God Gives More
Good morning and welcome!
This morning we are going to be continuing our discussion about John the Baptist and his role as the Forerunner of Jesus Christ.
And this morning we are going to look more into the things that were going on just prior to John’’s birth.
And more specifically, we are going to be looking at John’s parents—mainly his father Zechariah.
And the story of Zechariah is found in , which we will be spending some time in this morning.
But we are going to start by looking at , if you would like to start finding that in your Bibles.
And the the reason we are going to be starting with one of Paul’s writings, that has no reference to John the Baptist or his father, is because it exposes us to one of the greatest aspects about God.
It gives us just a glimpse into the depth of God’s love for all of His children.
And when we get over to and start looking at Zechariah and his life we are going to see an example of this Godly attribute play out in Zechariah’s life.
And the thing I am talking about is the depth of God’s giving nature toward us.
We know from many different passages in our Bibles that God gives us everything we need and provides for all our needs.
But there is so much more to God’s giving than just simply meeting our basic needs.
In fact, God routinely gives us well above what our needs call for and through that God blesses us.
And just as a side note, God blesses us as an example of how we should also be generous and be a blessing to others.
If we have more, we should give more.
If we see someone in need we should help as we are able to help.
Which is not what our society does.
Just a quick example, the other night we were watching the America’s Got Talent show and one of the groups does the shadow art and in their act they showcased the problem of homelessness and how we as humans should be kind to one another and we should help one another.
Throughout their routine they showed shots of the audience with tears in their eyes and the judges as well.
And then when it was all over, the judges raved on how good a job they did and how big a problem homelessness is and thanked them for reminding us all that it was a problem.
Okay, so what?
What have any of them done to help?
What have anyone in that audience done to help?
Now, not everyone here watched the show, but we see homelessness, hunger, and other problems all around us, what do we do to help?
How do we exhibit the love of Jesus Christ to others?
How are we being a blessing to others as an expression of our gratitude to God for how He has blessed us?
How He has met our needs and beyond.
And some in here this morning may thing I wrong about this—that God hasn’t blessed “me” any more than I need.
Some in here may actually be in need of a blessing from God.
So, this is where we are going to turn to God’s word and see God in action.
So, if you have found , in your Bibles, if you are able, I’d invite you to stand with me as we read.
Paul writes . . .
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
God’s Abundant Blessing
God’s Abundant Blessing
Now, up to this point in Ephesians, Paul has been really hammering home the point that salvation through Jesus was not just for the Jews, but in fact as he points out in chapter 2, verse 5 that we have all been “made alive in Christ.”
That is, we have been made alive, if we have given our heart to Jesus.
He also makes the point in chapter 2 that because of Jesus we have all been made one, or one body, one family—Jew and Gentile alike.
And then in the beginning of chapter 3, he affirms that his job is to deliver this message not to his fellow Jews but to the Gentiles— to us.
And we pick up at the end of chapter 3, with this prayer that Paul is offering to God on the people’s behalf.
And of course the prayer also contains a message of hope as well.
So, Paul starts off with . ..
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
And the reason is all the things I just talked about about.
And he moves on to . . .
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.
And we really need to hear what Paul is saying here.
He is praying for God to :
Strengthen them through the power of the Holy Spirit.
For Christ to really and truly dwell in their hearts.
That they be transformed and find roots in the love of Christ that is expressed in the love of others.
That they be granted power through the Holy Spirit.
That that are unified with ALL saints, or all of God’s people.
That they can learn and grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is.
That they can know and understand that God’s love goes beyond any rationale or knowledge that we may have.
And that they are filled full of the Holy Spirit—as much as they can hold.
And it should be no different for us.
We should be praying the same prayer for ourselves and for everyone around us.
But I honestly think that sometimes we don’t want those things.
We don’t wand the fullness of God.
We don’t want to be filled with the Holy Spirit..
Because we don’t want to be changed and transformed.
We don’t want to grow because growing is uncomfortable and we resist everything and anything that may make us uncomfortable.
We want all the blessings of God but don’t want any of the growing pains.
And therefore we never really experience what Paul says next . . .
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
And of course, Paul is talking about God here and what God can and WILL DO.
And we need to break it down and think about it this way.
Who believes that God can do all that we can imagine?
Well here’s the thing, God can do abundantly above all we ask or imagine.
And not only that, but God can do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine.
And God wants to do these things, but we have to want ALL that God is offering.
Which is where Zechariah comes into the picture.
God Blesses Zechariah
God Blesses Zechariah
And if we turn back to , we learn this about Zechariah . . .
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years.
So, Luke introduces us her to Zechariah and Elizabeth who will eventually be the parents of John the Baptist.
Luke says that they were both upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.
So they were by all measures good and faithful Jews, but there was also an issue that they both faced that was discouraging to them . . .
7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years.
Which, when you start to really look at it and think about it, is much like another couple that we read about in the Bible.
**COMPARE WITH ABRAHAM SOMEWHERE AS WELL**
And of course I’m talking about Abraham and Sarah.
They were well along in their years and well beyond child bearing years, but God had promised them that they would have a son—an heir.
And while Zechariah and Elizabeth were not as old as Abraham and Sarah, they were well on in their years, and they as well had been praying and praying for a child, but yet, they had no child.
Which, no doubt was very disappointing to them but the one thing it did not do was cause them to abandon God or give up on God.
In fact, Zechariah belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, meaning that his job was to care for the temple.
And one of the highest honors for a priest was to be chosen to go into the temple and burn the incense before the Lord.
How this actually worked was that twice a year the priests of Abijah would serve for seven days in the temple.
And while serving they would be the ones to offer the morning and evening sacrifices and burn the incense.
And the altar of incense was the closest anyone besides the high priest would ever come to the Holy of Holies, which sat about 2 feet from it.
So to be chosen to do this was an extremely high honor and they drew lots to choose which priest would do this.
And once your lot was drawn, and you fulfilled your duty, you were never allowed to do it again.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
And remember, Zechariah was “well on in years” which scholars put him to be in his late 40s or early 50s.
So, twice a year for his entire adult life, he had fulfilled his temple duties praying that he would be chosen for this honor, and twice a year he saw the opportunity pass by.
And he didn’t have many more years of service left.
So, again on top of praying and praying for a child with no results, he was also praying for this, with no results.
He was beginning to think God wasn’t listening.
Do we ever feel that way?
Feel like God doesn’t hear or that God isn’t listening?
Feel like the promise we talked about in Ephesians doesn’t apply to us for some reason?
Well, here is what happened for Zechariah . . .
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
So, here we are now and you have to use your imagination on how this goes down.
Zechariah is just going about his business, probably a little disappointed thinking “here we go, another year.”
And boom, his lot is chosen!
He gets to go into the temple!
Prayer answered, after all of these years!
So, he’s excited and for a brief moment forgets all of his problems and things going on.
God is listening and God did hear him!
Wait until he can get home and tell his wife about this great honor!
They may not have a child but at least they have this.
So, he goes into the temple and is carrying out his duties and just like the infomercials “Wait there’s more!”
An angel of the Lord appears to him, who in verse 19 reveals himself as Gabriel, and gives Zechariah a message.
And the message is you will have a son.
And not only will you have a son, you will name him John.
And not only will he be named John . . .
17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
He will be the prophesied forerunner of Jesus Christ.
And the point I want to make here is this.
God is a God of promises.
And every promise God makes, God keeps.
And it will not be in our time, it will be in God’s time.
Why did Zechariah have to wait so long to enter the temple?
Because it was not God’s time for him to receive the message of his son.
Why did they have to wait so long for the son they had prayed for?
Because it was not God’s time for Jesus and the Forerunner just yet.
God had set the plan in motion, long before Zechariah had every been born and everything was going to happen, according to God’s timing.
And the same thing holds true for us.
There are things that we pray for for years but yet we don’t see any movement by God.
And we get discouraged and want to give up.
I am here to tell you this morning don’t give up.
That one that you are praying will receive Jesus, keep praying.
That thing that only God can do that you so desire in your heart, keep praying.
Don’t give up on God—He will keep His promises.
And this morning we have an opportunity to be renewed.
We have the opportunity to enter God’s presence and lay our burdens on His altar.
If we are willing to do so.
So, what is it you need to pray about this morning?
Is it your salvation, the health of your relationship with God?
Is it for a loved one?
Whatever it is, God is listening, and I invite you to bring it to His altar.
Can you do that this morning?
Will you do that this morning?
The altar is open, will you use it today?