Better than Being Rich!
(Angels at Christmas #1)
Introduction: Do you know how you were named? Parents give their children names for different reasons. Sometimes they are named after other family members maybe their father or mother or aunts or uncles or a combination of the two like in my case. My fist name comes from my mother’s brother and my middle name after my dad. Often people give their child names that simply sound good to them or they might follow a tradition of having all the names beginning with the same letters like my sisters families that all nine of them begin with the letter “A”. Today I think people sometimes try to come up with unique names, (I didn’t say unusual, even though that is often the case), to distinguish their child from the crowd.
In the Old and New Testaments we encounter a very different culture. The culture of the Jews was such that names were of incredible importance. A name carried more than your identity, it said something about who you were, or what your God was like, or how you were expected to live. Names were not always given to a child at birth, in fact it was not entirely unusual for a child to go for many years without a permanent name. In scripture we even see that God changes the names of certain characters to better define who they were or who they would become. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham; Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.
Proverbs 22:1 KJV A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
This morning as we begin a series I am calling Angels at Christmas, we begin by taking a look in the first chapter of Luke to a story that slightly predates what we might think of when considering the Christmas story, but it is actually an important part of it. We will examine those involved in the story taking an in depth look at who they were and the significance of their names.
a. “Jehovah will Remember”
b. He was an older priest who along with his wife had faithfully served the Lord in doing all that had been asked of them.
c. He had no children although they had no doubt prayed fervently for some, one for years.
d. They were now well past the child bearing years and had most likely resigned themselves to the conclusion that they would never have any.
e. Zechariah had a great duty to perform. He had been chosen by lot to be the honored priest to burn the incense before the Lord at the Temple. This could be a once in a lifetime honor to be chosen from the 20,000 others to be the one to offer the incense and prayers to the Lord on behalf of His people.
f. After completing his ministry of burning incense and prayer, Zechariah is startled when he finds out that he is not alone in the Temple.
2. Gabriel v. 11-23
a. “Mighty One of Jehovah”
b. Standing to the right of the altar of incense is the angel Gabriel, and he had a very important message to deliver. I don’t know what Gabriel looks like but when has appeared to people the first thing he normally says is, fear not!
c. Gabriel had not appeared for about 600 years. The last message that we know of he gave to Daniel during the Babylonian captivity. He has had an illustrious career of serving the Lord and will continue to do so throughout eternity!
d. He delivers his message. “Your prayers have been heard”, which prayers the ones just offered for the people? No, the ones that had probably stopped being offered many years ago!
e. You and your wife are going to have a son.
f. Gabriel could have told him that your name means “Jehovah will Remember” and He has definitely remembered you!
g. Can you imagine what it would be like if when after we finished a prayer an angel was to instantly appear and say, “your prayer has been answered”?
h. Our prayers do get through to God, they do come to his attention and He deals with them in His perfectly.
i. God’s timeframe for answering prayers is a little different from what we would expect and the same was true for Zechariah.
j. After getting a little more information about what this promised child will be like, what his name is to be, and his mission in life. Zechariah ask for some proof that this is going to happen.
k. He states his reasoning for his disbelief. Notice his diplomacy. I am and old man but my wife is simply advanced in years! Smart guy!
l. Gabriel explains that his normal position is to stand in the presence of God Himself, to be ready to serve at His command, and He had been sent from God directly to give this good news. Since you want a sign, I will give you one, you will lose the ability to talk until the day the day that this prophecy is fulfilled. (When the promised child is given the appointed name).
m. The people that have gathered at the Temple have began to wonder what has happened to Zechariah when he appears before them and they can tell that something out of the ordinary has taken place. He has lost his ability to speak and tries to communicate with them through signing, which he was probably not very good at! How would he sign to them what had just taken place?
n. Further more, he had a bigger challenge when he got home. How would he make his wife understand what had happened and what was going to happen?
a. “Jehovah is an Oath”, Jehovah the Absolutely Reliable One.
b. I wonder if Elizabeth ever questioned the giving of her name? She might have questioned it. She might have wondered if God is so reliable where are my children?
c. She, along with her husband had walked blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord and yet she remained barren.
d. When her friends were enjoying having the grandkids over, (and even more enjoying sending them home), she was simply reminded all the more of the disgrace that had been heaped upon her by others.
e. For a Jewish woman not to have a child and specifically a son, it was an awful burden to bear. To them children were a sign of God’s blessing and to not have them was a sign of His displeasure.
f. She and her husband could have got bitter about their lot in life but we are told that just the opposite is true. They continued to walk blamelessly before the Lord.
g. Sometimes when things don’t go as planned in our life we might be tempted to get bitter. When that happens remember the name of Elizabeth and more importantly cling to the truth of the meaning of that name. Jehovah is an Oath. He is absolutely reliable!
h. Her reaction to this shocking news demonstrates her acceptance of the very unusual circumstances that she was about to experience. She was excited at the promise of a child very late in life. She saw it as the Lord dealing with her and showing favor to her. The shame of being barren would be forever replaced because of Jehovah’s absolute reliability.
i. One last name to consider.
a. “Jehovah is Gracious”
b. Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t have to go through the challenge of picking out just the right name for this promised child.
c. They didn’t have to help guide him when he was investigating a possible career. They didn’t have to worry if he would turn out OK.
d. He would be great in the sight of the Lord!
e. He would be consecrated to the Lord.
f. He would be used greatly by the Lord!
i. He would start a huge revival
ii. People would get right with their families and right with God
iii. He was to be the promised “Elijah” who would make people ready for the Lord.
g. How did he live up to his name?
h. Well of course the Lord was gracious in his granting a child to a couple that so desperately wanted one, but it goes a lot further than that.
i. John preached repentance, that because people sin they need a savior.
j. It may be a message that people do not want to hear but it is the truth!
k. God has been gracious enough to supply us not only with the message that we are not alright and need saving, He has also supplied the savior!
Conclusion: As we enter the season of Christmas we would be wise to reflect upon the “good names” and what they represent. Although given to individuals they speak of the goodness and greatness of God to us all. “God will remember” He has not nor could not forget about us. Perhaps He is just about to answer the prayer of your heart! “God is mighty” He will bring about what is humanly impossible. “God is an Oath” He is absolutely reliable. He can be trusted with our lives and the desires of our hearts. “God is Gracious” He has pointed out that we need a savior and has supplied the only One that there is and the only One that we will ever need. Do you have a personal relationship with that Savior?