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Notes on Message preached 13 December 2009 at PCF: “A Promise Fulfilled”
Our next message in the book of Luke looks at the birth of John the Baptist. Luke 1 57-80
We will consider the passage under six headings:
- 1. Enjoying the Faithfulness of God (v57-58)
The passage opens with Zechariah and Elizabeth rejoicing in the goodness of God to them. At last God has provided them with a much-wanted and long awaited child, in fulfilment of his promise to them. We all live in the benefit of God’s goodness everyday. Do we remember to thank God for all his benefits? “Praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103)
- 2. Aligned to God’s Purposes (v 59-60)
It is one thing to be blessed by God –it is quite another to use that blessing to serve God. Elizabeth and Zechariah showed that they did not only intend to live with the blessing of God – they also intended to use that blessing to serve him When they maintained that the child was to be named “John” they were going against accepted custom and tradition, and were aligning themselves with the purposes of God. Do we make use of the blessings of God to serve him?
- 3. Emerging from a Trial (v.64)
Zechariah had had a very difficult few months. When he went into the temple to serve God nine months previously he could not have imagined the chain of events that was about to be set into motion. Here Zechariah emerges from his nine months of being unable to speak (and possibly also unable to hear) and utters the most wonderful prophecy. What can we learn from this?
God does not write off those who mess up. Zechariah had failed spectacularly to believe God when the angel spoke to him – now he was given a second chance. He came through with flying colours when he wrote: “His name is John” Secondly God used a time of great difficulty to prepare Zechariah to be ready to utter one of the most beautifully prophecies ever given. Are you going through a difficult period? God could be using it to prepare you for a great work.
- 4. Effecting a Whole Region (v. 65-66)
Here we read that the power of God had an impact across the whole region. Isn’t that what we long for? – for the power of God to work in our midst and cause people across the area to hear about what God is doing. That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit moves in power!
- 5. Seeing the Divine Purpose (v.68-79)
The Holy Spirit comes on Zechariah in power and he prophesies. How we need the Holy Spirit to come upon us and for us to be filled with Holy Spirit. In his prophecy Zechariah receives God’s perspective on the events that he is witnessing.
- Fulfilment of God’s Promise (v 68-70)
What the witnesses are seeing is not simply the fulfilment of a promise by God to a couple. This constitutes God’s fulfilling his promise to the nation and to the world.
- Rescue of God’s People (v71-75)
What the witnessing were observing was physical evidence that God would rescue his people, not just from the Roman occupiers, but also form the enemy who had enslaved the human race since the fall
- Provision of God’s Person (v76)
What the witnesses were observing was not just the birth of new baby boy – but also the emergence of a major ministry gift from God who would point the way to the Messiah.
- Glories of God’s Salvation (v 77-79)
Zechariah finishes his prophecy by revelling in the salvation of God.
- 6. Preparing for Ministry (v.80)
Before Luke changes the narrative to bring us to the birth of Jesus, he gives us a brief insight into the life of this baby as he grew up. John the Baptist is going to be a major public figure whose light will shine for a while – but that time is yet to come. There is a period of preparation in which the baby from the hill country of Judea, grows, matures and is prepared. It is interesting to note that much of that preparation was in the desert. God often prepares his people for a work of service in hard circumstances. But the day came when God’s preparation was done, the veil was torn away, and John the Baptist was revealed to the world. We too have to be patient for God’s timing, and submit to his work of preparation in our lives.
Luke now moves the narrative on. Having dealt with the birth of the prophet of the Messiah, the story now turns to the remarkable story of the couple from Nazareth, who , under God’s provision, were about to embark on a journey to a place many miles away from home called Bethlehem
But that’s another story.
Suggested Questions for Discussion:
1. What can we learn from the thankfulness that Zechariah, Elizabeth and their friends expresses at the birth of John the Baptist
2. What does Zechariah and Elizabeth’s insistence that their child was to be called “John” tell us?
3. What difference do we see in the Zechariah in this passage, compared to the Zechariah who had seen the vision in the temple nine months earlier? What lessons can we learn from the way God had dealt with him?
4. What does Zechariah’s prophetic utterance show us about the place of the prophetic amongst God’s people?