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The Domino Effect

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Luke 1:1-25

The Domino Effect

Open to pp. 1587

v    On 15 November 2002 a Guinness record was set for the most dominoes toppled.

Ø     It took 100 builders working 8 hours a day between September and November to set up the nearly 4 MM dominos.

§        After some 72,000 man-hours of painstaking and delicate set up the moment came when one person toppled that first domino which went into another

·        Which went into another

¨     And so on and so on

Ø     That first domino set in motion an unstoppable series of events which did not end until the last domino fell

§        The Domino effect

v    What we have before us today is exactly the same

Ø     God has taken literally the time from creation to 0 BC to set up this great stage of redemption

§        Where Christ will be born, grow up, live a sinless life and die for us in our place.

·        But before that can happen, there must be a forerunner to prepare the people

¨     One like Elijah must come again

Ø     There must be that first domino to set everything into motion…

Ø     READ V. 1-4

v    Luke has taken time to “carefully investigated everything from the beginning

Ø     Just like the people that set up the dominos

§        Luke has taken time to gather all the dominos

·        To gather all the facts

¨     Luke was a traveling companion and close friend of Paul

Ø     Col 4:14 ~ Dear friend Luke

Ø     2 Tim 4:11 ~ Only Luke is with me

Ø     We passages ~ Acts 16, 20, 21, 27-28

Ø     It is generally accepted that Luke is Paul’s account of the life of Christ

§        Important because that is one of the criteria for acceptance in the canon

v    Luke not only gathered the facts…

Ø     He then sits down and writes an ”orderly account” of the life of Jesus

§        Just like setting up dominos one after another with perfect precision

·        So Luke does with the details of Jesus’ life

¨     In fact, Luke gives us details that no other Gospel does

Ø     Stories such as…

§        Zeccheus

Ø     Teachings such as…

§        The parable of Lazarus and the rich man

Ø     Crucifixion details such as…

§        The thief on the cross

Ø     Extensive resurrection appearances

§        Such as the road to Emmaus

Ø     And the narratives such as

§        The birth of Jesus

§        Jesus in the Temple talking with the teachers

§        Details about John the Baptist’s ministry

Ø     And the birth of John the Baptist is the domino that starts it all

v    So Luke starts at the very beginning

READ V 5-7 ~ An Unusual Couple

 

v    Here we are told of a Very Unusual Couple …

Ø     Zechariah & Elizabeth

§        They were unusual for several reasons…

·        1) They were both in the priestly lineage of Aaron

¨     Zechariah was a priest in the division of Abijah

Ø     There were 24 divisions of priests

§        Each consisting of about 300 priests

·        Each division took turns serving at the temple

¨     2X per years for a week each time

¨     Elizabeth could not serve as a priest, but Zechariah could

·        2) They were childless

¨     In Semitic culture, barrenness was a cause for great disgrace

Ø     Hagar looked down on Sarah when she got pregnant (Gen 16)

Ø     Remember Hannah (mother of Samuel)

§        1 Samuel 1

·        Elkanah, Peninnah, Hannah

¨     Pininnah teased her because she was barren

Ø     Elizabeth states in verse 25 that her disgrace has been taken away

·        3) Both were “upright in the sight of God”

¨     Luke is careful to make this observation because in Jewish society childlessness was associated with sin

Ø     Cf Lev 20:20-21 ~ B/C of certain sin, they will die childless

¨     These two were (δίκαιοι) God fearing Israelites

¨     Obeyed all commandments and regulations

Ø     This is unusual because they lived in an age when Israel had wandered

§        We know the Pharisees were far from God

§        We know that God only sends prophets to call His people back to Him

Ø     So here is an unusual couple who are serving the Lord, following all the commandments of the Lord despite living in an age of sin and hypocrisy

§        Yet they cannot conceive

·        In fact, they will not because they are past the age where they can

§        You can imagine what questions they had!

·        They are the same questions we ask today…WHY LORD?

Ø     A Christian couple cannot conceive and we ask…Why

§        They seem perfect, they would raise the child in a godly way

·        Why would God withhold that blessing

Ø     A missionary dies…Why

§        He is doing the Lord’s work

Ø     What this text is saying to us is that…

§        We have to realize God has a plan for our life

·        Things don’t happen on our timetable

¨     They happen on His and for His purposes

Ø     And that is certainly evident here…

§        Zechariah & Elizabeth I’m sure prayed their little hearts out for a child

·        But they did not know God’s purpose for withholding a child

¨     Had they known, then things would have been different

Ø     Had they known that they would be the parents of the second Elijah, that would have changed things

Ø     But they didn’t, and neither do we

§        That is why we have encouraging words such as Proverbs 3:5-6

·        We must trust in the Lord with all your heart

¨     Trust that God knows best and has a purpose for everything

·        We must not lean on our own understanding

¨     Don’t trust our logic, His thoughts are greater than ours!

·        We must commit all our ways to Him

¨     Start living as Romans 12:1 says…as living sacrifices

Ø     We are His

§        “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”

·        Then finally God will reveal the path

¨     If we trust God, not ourselves and live sacrificially…

Ø     Then our path becomes clear

§        Not always at that moment, but eventually

v    And the path of God’s plan becomes instantly clear to Zechariah one day while servig in the Temple…

READ v. 8-13 ~ An Unplanned Interruption

 

v    So Zechariah, a country priest from the hill country of Judea, is on duty

Ø     He travels to Jerusalem to serve one of his 2 weeks a year there

§        On one of those days, he goes to the Temple which is under construction

·        Scaffolding bricks and mortar everywhere

¨     Herod began a great restoration of the 500 year old temple some 20 years previous which was still going on at the time

Ø     It comes time for either the morning or evening worship

§        And he is chosen to go into the inner court and burn the incense

v    This was a very high honor (once in a lifetime opportunity!)

Ø     There were more than 8,000 priests

§        Many never got the chance to do this

v    This was also very scary, had to be done properly

Ø     Uzziah ~ Leprosy (READ 2 Chron 26:16-20)

§        RQ: When I read passages like that, I wonder if we take worship too lightly sometimes?

·        We come tried from a late night on Saturday

·        We come late

·        We come unfocused on God

·        We come more excited to see our friends than we do God

·        We watch the clock and get angry if it goes on too long

v    RQ: Do we sometimes worship in the same spirit that Uzziah did?

Ø     We worship the same God who struck Uzziah leprous for coming into His presence in an unworthy manner

§        And God’s expectation is the same then as it is now

¨     He is all-concerned with your heart

Ø     David in Ps 51 states it clearly…

§        You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart

Ø     In other words

§        God is not interested in the sacrifice of a couple of hours of your time to come and sit in church

§        He is not interested in the burnt offering of the habit of coming to church

Ø     God is interested in your heart motivation for coming to church

§        To worship and glorify God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit

·        To praise Him, Love Him, Thank Him, etc.

v    So “upright” Zechariah humbly and with some trepidation enters the inner court all alone to burn the incense

Ø     When an angel of the Lord appears in from of him

§        Q: What was Zechariah’s reaction

·        Startled and then gripped with fear

¨     Understandable reactions

Avonlea Illustration

Ø     Avonlea and I play this game where I hide in the living room and she is in the kitchen with Carrie

§        She comes looking for me and I appear from behind a corner

·        Her little body tenses with fear and excitement

¨     She is frozen for a second or two in place, then she runs to Mommy

Ø     I imagine it was something like that…

§        Startled at the sudden appearance

·        Then frightened as he realizes what is standing before him…an angel

v    Then the angel speaks and says

Ø     Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard

§        RQ: What prayer?

·        Most would read on and find out that Elizabeth is going to have a child

¨     So we would assume that Zechariah was praying for a child

v    But probably not from the context

Ø     Remember where Zechariah is…

§        He is in the inner court with

·        the Table with showbread on it

·        The candlesticks

·        The alter for burning incense

·        And just to his left is the entrance to the holy of holies where God’s presence resides in smoke and fire

Ø     Also remember what Zechariah is doing…

§        He is burning incense as is required by God

·        The incense represents the prayers of God’s people

Ø     RQ: What were the priests to pray for in the Temple?

§        The redemption of Israel

·        That Israel would be saved, restored, released from their yoke of slavery

¨     It would be very important to pray for the coming Messiah

v    In context, the next line must have been a bombshell to Him…

Ø     Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.

§        Here Zechariah is praying for the redemption of His people

·        And an angel appears and tells him he will have a son and name him John

¨     When God names a child…it is significant!

Ø     In this case John means “God has been gracious”

§        The logic then is clear

·        Zechariah offers up a prayer for the nation of mercy and for grace

¨     And that prayer was heard

v    The angel then goes on to prophesy about what this child will be like

Luke 1:14-17 ~ An Angelic Prophecy

v    He will be Great…

Ø     Look at how Luke shows us a slow progression  (v. 14)

§        In the eyes of His parents ~ Joy and delight

§        In the eyes of the world ~ Many will rejoice

§        In the eyes of God ~ Great in the sight of the Lord

·        And that is the greatness that we all should aspire to

¨     The world has different standards of Greatness

Ø     That is why it says “Many” not “all”

¨     We should seek to be a joy and delight to our parents

Ø     But sometimes that even comes into conflict with…

§        Being great in the eyes of the Lord

·        We should all seek to hear that wonderful refrain…

¨     “Well done good and faithful servant”

v    He will be set apart internally and externally…

Ø     He will be dedicated to the Lord externally

§        Nazarite type vow

·        Num 6:1-21 ~ No wine, no shaving

¨     Reminder of wilderness wanderings

¨     Nazarite was a living example of trusting in the Lord alone

Ø     He will be dedicated to the Lord internally…

§        Filled with the Holy Spirit from birth

§        Very unusual

·        OT ~ Holy Spirit came upon people for specific purposes

¨     Moses, Joshua, all the judges, Samuel, David

Ø     In may cases the Holy Spirit departed

§        Not a permanent resident

·        NT ~ Filled with Holy Spirit upon conversion

¨     Holy Spirit remains as a guarantee

Ø      Eph 1:14

§        Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession

§        However, this filling is from “his mother’s womb” (Gk)

·        Indeed this is proved later when Mary visits Elizabeth and John kicks within her

¨     This HS filling indicates that John is set apart for a very specific purpose

Ø     And that purpose is told to us next by the angel…

v    He will Prepare the way for the Messiah…

Ø     Bring back many to the Lord

§        1) The Fathers to their children

·        In other words, reconciliation with God

¨     Because when God touches a life, relationships with others are also touched

Ø     It effects all areas of their life

¨     Family life is a good barometer for the presence of the Spirit

Ø     You can put on a good show at work

Ø     You can put on a mask in public

§        But the real test is how you are at home

§        2) The disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous

·        Through preaching repentance

¨     Different ministry than Jesus (Believe in me!)

Ø     John softened the soil of people’s hearts

Ø     He will be the long awaited for Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6

§        The last two verses of the OT, we are left with a portent, a sign to wait for, a precursor that will indicate the coming of the long awaited Messiah

·        READ Mal 4:5-6

¨     400 years of silence

Ø     No prophecy

Ø     And then here Gabriel tells a priest in the temple that this is who his son is to be

§        The fulfillment of that long awaited prophecy!

v    And Zechariah’s response was not that of a faithful priest…

Ø     But that of a faithless person

v    Luke 18-20 ~ An Answered Prayer

Ø     The angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that the moment that all of creation has waited for has come

§        All the dominos have been set up perfectly

·        Now the time has come to tip that first domino, the birth of John the Baptist, to start the whole process of redemption

¨     And Zechariah says…

Ø     “That’s impossible!”

v    You know, I don’t blame Zechariah for saying this

Ø     Many times we forget that we serve a supernatural, miracle-working God

A tavern was being built in a town that until recently had been dry. A group of Christians in a certain church opposed this and began an all night prayer meeting, asking God to intervene.

Lightning struck the tavern building, and it burned to the ground. The tavern owner brought a lawsuit against the church claiming they were responsible. The Christians hired a lawyer, claiming they were not responsible. When the case finally came to court, the judge said, "No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

Ø     Many times we are like the church group that prays and then disbelieves the miracle that God brings about

§        And that is exactly what Zechariah does

v    So Gabriel mutes Zechariah

Ø     RQ: Does anyone here ever remember being sent to your room

§        Reason was to think about your disobedience

·        The idea behind it was that once you were all alone with nothing but your thoughts…

¨     You would realize what you had done was wrong and repent

Ø     So Gabriel sends Zechariah to his room for nine months

v    READ 21-25

v    In contrast to Zechariah’s response…

Ø     Elizabeth responds in faith

§        Look at what she says…

·        “The Lord has done this for me”

¨     Years and years of disgrace are wiped away

¨     There is no bitterness

¨     No anger

¨     No resentment

Ø     Just Thankfulness and Faith in what God has done for her “in these days

v    It is so easy to dwell on the past

Ø     To focus on what God has not done

Ø     How God apparently let us down

Ø     Failed us

Ø     Not given us what we want

v    This text teaches us to focus on what God has done here and now

Ø     In these days…

§        Don’t look back…look forward!

·        And realize how good God is to us?

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