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have that opportunity right now. Simply tell God the Father that you are believing on His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you make that decision, you are now a believer and will always be a child of God! When you die, you will spend eternity with Him forever in heaven! (JOH 3:16 & ACT 16:31).
We are looking at how God is full of surprises and how He surprised Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth. We learned that Zacharias was chosen to “enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (LUK 1:6-9) This was considered a great privilege! The common practice was that the priest would go into the Temple accompanied by two associates who would stir up the coals and add fuel to them to get them burning hot. Then he would step into the Holy Presence of God and he would pour the incense upon the altar and it would explode into a cloud of incense and smoke.
While he was inside, the congregation remained outside: “And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.” (LUK 1:10) While they were waiting in prayer, sometimes the congregation would break into spontaneous song awaiting the return of the priest. No priest stayed inside the temple long, lest he profane the sacred place of the Shekinah Glory of God. But Zacharias got an interruption (and quite a surprise) as we learn in LUK 1:11: And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Now, there are two angels whose names appear in scripture – Michael and Gabriel. The angel in LUK 1:11 is Gabriel, the messenger angel, who comes years after this moment with Zacharias to bring a message to Mary. Gabriel is also the same angel who visited Daniel centuries before. The limitations of space and time do not affect supernatural beings.
In LUK 1:12, we read: And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him. Of course, he was afraid, wouldn’t you be? But God is full of surprises and never runs out of fresh ideas! He wants to get Zacharias’ attention and what better way than to have an angel appear before him. Zacharias stands and stares and cannot believe his ears when the angel speaks to him, even calling him by name.
Here’s something to ponder: we need to start focusing up, as we are told in COL 3:2: Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. We limit ourselves when we don’t! We are warned about this in 1JO 2:15: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. (1JO 2:15) We are brainwashed to “love the world” which is all the more reason to become good students of the scriptures so that we may be trained to set our minds “on the things above.” And if we do, we will not be so surprised when God does something great in our lives.
Zacharias is stunned and shocked by the presence of the angel as we read in LUK 1:13-14: But the angel said to him, “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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Imagine Zacharias’ reaction! The angel Gabriel continues in LUK 1:15-17: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” The Greek word for “filled” here is not pleroo, used for the filling of the Spirit; it is pletho, which means supplied or furnished. So, the baby who will become John the Baptist is supplied or furnished with the filling of The Spirit while in the womb! Wow!
What an honor for Elizabeth and Zacharias to be the parents of the forerunner of The Messiah! However, Zacharias gets hung up on the statement, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,” and this is the point at which he stops listening. Like many of us, he was a man who was fixed on the horizontal rather than the vertical. He focused on age; he gave in to doubts and skepticism.
People will always remind us of the limitations, but these are people who don’t have a relationship with God. We must trust God and His Promises. We must learn to live in the freedom of the future rather than the guilt of the past. Zacharias does not come right out and say, “I don’t believe you Gabriel.” He does it much more subtly as we read in LUK 1:18-19: Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
Gabriel’s name means: “I am the mighty one of God.” Imagine the centuries Gabriel has been around and the things he has seen and heard. He has known one miracle after another, so it’s unacceptable to Gabriel for someone to question the Power of the Living God, even by implication. So he responds with words of judgment, but also of mercy: “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 will be fulfilled in their proper time.”(LUK 1:20) Until Zacharias’ wife conceives, carries, and bears the child and he names him John at his circumcision, Zacharias will not speak a word. Wow!
Now, at this point, the congregation is still outside the temple waiting for him and wondering where Zacharias could be and if perhaps he profaned the altar of incense. Perhaps he had incurred reproof, or even his own death! The story continues in LUK 1:21: The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. This dialogue with the angel Gabriel was the greatest message of Zacharias’ life! It took root in his soul; but all he could do was go out and shake his head and move his arms and hands: But 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 [a]making signs to them, and remained mute. LUK 1:22
This man has had such a great experience, but he is not able to communicate it! And he will learn a lesson in silence that he never learned when he had speech. He is learning that when God gives you a promise, you can count on Him keeping that promise. To think that an “ordinary” couple would be the vehicle for giving birth to the John the Baptist – what a contribution to the world! And they were no better than you and if God used them, He can use you!
Notice that there is nothing mentioned of any unbelief on Elizabeth’s part; as far as we know, she never questioned God’s actions: When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home. After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” Notice the difference. She says, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me,” as opposed to her husband, who said, “How shall I know for certain?” When God sends those surprises, He has something very special in mind.
We have already seen some great lessons to live by from the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth! We have learned that our impossibilities are the platforms upon which God does His best work. We have also learned that God can do His best work when we are faced with impossible situations. Our health, problems at school, and ANY OTHER problem can never frustrate God and His Plan.
There are lessons to be learned in the waiting period until He comes through and deals with the situation. God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. Don’t misinterpret a “wait” as a “no.” Don’t assume that if the solution has not come in a matter of a few days or a few weeks, that God is saying “no” or “never.” He is simply saying, “Not right now.” And rather than allowing this to be a cause for doubt, let it be a cause for growth. Use this as a time to dive into the doctrinal principles that you have studied.
When God intervenes, His surprises are always for His immediate Glory and for our ultimate good. As Job said, “Shall I receive good at the hand of God and not calamity also? Shall I give him praise for good health and curse His name when ill health strikes?”
God is a sovereign God who has the right to say “no,” just as He has the Sovereign Right to say “yes.” If you believe that He is a Gracious God only when He says “yes,” you will live a very confused life. He is a Sovereign God who has every right to surprise us. Whatever your life has been like over the last year, you are no match for God. He has wonderfully and graciously brought you to this place where you will listen, and He is pointing you to His Son, Jesus Christ, who has now come and died, and He is saying to you, “Start there, at the Cross.”
Begin rebuilding your whole life around His Eternal Perspective and you will never be the same. We are all facing a series of God’s Great Surprises, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.