Summary: Does God hear our prayers? What will we do when He sends an answer?

Grace Community Church

Winchester, VA

Rev. Bradford Reaves, Sr. Pastor

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Does God hear our prayers? That’s a question we have all asked. Does God really hear me? I remember several years ago, I returned home from a missions trip to the Philippines. During this trip, I was particularly moved by the ministry we had with the many children, especially the garbage dump children. Andrea and I were married nearly 20 years and during those years we decided we didn’t want children, but something was changing inside me as God burdened me for adoption. I secretly prayed, “God, I hear you, but you must be the one who changes Andrea’s heart.” Little did I know God was already working on Andrea as she prayed, “God you must be the one who changes Brad’s heart.” It was a tender moment when I sat Andrea down to reveal my heart’s desire and see her burst into tears as I shared what God was doing in my life. A couple of years later, Noah became our son.

There was a priest. His name was Zechariah. He and his wife Elizabeth are described as a godly and upright couple, who were also without children. After many years they probably questioned if God heard their prayers for a child. But God had great plans for their child who was still on the way -John the Baptist. There would be no John the Baptist without a Priest named Zechariah.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

(Luke 1:8-17)

1. There Was a Priest (vv. 8-10)

Zechariah served in the priestly division of Abijah (ah-Bee-ah). Ahijah was son of Rehoboam, an ancestor of Jesus (1 Chr 3:10; Matt 1:7 ab). Elizabeth was in the linage of Aaron. Priest were divided into 24 divisions and these divisions served at the Temple 2 weeks a year. Each day 56 of the 300 Priests in their division were chosen by a lottery who would serve in the temple. Typically, they were serving at the altar fo sacrifice in the main court. It was an honor to be selected to have duty over the altar of incense (Exodus 30:7-8). This burning of the incense was the place representing the prayers of the people.

Today was Zechariah’s turn. I’m sure he was overjoyed telling his wife Elizabeth the good news. Many priests go their whole life without the honor. At the appointed time, Zechariah would enter into the Most Holy Place of the temple, just outside the Holy of Holies. The Golden Candlestick would be to his right. The Table of Showbread was to His left. Before him was the Altar of Incense with the veil to the Holy of Holies just beyond the Altar. This was a reverent time of worship.

Incidentally, it was here that Nadab and Abihu were struck down for offering “strange fire” before God (Lev 10:1-3). Spiritual leadership truly is life or death. Zechariah was up for the task while a multitude was outside praying, “God of mercy, come into your holy sanctuary and receive with pleasure the offering of your people.” Meanwhile Zechariah was in the Most Holy Place praying.

2. There Was an Angel (vv. 11-12)

11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. (Luke 1:11-12)

What happens next is unexpected and amazing. The man without a child met an angel with a gospel. Even without the appearance of the Angel, Zechariah’s ministry in the Temple would have been a once in a lifetime experience. Now to the right of the Altar stands the Arch-Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:19) It is worth noting that it was Gabriel who appeared to Daniel to reveal the 70 weeks of years prophesy (Dan 9:20-21). This prophecy provided Daniel with an exact date of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as Messiah. It will also be Gabriel who appears to Mary shortly.

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