Right now, the kingdom of darkness is trying to get you to doubt and distrust God. The devil wants you to believe you cannot count on God and that God is not trustworthy. The world wants you to think God does not care and is not interested in your life. Your own sinful nature wants you to believe that God cannot do what He says He can or will do. The devil knows if He can get you to doubt God and His Word then he has won the battle over you, the rest will be easy for him.
The Christmas story involves about three years. It includes people like Mary and Joseph, the wise men, angels, and shepherds. It includes a donkey, a stable, an inn keeper, and a star. But it also includes Mary’s relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah.
While at the Temple, an angel appeared to Zechariah. The angel told Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth would have a baby and they should name him John. Zechariah didn’t fully believe the angel at first because they were so old. Because of his lack of faith, the Lord caused Zechariah to not be able to speak or hear. We pick up the story in Luke 1:57.
When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. (NLT)
From this I want you to think about three important aspects of God’s character: His faithfulness, His graciousness, and His power.
God is faithful
First of all, God is faithful. He keeps His promises. He does what He says He is going to do. He means what He says and says what He means. God is faithful, reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. You can count on Him. You can trust Him. Where do we see God faithfulness in our lives? Let me give you three areas.
God is faithful to keep His word
God is faithful to keep His word. When God makes a promise, He is going to keep it. Luke tells us in verse 57, When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. To you and I, that looks like a simple birth announcement. It is a birth announcement, but it’s also the fulfillment of a promise God made. About nine or ten months earlier an angel of the Lord appeared to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah. The angel said, “God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John” (Luke 1:13, NLT). God gave His word to Zechariah in verse 13 and God kept His promise in verse 57. God is faithful. God may promise you something in verse 13 of your life, but you will have to wait until verse 57 of your life to see it fulfilled.
God keeps His word according to His time table, not yours. When it was time Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. That phrase, when it was time, refers to more than just giving birth, but to when it was time for God to start the incredible story of redemption. It was time for John the Baptist to be born, it was time to set in motion an incredible movement of God. It was time for God to set in motion His plan of salvation and redemption for people like you and me. God is a faithful God. He keeps His word.
God is faithful to display mercy
God is also faithful to display mercy. Mercy is the compassionate treatment of those in need, especially when it is within your power to punish them or harm them. Mercy is what you need from God when you know you have done wrong. Luke tells us in verse 58, And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. For whatever reason, the people around her saw this child as an act of mercy from the Lord for Elizabeth.
Listen carefully, anytime God blesses you in any way it is always an act of mercy. The reality is, you are selfish, you have rebelled against God, you have doubted God, turned your back on God, got mad at God, and treated God unfairly. Even with all your sin and selfish issues God loves you, blesses you, and shows you mercy. God is faithful to display mercy on your life.
God is faithful to provide community
God is faithful to provide community. You need other people in your life. People you can cry with and laugh with. People who you can encourage and be encouraged by. People you can rejoice with and mourn with. God was faithful to provide Elizabeth with a community, a group of people to rejoice with her. Luke tells us in verse 58, And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. She was up in years, desperately wanting a child and God provided one for her. I’m sure that she had this conversation with some of her neighbors and relatives over the years. Wishing God would give her a child. It finally happened. She rejoiced and they rejoiced with her.
It’s exciting to celebrate God’s blessings with other people. God blesses someone with a child, you rejoice with them. God blesses someone with a promotion, you celebrate with them. God blesses someone with a college scholarship, you rejoice with them. God blesses someone by healing them, you celebrate with them. Whether this deals with adoption, retirement, or buying your first home; there is power is celebrating the blessings of God with others. God is faithful to provide that community who you can rejoice with and mourn with. God is faithful.
When you are going through a confusing and difficult time you need to remember that God tests your faith so that you will trust His faithfulness. The only time you can really experience God’s faithfulness is when your faith is tested. God is faithful.
God is gracious
God is faithful, but God is also gracious. God’s grace manifested itself in a surprising way in this event, through a conflict over the naming of Elizabeth’s son. We see this beginning in verse 59, When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.”
What’s going on here. It was common practice to circumcise babies when they were eight days old. It was an act of cleansing, faith, and trust in God. It was an Old Testament form of baby dedication.
The group of people there expected and wanted to name the child Zechariah, after his father. To name a child after their father or other relative was very common, like it is today. When Elizabeth said “No, His name is John!” the people were surprised at that name because there was no one in the family with that name.
Remember, Zechariah’s hearing and speech were temporarily removed from him nine months earlier when he doubted God was going to provide a child. So the father, couldn’t hear and couldn’t talk. So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.”
This is where we are reminded of God’s grace. In Biblical times it was very common for people to name their children after someone important to them, in honor of a relative, but most importantly names were meant to be descriptive. For example, the name Esau means “hairy” and Jacob means “one who grabs the heel” (Gen. 25:26). Other names expressed the parents’ joy over their child’s birth, such as Saul and Samuel, both of which mean “asked for.” Other names, such as Elijah means “Yahweh is God,” reflected the parents’ faith.
Pam and I decided we would continue this tradition.
- We named our first son Ezekiel which means God strengthens.
- Our second child we named Zachariah which means God remembers.
- Our third child we named Grace which means God blesses
- and our fourth child we named Isaiah which means God saves.
We gave them names that we liked, but we gave them names to remind us of who God is or what He does.
That’s what is happening with Elizabeth’s baby. God told them what name to give the child. His name will be John. They are obeying God’s command on this. This is where we find God’s grace. The name John means God is gracious. The name reflects God’s gracious salvation, in which John would eventually point many people to Jesus later in life. Through the very name of John God is already telling us that salvation is by grace.
Paul would echo this truth later in Ephesians 2:8-10 which says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT). When God saves you, it is by His grace. You don’t earn salvation. You can’t be good enough, give enough, or go to church enough to receive salvation. It is by placing your faith in Christ alone. It is by grace.
Before we move on I want to point out that this little family – Zachariah, Elizabeth, and John – all their names point to some aspect of God’s greatness.
- Zechariah means God remembers. God remembers His promises. God remembers His word. You will never hear God say, “I forgot I said that.”
- Elizabeth means God is reliable. Because God remembers, His reliable. You can count on God to keep His promises, to be on time and ahead of time. He is dependable, faithful, and trustworthy. God is reliable.
- John means God is gracious. God is forgiving, loving, kind, and patient. God is a gracious God.
Through their names and their lives God demonstrated to be exactly that – a God who remembers, a God who is reliable, and a God who is gracious.
God is powerful
We have been reminded that God is faithful and God is gracious, but we also see that God is powerful. Beginning in verse 64, Luke tells us, Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. There are some aspects of God’s power I want you to see from this.
God’s power to provide for us
For one, I want you to see God’s power to provide for us. The word instantly (or the related terms at once or immediately) is frequently used in Luke’s gospel when describing a divine miracle (Luke 4:39; 5; 25; 8:44, 47, 55; 13:13; 18:43). Immediately, Zechariah could speak again and the first thing that happened was he began praising God. For nine months he could not speak fully about what God miraculously revealed to him at the temple, but now his mouth was free! God has the power to perform any miracle He sees fit in your life in order to accomplish His plan for your life.
God’s power to use us
God has the power to provide for us, but God also has the power to use us. He can take your life and use for good. Because of Zechariah regaining his speech and hearing back at the naming of His son and the story he and Elizabeth told about the angel appearing to them at separate times and what the angel said about John, Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?”
That’s a good question, “What will this child turn out to be?” For John, he became John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. But what about you? What will you turn out to be? Who will you turn out to be? What kind of person are you going to be? Regardless of who you are now, God has the power to change who you will be? For some of you, God has already began the change and transformation. You are not what you use to be, and you are becoming more and more like Jesus every day.
God’s power to be with us
God has the power to provide for us, God has the power to change us and use us for His glory and kingdom, and God has the power to be with us through whatever and whoever we face in life. Luke wraps this section up in verse 66 saying, For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. The phrase the hand of the Lord refers to God’s powerful presence (Ex. 9:3; Deut. 2:15; Josh. 4:23-24; 1 Sam. 5:6, 9; 7:13; 1 Kings 18:46; Ezra 7:28; Isa. 19:16). God’s powerful presence would be with John and that power would be revealed in unique ways in the life of John.
The same is true for you. Our God is a God who is with us. God said I will never leave you nor forsake you. As you follow Him, you have His power presence to strengthen you, guide you, and encourage you in order for you to accomplish everything God would have you to accomplish.
As we leave this event, it should remind us that God is faithful, gracious, and powerful.