Saturday, December 17, 2011

Zacharias' Lesson

"And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, 'His name is John.' And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God."
Luke 1:62-63

Zacharias had failed to believe God when He promised him a son, and God chastised Zacharias for his unbelief by making him mute for nine months. Then God gave Zacharias a second chance and this time Zacharias responded in faith. We can learn some things from Zacharias' experience. First, God wants us to believe Him. If we don't, out of His Fatherly love He may discipline us. Second, we serve a God of grace. He gives us second chances. Third, Zacharias did not become embittered by God's chastisement, but learned from it and broke into praise of the Lord when it ended. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11)

Friday, December 16, 2011

No Indeed

"And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, 'No indeed; but he shall be called John.' And they said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.'” 
Luke 1:59-61

In the Israelite culture, the name of a child was quite significant. The naming of a son after his father implied that the child would follow in the steps of his father, that he would carry on the father’s name and also his work. If John had been named Zacharias, he would have been expected to grow up as a priest, just like his father. But this was not to be John's future. He would not follow in his father's footsteps. He would prepare the way for the Messiah. Those attending the circumcision made assumptions about the proper name for the baby. But Elizabeth -- obedient to the Lord --  stood up to them and made a declaration. "He shall be called John." Sometimes other people try to give us advice. If it's contrary to God's will, we should say, "No indeed," and obey the Lord.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glorify the Giver

"Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her."
Luke 1:57-58

Elizabeth gave birth to the son God had promised. When Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives heard what God had done, they rejoiced with her. God always keeps His promises. It's to His own glory to do so.  "[God's] glory lies in His goodness, His moral character, His justice, benevolence, holiness, mercy." -- Charles G. Finney. When we rejoice with other Christians over what God has given them, we have a chance to do more than celebrate the blessing they have received. We can bring glory to God, the Giver of the blessing. We do this by giving Him honor, by praising and worshiping Him. God’s glory is the essence of His nature, and we give glory to Him by recognizing that essence. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mary's Return Home

"Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home."
Luke 1:56

Dr. Luke doesn't tell us if Mary was pregnant when she left Elizabeth, but it's likely she was. I wonder if Mary took the long way home. Was she anxious to see her parents again? Or was she filled with dread at the prospect of telling them she was expecting? Perhaps she rehearsed in her mind what she would say to Joseph, her betrothed. "Now Joseph, I have something to tell you. You're not going to believe this, but an amazing miracle has happened. I'm expecting the Messiah, but I'm still a virgin." Mary might have comforted herself with Elizabeth's words, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." Or maybe she repeated The Magnificat, continuing her praise of the Almighty. Then again, she may have clung to the words of Gabriel, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." She may have reasoned that God would fulfill His promise, in the very way His messenger had said He would. And that she, indeed, had nothing to fear. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Things

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him."
Luke 1:49-50

Mary begins The Magnificat -- her worship of God -- by exalting the Mighty One for the grace He has extended. First to herself, and then to all generations.  For 400 years God has been silent, having spoken His last words through the prophet Malachi. Now God has broken His silence, and has spoken through Gabriel that Malachi's prophecy is about to be fulfilled. The fullness of time has arrived. God is sending a Savior to redeem His people. Mary -- a devout Jew -- understands this. She knows that God's mercy extends from generation to generation -- to all those who reverence Him, who place their trust in Him. She knows that God keeps His promises, and that He will, indeed, send the Messiah. As a child of Israel, this was her hope. Mary testifies to the greatness and faithfulness of God, and to His mercy upon all generations. Her spirit overflows in worship. Mary's Messiah is our Messiah. Her Savior is our Savior. God has done great things. Should not our spirits overflow in worship, too?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Theme of Ceaseless Hallelujahs

"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
Luke 1:41

Gabriel told Zacharias that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth (Luke 1:15), and here we see the fulfillment of that prophesy. Elizabeth said, "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:44) This leaping is not the common movement of babies in the womb. It is the same word that is used in Genesis 25:22 for the struggling of Jacob and Esau in Rebecca's womb, and the mountains skipping in Psalms 114:4. Elizabeth and her babe were filled with the Holy Spirit at the greeting of the Messiah's mother.  P.C. Headley writes about  Zacharias and Elizabeth, from Gabriel's proclamation to this time : 

"But the scenes of that home are unrecorded, excepting a visit from her cousin Mary, the mother of Christ; an interview inexpressibly solemn and touching. The Holy Ghost was the companion of Elizabeth, and Mary carried a treasure which was the theme of ceaseless halleluiahs in Heaven. There was no jealousy, no glorying but in the Lord." 

Let's glory only in the Lord Jesus in this Advent season. May His birth be the theme of ceaseless hallelujahs in our hearts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

'Tis the Season to Encourage

"And the angel departed from her. Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth."
Luke 1:38-40

After Gabriel left, Mary went to see Elizabeth, her relative. And why not? Elizabeth -- who had conceived in her old age through an act of God -- would certainly believe and understand Mary's story. The older woman would be a great encouragement to the younger. God wants us to encourage others. "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The Christmas season can be a difficult time for people. Many are struggling physically, financially, or facing their first Christmas without a loved one. Consider how you can encourage someone else this Christmas. Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
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