WHEN IT IS HARD TO WAIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
We are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This weekend I’m preaching a message titled – WHEN IT’S HARD TO WAIT.” Most people quit in the last quarter, the last 25%, of the race, whether in marriage, ministry, education, business, or some other goal in their life. They give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. This morning’s message is not just to teach us to wait but to teach us to wait for God.
Luke 1:5-11 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Overall Background: Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke introduces us to the extended family of Jesus. In the passage we just read we meet some relatives of Mary, the mother of Jesus. These were not any ordinary relatives. They were to become the parents of John the baptizer. Now, Luke could have just given us the names of John the baptizer’s parents and focused on the coming of Jesus but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he chose to give us more information about them. It’s almost as if he went off on a tangent. But I’m sure you will agree – in the geometry of the Holy Spirit, even tangents come together. Luke chose to tell us more about Zacharias and Elizabeth to teach us the value of waiting on God. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. In other words, they were waiting.
Here’s the purpose of this message– Any time God wants to do something supernatural, He makes us wait. That’s just his way. By making us wait He ensures that we will not interfere or claim credit. By making us wait he ensures that only he will get the glory and only His purpose will prevail. In other words, waiting is not a punishment but a preparation for God’s great purpose.
Application: Are you in that holding pattern right now? Have you prayed for something and work hard for something and have questioned why nothing is happening? You’re not in a bad situation. In fact, you are right where you need to be. But here’s a warning – while waiting, some people have the tendency to give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. If you do that, you lose what you’re waiting for. But here’s something very important – there’s one thing you don’t have to wait for. You don’t have to wait for your salvation, your forgiveness of sins, and your eternal life. You can receive Jesus right now and have that this instant.
Let’s see through the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth what to do while you wait for God:
1. BE BLAMELESS
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias…
Background: There’s so much that is packed in this one line. For starters, in the days of King Herod the priesthood of Israel was in terrible shape. As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Through the centuries, priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision. Gone were the days when holiness and righteousness and integrity where the qualifications for the priesthood. Now it was political savvy and power plays and big pockets. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt; this was the reason why some Jewish people left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran; this was the reason why Jesus preached against the Temple and even cleansed it at one time. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was corrupt.
Now listen further – a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. Abijah was, of course, a descendent of Aaron but he was the chief of one of the 24 orders of the priesthood as set up by David the king. They had earned somewhat of a bad reputation because they did not return immediately after the exile. They were missing for a while.
Let’s summarize: the priesthood was corrupt and his own lineage was a disgrace.
But there’s something more – His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Meaning: Zacharias’s wife, Elizabeth, was also from a priestly line.
But the real point that Luke wants to bring out is in verse 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Background: I think there is a play on words here. The Sadducees controlled the Temple, claiming to be descendants of the high priest Zadok from the time of David and Solomon. His name comes from the Hebrew “sadok” which means righteous. So, the Sadducees are the righteous ones going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. But if you remember, Jesus had nothing but negative to say about the Sadducees.
Zechariah’s and Elizabeth were the true zadoks – the righteous ones before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
What a testimony! While everyone around them was compromising and corrupted, Zechariah and Elizabeth were walking blameless before God. As God was preparing to send his Son and he looked around to see who was righteous, guess who he found?
The problem with many people who are waiting is that they are not righteous, not blameless. Instead, they have compromised and indulged in some habit, some sin, some corruption, and have become vessels of dishonor.
Application: Let me ask you a question – when the eyes of the Lord come upon you, what does He see? Does He see a young person who is involved in some sin? Does He see an adult indulging in some bad habit? Does He see a couple or a family, behind closed doors, living a life of hypocrisy and disobedience? If so, you are disqualifying yourself from the waiting process.
2. BE FAITHFUL
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
Background: Historians tell us that there were as many as 18,000 to 20,000 priests and Levites at the time. As I mentioned earlier, the priest were divided into 24 courses and each course had to serve two weeks per year and the major festivals. Most of the priests lived in other towns and villages and they came up to Jerusalem when it was their time. They had normal jobs and occupations to support themselves along with their priestly responsibilities. It could’ve been very tempting to forget about their Temple responsibilities and focus on their job or business. After all, many of them struggled to make a living.
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Because of the large number of priests, they used the custom of casting lots, which occurred twice a day, to decide who will burn the incense for the whole burnt offering. This was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Why do I bring this up? Zacharias could have dodged his responsibilities, blamed the corruption, stayed home complaining his back or his knee was hurting, or some other excuse but he was there when it was his time. In other words, he was faithful and God made the lot fall in his favor.
In a parable in Matthew 25:23 Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
Application: As you wait, are you faithful? I’m talking to those in full-time ministries and those not in full-time ministries. Are you waiting for God to drop the answer to your prayers in your lap while you are asleep? Are you waiting for God to open the door for you while you’re busy fooling around?
3. BE FAITH FILLED
You know how it happened – the Angel appeared to him; Zacharias was afraid; the Angel promised him that the answer to their prayer had come; Elizabeth would bear a child and they shall call his name John; he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; and prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah.
What was Zechariah’s response? Verse 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Even though Zacharias was a man of integrity and a man of faithfulness, his faith was running low. Even though he was a godly man he was saying to the angel – “Come on let’s be realistic. Bible study, prayer time, good messages, serving the Lord, and all that is wonderful but we got a be realistic.”
Folks – what is realistic? What you know or what God says in his Word?
How did the Angel respond to this? Verse 19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. In other words, Gabriel is ticked. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
As an individual, as a family, as a church, if you want to please God, you have to believe God. The worst way to dishonor God is to doubt God and doubt his Word.
So what is the consequence? 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Application: If there is one point I want to stress more than others, then it’s this one. Do you trust God? Are you trusting him right now in your life? Are we as a church Clearview trusting God for future? When there is no faith element, there is no place for God to step in. Are we trusting God for big things? Someone might say – “It’s hard to trust God at times, especially with money.” One time someone asked R.G. LeTourneau, “If you know a thing is the will of God and you do not feel you have the faith, what do you do?” He said, “I go ahead and act like I have the faith.”
4. BE HUMBLE
Luke 1:23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
Background: What amazes me about the Bible, the Word of God, is not only what it says but also what it leaves unsaid! Imagine what happened when he got home. Elizabeth sees him walking towards the house and she walks out and greets him – “So honey how was Jerusalem? Lot of people at the Temple? How was your journey?” I can visualize Zachariah – “Elizabeth – pull up a chair. You won’t believe this.” Then he goes on to tell her everything. If I could I would love to get a picture of her face at that point. “Does that mean we have to…?” “I think so…the Angel didn’t say anything about a virgin birth.”
You get the point! They had to trust God’s word and now do something about, just like Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife, they had to do something by faith.
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Why did she hide herself? She understood that this was no ordinary child. He was the Herald, the messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah. She spent those five months preparing herself to be the mother God wanted her to be.
Application: When you wait upon God, he not only gives you the desires of your heart but he gives you so much more. Don’t rush out there and start bragging about it. Spend some time basking in his glory. Spend some time thanking him for his mercy. Spend some time asking him to prepare you to receive his blessing.
What have you been waiting for God to do in your life? Are you still looking to him in faith? Have you ever received God’s gift of Jesus Christ?