Sermon #2                                                            Luke Sermons


          Title:            WHEN GOD BROKE


          Text:            Luke 1:5-12

          Subject:       Zecharias and Elizabeth

          Date:            Sunday Evening - April 4, 1999

          Tape #         V-21a

          Readings:     Office: Gary Baker Auditorium: James Jordan



          For four hundred years no one on earth had received any word from God. For four hundred years no prophet had been inspired to write a word of Inspiration. For four hundred years no angel had been sent from heaven to earth with a message from God to man. No revelation had been given, no vision had been granted. No word had come from God in four hundred years. Then, God spoke again! God chose one man and sent his angel to him with glad tidings from the throne of God. No one had heard from God since the days of the prophet Malachi. Then God spoke.


          Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been a man, faithful, devout, serving God in his appointed place, knowing that no one had heard from heaven in four hundred years, then, suddenly, to have an angel of the Lord to appear to you alone with a word of divine Revelation? That is what we have before us in our text tonight. Our text is Luke 1:5-12. The title of my message is this - WHEN GOD BROKE HIS LONG SILENCE.


Luke 1:5-12  "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him."


          The first thing recorded in Luke’s gospel is the appearance an angel to one of the ordinary priests in Israel, named Zecharias. The angel announced to this old man that his wife, who was an old woman, well past the age of child-bearing, was, by direct, divine intervention, going to have a son, and that his son would be the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah.


          What a great word of grace! It was too good for this old man to believe. Being a faithful man, Zecharias knew that God had promised four hundred years before this that when Messiah came some man, in the spirit and power of Elijah would go before him to prepare his way before the people (Mal. 3:1).


Malachi 3:1  "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts."


          It is, I am sure, impossible for us 2000 years later to grasp what an astounding thing this was. God made the promise four hundred years earlier. Then the heavens were silent. Not another Word was given. Then, suddenly, without any preparatory work, God sent his angel to a certain old man that Daniel’s prophetic weeks were about to be fulfilled. Messiah, the Prince” was about to be revealed (Dan. 9:25). That “seed” of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, was about to come (Gen. 22:18). “The Desire of all nations” who would fill the house of God with glory would soon be revealed from heaven (Hag. 2:7).


          Though we cannot begin to grasp the awesomeness of this great revelation given to such a man in such circumstances, there are several things in the verses before us to instruct our souls.


I.     First, we have before us AN EXAMPLE OF DIVINE ELECTION.


          Our text tells us that God sent his angel to “A CERTAIN PRIEST named Zecharias, of the order of Abia.” God did not send his angel to the High Priest. God did not send his angel to all the priests. But God sent his angel to “a certain priest named Zecharias.” Let men and women fuss and squirm as they may, this Book teaches the doctrine of God’s electing grace and sovereignty. God almighty, in all his works of grace, chooses some and passes by others, according to the good pleasure of his will.


A.  God has, from old eternity, chosen some certain sinners, as the objects of his love and grace, to be the heirs of eternal life; and at the appointed time of love, he sends his angel (a gospel preacher) to announce to them the good news of his salvation in Christ.


          He not only sends a preacher with the message of grace, he sends his Spirit to bring the Word of grace home to the heart of his elect by the omnipotent power of his irresistible grace.


1 Thessalonians 1:4-5  "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake."


2 Timothy 1:9-10  "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:"


B.  When God has a special work to do, he has certain men especially and specifically chosen to do the work.


          Usually, those men who are chosen of God for very special things are the men who we would consider the least likely. Zecharias was one of the common, everyday priests, from the course of Abia.[1] He was probably unknown by name to anyone, except a small circle of friends, family, and acquaintances.


·        Abraham

·        Moses

·        David


          God knows where his chosen servants are. He knows what he will do with them. And when the time comes for them to perform his work, he calls them to it and equips them for it.


II. Second, Zecharias and Elizabeth set before us THE CHARACTER OF THE RIGHTEOUS.


Luke 1:6  "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."


A.  “They were both righteous before God.”


          They were not naturally righteous. The Word of God tells us plainly that “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth. There is none that seeketh after God. We are all gone out of the way. We are together become unprofitable. There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12).


          Zecharias and Elizabeth were made righteous by the grace of God, by the righteousness of Christ being imputed to them in justification and imparted to them in sanctification, by the new birth.


          These two things go hand in hand. None are sanctified but those who have been justified by Christ. And all who were justified at Calvary are, at God’s appointed time of grace, sanctified by the Holy Spirit in regeneration.


          Both Zecharias and his wife Elizabeth were “righteous before God.” Theirs was not merely the outward righteousness of the Pharisees before men, but that righteousness which stands before God and is accepted of him. They were righteous in God’s sight. And they were “both righteous before God.” What a blessed home that is in which both a man and his wife are the recipients of God’s grace in Christ, when both walk together before God in the paths of righteousness! Now, look at the next line of verse six…


B.  “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’


          This believing couple, this old man and woman here show us the character of true faith.


1.    True faith walks in obedience to the Word of God.


          It is written, “He that doeth righteousness is righteous” (1 John 3:7). Believers are men and women who, in the habit of their lives, in the tenor of their lives, live in submission and obedience to the revealed will of God. God’s saints are not rebels.


2.    True faith submits to and keeps the ordinances of divine worship.


          These two old saints kept the ordinances of divine worship then given in a day when few in Israel did. To most, the ordinances of divine worship were a burden they did not care to bear. But Zecharias and Elizabeth delighted in them. God’s people still do.


·        Public Worship

·        Believer’s Baptism

·        The Lord’s Supper


3.    Moreover, they were blameless in their behavior before men.


          John Gill gives this meaning to that word “blameless”: They were so strict in their lives and conduct that none of their acquaintances had any just reason to reproach them.


III. Third, in verse seven, we see that THERE IS A CROOK IN THE LOT OF EVERY BELIEVER.


Luke 1:7  "And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years."


          The lot of the believer is a blessed lot. The life of faith in Christ is a life of joy and gladness. We are the people blessed of the Lord. In this doomed, damned, sin-cursed world, we have a good hope through grace of eternal life in Christ. But there is a crook in the lot of us all. In this world, it has pleased our God to lay trials upon his people, sometimes heavy trials, by which he is resolved to try and rove our faith, trials by which he will ultimately make our faith to shine.


          For Zecharias and Elizabeth the trial was the barrenness of Elizabeth’s womb. This was the crook in their lot. We can hardly fathom how heavy a trial that was in ancient times. In those days, to be childless was a shameful thing to a man and one of the most bitter sorrows a woman could endure (Hannah - 1 Sam. 1:10).


1 Samuel 1:10  "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore."


          The grace of God does not exempt us from trials and troubles, heartaches and sorrows in this world. Not even exemplary faithfulness, to the point of blamelessness will keep us from the trials of faith.


·        Lot

·        Abraham

·        Noah

·        David

·        Paul

·        The Lord Jesus


          If we follow Christ, we must never consider it some strange thing when God tries our faith. This is the portion of our cup, given to us by the infinite wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father, by which he chastens us, “that we may be partakers of his holiness” (Heb; 12:10).


Hebrews 12:5-11  "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."


          We may not think so now, but our trials are a great blessing indeed, if they…


·        Drive Us Into The Arms Of Christ.

·        Drive Us To Our Knees In Prayer.

·        Drive Us To The Word Of God.


In the world to come they will be seen in better light than they are now.


James 1:12  "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."


1 Peter 1:7  "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"


IV. Fourth, we see in verses 8 - 11 THE PLACE OF DIVINE BLESSING.


Luke 1:8-11  "And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense."


          Let me be crystal clear here. There is nothing we can do which will automatically secure God’s blessings. Sacramental religion is utter idolatry. You will not automatically be blessed of God by church attendance, Bible reading, or even prayer. Yet, the Word of God does specifically tell us that God has ordained a place of worship, and that he commonly meets his people in the place of worship which he has established.


          In the typical, ceremonial days of the Old Testament, the Lord God established his worship first in the tabernacle in the wilderness, then in the temple. He promised to meet sinners upon the mercy-seat, in the holy of holies, on the day of atonement (Ex. 25:22). He did, from time to time, visit and meet with sinners in other places; but he never promised to meet a man anywhere else; and no one could expect to meet him anywhere else.


Exodus 25:22  "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel."


          It was Zecharias’ privilege and responsibility to burn incense in the house of God, in the holy place every morning and every evening (Ex. 30:1,7,8). That might not seem like much of a job to most; but it was the job God gave him, and he did it faithfully, even when he was an old man.


          Men may have looked upon it as a meaningless religious ritual; but Zecharias considered it his highest honor. He went about his duty, serving and worshipping the Lord God, purely for his glory.


          And what a privilege his work was! That altar of incense which he kept burning day and night was typical of the unceasing intercession of Christ for us as our great High Priest, who lives forever to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).


          The Lord God sent his angel to Zecharias with the good news of Messiah’s coming, the good news that he who would be the forerunner of our Redeemer, Savior and King, was about o be born to his own wife Elizabeth. Where was this old man when God met him? What was he doing when the Lord sent his angel to him and so greatly blessed him?


·        He was in the house of God.

·        He was worshipping God.

·        He was doing that which God had given him the privilege of doing for the glory of his name and the good of his people.


          You and I cannot expect God’s blessings upon us, upon our own souls, or upon our families, we cannot expect God to meet us, speak to us, or honor us, if we wilfully despise his will and his worship.


1 Samuel 2:30  "Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."


Hebrews 10:23-29  "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"


          There is only one place where the Son of God promises he will meet with, speak to, and reveal himself to his people, and that place is the assembly of his saints, gathered in his name (Matt. 18:20). This place, the church of the living God, this assembly of sinners saved by the grace of God, is called “the house of God” and “the temple of God,” because this s where God meets with his people. To neglect his house, his worship, his Word, and the assembly of his saints is to despise him


Matthew 18:20  "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."


V.  Fifth, we are once more shown that which is THE SINGLE GREAT INTEREST AND CONCERN OF THE HOLY ANGELS.


          There have been countless books written about angels. Most of them reveal the utter ignorance and superstition of the authors and tell you nothing about the angels of God. The simple fact is, we do not know much about them. But the one thing that is clearly revealed about them is completely missed by most who write about them.


          The Scriptures plainly and repeatedly show us that the angels of God have but one great, singular interest and concern. They seem to care about only one thing. These holy creatures who cry continually before the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” do not seem to care about anything except that one great work of God by which his glory is revealed and made known.


          These holy creatures have a deep, abiding, all-consuming interest in the redemptive work of Christ and the salvation of God’s elect in him.

·        The angels always stand before the throne of grace, looking upon the mercy-seat (Isa. 6).

·        An angel announced the birth of John the Baptist, our Lord’s forerunner.

·        An angel announced the birth of Christ, and a chorus of angels sang when he came into this world to save us.

·        When our Savior was tempted, the angels of God ministered to him.

·        The angels of God are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of God’s salvation.

·        The angels of heaven gather with God’s saints to learn from redeemed sinners “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

·        The angels rejoice in the presence of our God every time God saves a sinner by his grace.

·        The angels of God will come with Christ at the last day to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth into everlasting glory.


          J.C. Ryle wrote, “Let us strive to be like them, while we are upon earth, --to be of their mind and to share their joys. This is the way to be in tune for heaven. It is written of those who enter in thee, that they shall be ‘as the angels.’”


          Children of God, let us imitate the angels of God in this. Let us make the redeeming work of Christ and the salvation of sinners in him the all-consuming interest of our hearts and lives.


VI. Sixth, I want us to read verse 12, and see THE EFFECT PERFECT HOLINESS HAS UPON A SINFUL MAN.


Luke 1:12  "And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him."


          Zecharias was a righteous man in Christ; but he was a sinful man by nature, and he knew it. When he stood before a perfectly holy angel, his soul quaked within him. We have seen this scene repeated many times in Scripture.

·        Moses Before The Burning Bush

·        Manoah And His Wife

·        Daniel At The River Of Hiddekel

·        The Women At The Sepulchre

·        John On The Isle Of Patmos


All these, like Zecharias, when they saw holy angels and visions of things belonging to the world of eternal things, they trembled with fear.


          Now, I have a question for you. If these who were made holy by the grace of God trembled in the presence of holy angels, how do you hope to stand before the august presence of God’s infinite holiness in the day of judgment?


Nahum 1:5-6  "The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him."


          The only hope there is for your soul is Christ, the only Mediator between God and men. All who take refuge in him, all who trust him, shall stand without sin and without fear before the august majesty of God’s perfect holiness, with clean hands and pure hearts…


With His spotless garments on As holy as the Holy One.



[1] When the temple was built there were twenty-four courses (classes) of priests. The course of Abia was the eighth of the twenty-four (1 Chron. 24:10).