Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Vision (6/14/12): "Fear not ... for thy prayer is heard."

Note:  Here are some notes adapted from last week’s sermon from Luke 1:5-25.

Luke 1:8 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. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

The annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah comes about while he is performing his priestly duties (v. 8).  The lot had fallen for Zechariah to burn incense in the temple of the Lord (v. 9).  The burning of incense is associated in the Bible with prayer.  In John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 8:3-4 he sees an angel with a golden censer who offers up the smoke of the incense “with the prayers of all saints.”

Notice in v. 10 that while Zechariah is doing this work in the temple, outside the people are praying.  For what are they praying?  We might imagine their prayers:  “Oh Lord, forgive us our sins!  Oh Lord, send forth Elijah the prophet who will come before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5).  “Oh Lord, send us the Messiah to deliver us!”  In addition to the prayers of the people, there was also the prayer of Zechariah.  His wife was barren and he longed for a child.

Just then, the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah (v. 11).  Notice his response in v. 12.  He is troubled and fear (phobos) fell upon him.  The presence of God is too great for us to bear, even when it is mediated through his angelic messengers.

Notice the angel’s response, “Fear not, Zecharias, for thy prayer is heard” (v. 13).  This reminds us that the God of the Bible is a prayer hearing God and a prayer answering God.  If an earthly parent would move heaven and earth to respond to the pitiful cries of an injured child, how much more will the heavenly Father reply to the cries of his people in distress and anguish?  Some of you might not know that I have a long scar on my left leg that I received when I was a boy.  I fell while jumping over a creek near my house and badly cut my leg open on an old piece of tin.  The thing that I remember most about that incident is not the injury but the fact that my Dad ran from our home, across a field, to the creek, where he picked me up in his arms and ran back with me to the car to take me to the hospital.  You have to understand that my Dad didn’t run very often.  In fact, I don’t know that I had ever seen him run.  But he ran that day.  Again, if an earthly father can run to help an injured child, what more will our heavenly Father do for his children?

We can find comfort in the knowledge that the Lord hears the prayers of his saints.  He heard the cries of his people, and he heard the personal; prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Could you put your name in the place of Zechariah in v. 13:  “Fear not, ____ for thy prayer is heard.”? 

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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