Introduction: Today begins our Christmas series, Christmas Questions.
Children ask the most interesting & entertaining questions at Christmas.
- “How will Santa Claus enter our house since we don’t have a chimney?”
- “How can Santa be at the mall and Cabela’s at the same time?”
- Children’s questions reveal what they are interested in or thinking about—so do the questions of adults.
- We tend to pay attention to answers, but I think questions are more revealing.
- The questions we ask reveal what is on our minds and in our hearts.
A priest named Zechariah serving in the temple, asked the first Christmas question.
- He asked the angel Gabriel, “How can I be sure this will happen?,” at Luke 1:18 (NLT).
- His inquiry, and our title for this message, was An Insecure Question.
- Zechariah had just been informed by Gabriel that he would become a father, but he was insecure, he doubted it was possible, because he was old and so was his wife.
- : Are you insecure about promises God has made to you?
Overcoming insecurities about God… (Luke 1:5-25,57-66)
Setting: In 5 BC, Israel was experiencing a long night of spiritual darkness.
- God had not communicated to His people since He spoke through Malachi in 430 BC.
- There had been no prophecy, no revelation, no miracles, for over 400 years!
- During this period of silence, Israel was attacked, controlled, oppressed, by Persians, then Egyptians, then Syrians, and finally Romans.
- The religious leaders taught the law of God, but in a strict and formal way, displaying little concern for the plight of the people, so the idea of a relationship with a personal God who cared about His people, was inconceivable, offensive, even blasphemous!
- Then God broke the silence to teach His people to trust Him individually, personally!
To overcome insecurities about God…
#1 – Remember the reality of God. (Luke 1:5-17; C/R: John 9:3; Romans 8:31-39;
2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- [Screen] Luke 1:5 (NLT)[P820]—When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah [24 divisions; 1Chronicals 24:1-4], and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron.
- Priests worked in an environment designed by God, recorded in the law given to Moses, which revealed God’s nature and His past faithfulness to Israel during the Exodus.
- These priests, were originally chosen by God, served in a structure He prescribed, fulfilling functions He specified, designed to promote the development of faith.
- At this time, priesthood was sometimes purchased or given as a political favor, so not all were descendants of Aaron, as the Scripture required (Exodus 28:1), but this couple was!
- [Screen] Luke 1:6 (NLT)[P820]—6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.
- They honored God and displayed their adoration through their obedience to His Word, because of their relationship with God, He considered them righteous.
- Despite their righteousness, they experienced disappointment and sorrow.
- [Screen] Luke 1:7 (NLT)[P820]—They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. [beyond 60]
- Suffering does not mean God is powerless or that He has abandoned us (Romans 8:31-39); in fact, it is often the way God displays His power in us. (John 9:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- [Screen] Luke 1:8-12 (NLT)[P820]—8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. [Orders served two weeks per year, all served during major festivals] 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot [method of discerning God’s will; Proverbs 16:33] to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. [Priest could do this only once in his lifetime. 1Chronicles 24:5-19; Proverbs 16:33] 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
- Zechariah was an experienced priest who should have been convinced of the reality of our supernatural God and would have been familiar with the times God sent angels to carry out His assignments, yet he was startled and afraid when this angel appeared!
- Despite the fact that Zechariah knew and obeyed God’s Word and diligently performed the religious duties assigned him, he was unfamiliar with the actual Presence of God.
- : Are we attending church, singing, listening to messages, reading the Bible, even praying, but not expecting God to interact with us in personal, experiential, ways?
- : Do I live, speak and act with a continual awareness of the reality of God?
Overcoming insecurities about God…
#2 – Realize the necessity of faith. (Luke 1:11-18; C/R: Numbers 6:1-3; Malachi 4:5-6;
2 Corinthians 5:7)
- [Screen] Luke 1:13-15a (NLT)[P820]—13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. [What prayer?] Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. [“Yahweh is gracious”] 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.”
- We don’t know whether Zechariah was praying for a child or redemption for the nation, but God answered both prayers.
- [Screen] Luke 1:15b (NLT)[P820]—15b“…He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” [Regenerated and equipped for ministry before birth.]
- Abstinence from alcohol associated with Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-3), which, in John’s case, was a life-long vow symbolizing that God’s Spirit would control him. (Ephesians 5:18)
- [Screen] Luke 1:16-17 (NLT)[P820]—16 “And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children [quoting Malachi 4:5-6, final word of Old Testament], and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
- God would give this couple the child they had so desperately desired, and would also provide a man with the courage and conviction of Elijah who would prepare the people for the Messiah’s arrival.
- [Screen] Luke 1:18 (NLT)—18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
- You might think that the appearance of an angel would remove any doubts a person, especially a priest, would have about God fulfilling a promise.
- But instead of focusing on the power and faithfulness of God, Zechariah looked at himself and his wife, doubted what the angel said, and asked for more assurance.
- : Do I live by faith (believing God’s Word) or by sight (doubting His promises based on my current circumstances)? (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Overcoming insecurities about God…
#3 – Receive the benefits of trusting God. (Luke 1:19-25,57-66; C/R: Genesis 17:12-14; Hebrews 11:6; 12:5-11)
- [Screen] Luke 1:19-20 (NLT)—19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
- Zechariah doubted the word of God spoken through Gabriel—and asked for more proof—so he was given a sign of God’s power—being unable to speak and apparently, unable to hear as well. (Gk. kōphos, can mean either or both; see vv.62-63)
- When God asks us to trust Him and we respond with doubt and unbelief, we incur negative consequences in our faith and lives, such as insecurity, worry, anxiety.
- [Screen] Luke 1:21-22 (NLT)—21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
- When we doubt God, it affects, not only our lives negatively, but also the lives of those around us; our refusal to trust God, disables us to encourage faith and hope to others.
- [Screen] Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)[P971]—And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.
- This priest who had served in the Presence of God for many years, lacked the faith to believe and trust in God’s promise!
- [Screen] Luke 1:23-25 (NLT)—23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. [Perhaps to be sure she wouldn’t lose this child.] 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” [Childlessness thought to be judgment from God for sin.]
- God demonstrated His kindness to Elizabeth, and His compassion for Israel and the world by sending this child to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah.
- [Screen] Luke 1:57-66 (NLT)—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. [Sign of God’s covenant with Jews; Genesis 17:12-14.] They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” [As Gabriel] instructed.]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. [Indicating he couldn’t hear.] 63 He motioned for a writing tablet [wooden tablet covered with wax], and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again [because he obeyed], and he began praising God. [9 months of silence!]65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood [They realized God was working!], 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.
- When we stop doubting and start trusting and obeying God, He acts!
- : What is God saying to you right now? How are you responding?
- What a wonderful Christmas this would be if we could see God work in our lives and through us to our families, friends, community and beyond because of our faith!