Summary: This message focuses on what God did to bless Zecheriah and Elizabeth as well as accomlish his own purpose.
When the Silence Ended
Rev. Sean Lester
January 4, 2004 evening service
CAN YOU SEE THE LAND?
It was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. Long-distance swimming was not new to her; she had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.
The water was numbingly cold that day. The fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her party. Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire. She swam more than 15 hours before she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on since they were so close to land, but when Florence looked, all she saw was fog. So she quit. . . only one-mile from her goal.
Later she said, "I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it." It wasn’t the cold or fear or exhaustion that caused Florence Chadwick to fail. It was the fog.
A. Before we get into the text, it is good to examine the circumstances surrounding the writing of this Gospel. There were apparently many stories about Jesus circulating in both written and oral form. As you know, stories tend to stretch and morph into legends over time. Did Washington have false teeth? Did he cut down the cherry tree? You get the picture. However, the account of Jesus’ life is vital to our faith, and must not become the stuff of myth. Luke recognized the importance of accuracy and set out to research and verify what was being told.
Luke states that the purpose of this treatise is to give an orderly account of what happened so that Theophilus might be certain about what he had been taught. It is good for us to know that what we are studying is not just one man’s recollections about the life and resurrection of Jesus, but a carefully researched documentation of what happened.
B. There was a moment in time when God broke his silence.
1. The Word of God to Israel had been silent for 400 years. During that time Israel had been largely dominated by foreign powers, except for a brief independence under Judas Maccabeaus. However, the words of prophets were not heard in the land.
2. The last word that God gave says, (4:5) "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (4:6) And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."
The last Word before prophesy fell silent was a promise to send someone in the power of Elijah who would prepare the way for the Messiah.
3. That time had now come with the words, "In the time of King Herod..."
B. There was a real couple chosen to give birth to the prophet who would come in the power of Elijah.
1. They were a priestly couple. Presumably they were knowledgeable of the Scriptures and prayerful that the Christ would come.
2. They were a blameless couple who were faithful to God.
3. They were a barren couple who served the Lord even though it could be said that God did not favor them.
C. A real moment for divine intervention.
1. Zechariah the priest had been chosen by lot, by chance. It is difficult to say if by casting lots that God was allowed to have his way in choosing a priest, or if by doing so God was challenged to keep His plan with someone who was old and unable to have children.
2. The people were standing around waiting for Zechariah to come out. The people were to be praying for the salvation of Israel. There was anticipation, as there had been for many, many years.
3. Zechariah was alone in the Most Holy Place.
Proposition: The angelic visit foreshadowed the imminent revelation of Israel’s salvation.
Interrogative: What was being foreshadowed by these events?
Transition: These events show us the kind of events that take place before a visitation of God takes place that brings a revival of awareness of salvation through Jesus Christ.
I. Private Revelation of God’s Plan of Salvation.
A. Zechariah and Elizabeth were symbolic of the nation.
1. They were barren just like the faith of the nation was barren. I am sure that Elizabeth and Zechariah did what married people do to conceive, but they never had children. The religion was practiced by the rules, but righteousness was never produced in the nation.