UNEXPECTED Hope | Elizabeth | Luke 1:24-37
Topic: Gospel Passage: Luke 1:24–1:37
Unexpected Hope 12/08/2019
INTRO: Good morning, Damascus road church, I hope you are all doing well this morning. We started are Christmas series, titled “Unexpected” last week, which will go all the way up to Christmas eve, highlighting characters from the Christmas story, and the idea behind “unexpected” is that the Christmas story we celebrate of God incarnate, Jesus, the Son of God taking on flesh and entering into human history, is unexpected. Israel was expecting a Messiah at this time, who would come and liberate them from the Roman Government, and this Messiah would come in great strength, but Jesus rather came in great vulnerability as a baby. This Messiah was expected to come and overthrow the nations with the sword, and yet Jesus came and was pierced with the sword for the nations. Along with the Christmas story being unexpected, there was a period of time from the last book in the Old Testament to the beginning of the gospels, where God is silent for 400 years. No prophet arises to speak for God to the people in that time frame. And some of you this morning are in a season of life that seems that way. Where there is a hard season in life right now, perhaps the Holiday season brings up old wounds and hurts and it seems as though God is absent because of His silence. And what I am here to preach on today is not only what we all need but what the people of Israel in that time needed as well, and that is hope!
So what I want to do to help set a good trajectory for where we are going today, is to define clearly what hope means, because there is a very different view the world has of this word as opposed to what the bible means when it talks about hope. There are elements that make hope actually hope and it’s suffering in the present, and a greater future to come. *Spurgeon quote
The Worlds View: When the world uses the word hope, they more so mean a ‘wish’ or a ‘dream that something would come to pass, but with no certainty that it will.’ In fact in preparation for this sermon, I looked online to see what people have placed their hope in, and a Huffington Post article came up with the title “Why there is still hope in this world” and the writer basically said she has hope in this world because as the sun sets, so it will also rise. And that sounds cute and would be good for a poster but what power does that actually have? In the muck and mire of life, what power does it actually have to get us out of our pits of despair? My step-Dad lost his 2 year old granddaughter last year to cancer and I don’t think the family of the daughter nor my step- dad finds hope in the sun setting and rising. So we need something greater than what this world defines as hope, because there’s no certainty that it will actually get better.
The Biblical View: Hope, biblically is the assurance that God is going to do what He says He will do.’ God will fulfill His promises that He has made. So I want us to ask a question as far biblical hope goes, what promises has God made to us? Because we’re looking at the Christmas story particularly, we will look at a promise they had in their minds at that time.
17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. 18 Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more. - Isaiah 65:17-19 (NLT)
This was written to the people of Israel when they were taken captive to Babylon 500 years before the coming of Jesus, and this was given to them as a promise that their current suffering wouldn't be forever. That one day, they would be in this new heaven and earth where there is no pain or tears or strife or suffering anymore and happiness abounds because God and man dwell together. This was their great hope. This was a promise that met them in their current suffering. And this could be one of the promises that met Israel in their suffering at the time of Jesus' birth. They were under the hand of the Roman government and were not a free people and as a result were mourning because of their lack of freedom, they were longing for liberty where only oppression was. So this the context of Luke chapter one that we're going to be in today, so if you have you're bible you can turn there.
HOPE-FILLED FAMILY (LUKE 1:5-7)
Ruth and I have been watching a tv show on Netflix called, “Mad Men” I’m sure many of you are familiar with, and in one of the episodes, it highlights one character going throughout their day and then once the day finishes, it goes to a different character and goes throughout their day, to get different perspectives on the events of that day, and what I am going to do is much like that. You heard from Pastor Chris last week about Zechariah receiving the news that although he and his wife, Elizabeth were advanced in years and were without children, they were going to have a child, this week though we are going to look at Elizabeths perspective from this story, of learning that in their old age, they were going to have a child. And as we look at God’s word this morning, I want you to thinking about Elizabeth hearing this news. What were her emotions? What would she be thinking?
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
The first thing we learn of Zechariah and Elizabeth is that they were a religiously devout family. It says that Zechariah was a priest and his role that he had in his community would not only be teaching and preaching, but would also be of going into the temple before the presence of God to slaughter an animal for the sins of the people. In fact we learn later on, that Zechariah is in the middle of his priestly duties when an angel confronts him and tells him that Elizabeth is going to bear a son.
But along with Zechariah being a priest it says that Elizabeth is a daughter of Aaron, and for those of you that know your bible, you know that is Aaron, the brother of Moses, who was appointed as the very first priest Israel ever had. So track with me for a moment, Zechariah is a priest, and he marries a gal who comes from a line of priests as a family profession, do you think they might know some of God's word? A question I have for those of you who follow Jesus, do you know God's word? It's not just about memorizing and quoting verses, that's not what I'm saying, rather it is about knowing God's word so well within your heart that it produces hope. In fact, Paul says in Romans 15 that all of the scriptures were written for our encouragement, that we might have hope. And so we learn that Zechariah would have been neck high in studying God's word along with Elizabeth being seeped in it since she was a child. The result of knowing God's word for them, led them to being a hope-filled family. Why? Because they knew the promises of God, perhaps even memorized the one we read this morning from Isaiah.
So what does being hope-filled look like? 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Being hope-filled looks like being faithful to God, when you have unanswered prayers. Being hope-filled looks like being faithful to God, when you are suffering, in pain, in anxiety, in unrest and you pray that God would remove it, and He doesn't. I want us to see culturally, what Elizabeth went through as being someone, who in her old age didn't have offspring. In her times, it was considered a calamity for a Jewish family to not have a child, because it was viewed that God Himself had disapproved of you and therefore childlessness was considered a disgrace. Can you imagine the pain she must've felt living in a community who looked on her as being divinely disapproved of? What gossip do you think circulated around the neighborhood? I imagine she had a weight on her shoulders. Perhaps they thought she earned it. Perhaps they thought that she was not qualified to be a priests wife.
And all of this leads me to think of and ask the question, if God doesn't answer your prayers, why follow Him? Church, If Jesus doesn't take away your pain, if He doesn't save your child you've prayed for, for years or for decades to trust in Jesus, if He doesn't heal you of your physical, emotional, or mental hurts and pains, why still trust Him? The answer is, that so much of our prayers are focused on this life, and I don't say that to diminish any of your hurts but I say that because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that 'If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.' (1 Cor. 15:19-20) The object of our hope is not answered prayers but rather we have hope because of an empty tomb. We have hope that all this will one day fade and a new heaven and earth will take its place where there is no more pain or suffering or tears anymore, and all of this is because Jesus has conquered sin and death by His resurrection. We have hope! And what hope does for us, is it gives us fuel to be otherworldly in the way we live.
I'm reminded of the 21 Egyptian Christians back in 2015 that were beheaded for their belief that Jesus is God and on the way to their own beheading it's reported that they were singing the doxology; the one we close are service with. On the way to their death they singing 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow!'
I'm also reminded of the apostle Paul, when he writes to the church in Rome who was being severely attacked by the Roman government and he writes 'For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.' (Rom. 8:18) Elizabeth had a hope in God that surpassed her circumstances of wanting a child and being barren because she knew God's word not only in her head but in her heart and knew that it promised her a redemption from all her present pains. So for those of you that are taking notes this morning, this is my working definition of hope in light of Elizabeths story. Hope casts our vision to our future redemption to give us strength for our endurance in the present.
Now I know that I should be more light-hearted with how I speak, it's Christmas and I could preach something that is light and fuzzy, but I don't want to feed us all candy that may taste good and has no lasting sustenance when what we need is solid food, because the reality is, is that just as suffering, sin and death are real matters, so is hope.
HOPE PROVIDES SECURITY
And one of the things I want us all to learn is that as we cast our vision to our future redemption to give us strength for our endurance in our present suffering, we need to see that hope provides security for us in the in-between. As we are on our voyage from this world to the next Hebrews 6:19 says 'We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain...' There's a lot in this verse but what I want to pull out is that the writer says hope is an anchor for our soul. That when a ship was going from point a to point b, they would come across a storm and the only thing that would save them from shipwreck, the only thing that secured them was the anchor. I believe this imagery serves us well because as we are going from this world to another, we are met with storms and when the waves of suffering crash down upon us, we have something that will help us, we have something that will ground us, so that when the pain subsides for a time, we can pull up our anchor of hope and move forward.
So we continue on with the story of Elizabeth and we learn that her decades of faithfulness to God and decades of unanswered prayer is not how her story ends. Zechariah is met by an angel named Gabriel who brings good news and says that God has heard their prayers for a child and that Elizabeth will have one in her old age.
HOPE FOR THE SUFFERER (LUKE 1:24-25) 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
GOD ANSWERS PRAYER
The first thing we learn in light of Elizabeths story, is that God answered her prayer for a child. And it is not only that God heard her prayer, but also that God saw her suffering, as she says 'the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me.' This is good news because some of you have been praying for decades and suffering through much and you wonder if your
prayers are getting past the ceiling of where you live, and the overwhelming answer is yes. Yes, your prayers are heard, yes the suffering you are going through that no one else sees, God sees and He knows you, even when you feel that no one does or that no one understands. And one of the most beautiful things we have as Christians, those who have repented of their sin and put their faith in Jesus, is that when Jesus went to the cross for our sins, He cries out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" so that we would never have to utter those words. That in our prayers to God we never have to wonder, if He has forgotten us, or abandoned us, but rather we take confidence in knowing that God is a Father who hears the cries of His children. So in light of this, have hope! Your prayers matter, your requests to God they matter, and they produce hope for the sufferer.
So here's where we need to go, because when I say God answers prayer, I don't want anyone leaving, hearing me say that God answers all prayers. In fact I can't even say with confidence that God hears all prayers, because God's word says God doesn't listen to sinners, and by that is meant someone who prays, but has not put their faith in Jesus and turned from their sin. But what I can say with confidence, is that we know that God is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. (John 9:31) So what should we pray about? What did Elizabeth pray about? here's just a small quote from Charles Spurgeon that I believe will help us when asking that question. *Spurgeon quote What do you care about? Then pray about it. What did Elizabeth care about, what was on her heart? She cared about having a child and the result was she prayed about it. I believe this is really freeing for us when we pray, because some of you may have the thought that you can't ask God for certain things or only somethings, but God's a Father who loves His children and who wants to hear from them. So whatever cares you may have in your heart, bring them to God because He is ready to hear from you, who are in Christ.
GOD HAS THE FINAL SAY
But another thing we see in light of Elizabeths story is that God has the final say on who we are, not man. She says the 'Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.' When people saw Elizabeth they wrote her off. They thought that because she was too old to conceive a child that she was hopeless. Her time for redemption had past with her age. She was a disappointment to her community, a black ink stain on a white cloth. And yet, God has the final say on her life, not man. When her community condemned her, it was God who in great mercy and grace decides to bless her and give her a child.
And how this brings hope to the sufferer is that if God says you are redeemed, it doesn't matter what others say. People may say we are hopeless or that God disapproves of us, because of situations we have been in or because of who we were, but it doesn't matter what man says about us what matters is what God says. If God has said you are forgiven, it doesn't matter what others say and even your own heart may condemn you, but what God has spoken is final and true.
And as Elizabeth is in awe of how God has acted in her life in allowing her to conceive at an old age, the story shifts to another women. Not an old women, but a young one who had conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is Mary, and we'll read of her interaction with the angel Gabriel.
A THRILL OF HOPE (Luke 1:26-37) 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Mary is filled with fear when the angel Gabriel arrives. In fact it says she was "greatly troubled," to be in the presence of an angel, but Gabriel goes on to tell her that by the power of the Holy Spirit, she will conceive of a son, and His name will be Jesus, He will be called the Son of the Most High, The Son of God. And Mary asks, 'How can this be?' And the angel Gabriel, goes on to use Elizabeth as an example for her. 'Your relative Elizabeth, who not only is advanced in years, but was called 'the barren one' in her community, she has conceived a son, in fact she's in the sixth month of her pregnancy. And just incase you think it's impossible, you're right, it is impossible with man, but nothing is impossible with God.'
THE POWER OF GOD
What we're given here by the angel Gabriel, is not only the power of God put on display, but the power of God is placed within our vision for the purpose of having hope! That when it says 'nothing is impossible with God' that doesn't mean God will make the sky green or make square circles, that's not what it's saying. Rather it is communicating that God will do what He sets out to accomplish and nothing can hinder Him or resist His power. That if God has promised it, it will come to pass by the mighty hand of God.
HOPE DESTROYS OPTIMIST/PESSIMIST
When I was in 8th grade, for the 4th of July, I went to the evergreen state fair for a show at the race track, where they had a demolition derby, they were racing school buses. At the end of the show, the great finally, is there was a school bus that was going to go off of a ramp, jump over two rv's, land on the other side and upon landing fireworks would go off. So the bus got a
good start to build up speed, it hit the jump and went right through both the rv's and obliterated them. And how I see hope play out is that people will put themselves in one of 2 categories, they're either a pessimist or a optimist. The pessimist sees nothing but disaster for its future, but the optimist has an unreal, mirage like reality of picking up a broken egg shell and thinking he can fix it. And hope comes along like a school bus and obliterates those two views, because hope can be as honest if not more honest than a pessimist as to how messed up, broken and sinful this world is and yet it can be more real than the optimist because a person with hope can say 'Yeah, this world is a horribly broken place and yet, nothing is impossible with God!'
The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah being old and being able to conceive of a son named, John because God willed it to happen is a story of hope, for us. But the hope is unexpected, because the hope is not found in John; he's just a man who lived a life devoted to God, and was beheaded for it. Rather the unexpected hope is in the fact that John is evidence that the messiah is coming. John is predestined by God to make ready a people for the Lord, and the good news of hope is the Son of God is coming into the world! He is the one who will bring reconciliation between God and man, He is the one who will bring about the new heavens and the new earth, He is the one will make all things new, and what he has set out to do, He will accomplish and nothing can hinder or stop His plans. He has done this for you, who would turn from rebellion against God and trust in Jesus for your salvation.
Jesus comes to this earth as a child, grows up into a man and begins his ministry, and one of the many poignant things He says is in John 3, were he tells man that he needs to be born again if he wants to enter the kingdom of God. A question I would pose to you all is have you been born again? If you haven't, all you have is hope in this world, but if you have, the apostle Peter tells us that we've been born again to a living hope! And I long for the day, when not only myself but for all of us, our faith becomes sight, either by us dying or by Jesus coming back to take us home. And we behold the object of our faith Jesus Christ, and all the thoughts that torment us daily, or our pains that handicap us will be gone.