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Your Prayer Has Been Heard

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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August 8, 2021 12:01 am

Your Prayer Has Been Heard

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 8, 2021 12:01 am

For many years, Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed for the Lord to give them a child. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of the book of Luke, examining Zacharias' response when the angel Gabriel promised the birth of his son, whose name would be John.

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Today on Redoing Your Mind… As I promised the last Sunday, we're going to continue our study of the Annunciation to Zechariah of the birth of the Son who would be known as John, not John the Baptist, and I wasn't able to cover that narrative last week, and so I'm going to tackle it again this morning, and I will be picking it up at verse 13 of chapter 1. But the angel said to him, do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zechariah said to the angel, how shall I know this?

For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years. 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. 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. And the people waited for Zechariah's and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he couldn't speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. And after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she hid herself five months, saying, Thus the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked on me to take away my reproach among the people. You have had the unspeakable privilege of hearing the very Word of God.

Receive it in your heart and in your souls. Last Sunday morning I mentioned that Luke, being the sober and trustworthy historian that he was, wasted no time introducing the supernatural to the narrative of those things that he was undertaking to set forth. And in his orderly account, he began with this visitation of the angel to the priest Zacharias.

And I mentioned at the time that the New Testament is supernatural in its orientation through and through, and you can't read it with a comb and throw out all of the allusions to those supernatural realities. I mentioned also that the word angel or angelos occurs more often in the New Testament than the word for sin, and more often than the word for love. And so this is not simply a peripheral matter for the biblical accounts that we have, for angels play a significant role throughout the New Testament, not only here with the annunciation to Zacharias, but shortly thereafter the annunciation by the same angel to Mary the mother of Jesus, and then the heavenly host, the army of angels that attended and announced the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on that Christmas night outside of Bethlehem. Also, we see the angels appearing at the end of Jesus' time of temptation in the wilderness when they came to minister to Him. We see the angels again at the time of His resurrection as they come and announce to the women that He was not there, but that He had risen. We see the angels escorting Jesus to heaven on the Shekinah cloud of glory at the time of His ascension, and we are promised that we will see Him again descending from the heaven on clouds of glory escorted once more by these heavenly agents. Now one place we don't see angels is at the cross, but even though we don't see the angels appearing during the crucifixion execution of our Lord, we know that they were there, and they were there in full force, and Jesus reminded His executioners, you have no power over Me. If I give the Word, these mighty hosts of angels will come and rescue Me. But of course, He had committed to the Father to suffer even unto death. So, the appearance of angels is not something that never happens in the New Testament.

However, in spite of these mentions that I've given to you, their occurrences and manifestations even in the New Testament were exceedingly rare. We look back over time, and we tend to think that there was an angel behind every bush, and that every time that somebody turned around they saw an angel, and they decided the only way they could prevent that was to stop turning around. But before this moment, this godly, righteous, obedient priest had never in his life had the privilege of seeing a real live angel. And when that angel came into the holy place by the altar of incense, Zechariah's response was the same as yours would have been and mine would have been. He was overcome with terror. And so the first thing that the angel had to say to him was, calm down.

Don't be afraid. He said, because your prayer has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. Now, before I go on with this message, there's something striking about this. Does this suggest that when Zechariah won the lottery and was one out of eighteen thousand priests who had this privilege of going into the holy place to offer the incense on the altar of incense, which symbolized the prayers of the people, that he took that opportunity in his old age to go into the holy place and as he prayed said, oh dear Lord, please, please let me have a son. Let Elizabeth have offspring through your power. Now this man had already been described as being blameless and godly and righteous, and for the life of me I can imagine that when he went into the temple and into the holy place that he prayed for himself, when his task as the interceding priest of the hour was to pray for the nation of Israel. Can you imagine a godly priest like this forgetting his responsibility and instead praying for his own wants and his own desires?

No, no, no, no, no. Of course, for many, many, many, many years it's obvious that Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed their hearts out for a child, and for many, many, many, many years the answer of God was no. I'm sure that as they grew older and they realized that Elizabeth was past the age of childbearing that their prayer changed, Lord give me the grace to accept our childlessness, and my guess would be that they ceased that intercession asking for a child.

Because in their mind that had been in Sarah and Abraham in antiquity, way too late for that. So I'm sure that when Zechariah came into the temple and he prayed, he wasn't praying for a child, he was praying for Israel, for his people who were oppressed, who were under the heavy hand of Rome and the heavy hand of Herod the tetrarch. So the answer of the angel is stunning when he says, your prayer is heard. You've been praying for your people. You've been praying for the nation, and the Lord has heard your prayer. And here's what He's going to do. He's going to give you a son, not because you just prayed for a son, but you just prayed for the nation. And the son that you're going to have is going to be sent by God for the well-being of the people of Israel. So He goes on to say, your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. Whoops, wait a minute.

What's this? In biblical terms, it was always the privilege of the parents, particularly the father, to name their children. And all the way back to the time of creation, the giving of the name indicated an expression of authority. When God set Adam and Eve over the whole creation and gave to them dominion, He assigned the task to them to do what? Name the animals.

And that was not just an exercise in zoology or taxonomy. They were expressing their authority over the animals by giving them their names. And so throughout biblical history, it was the custom and the tradition for the parents to name the child because the parents indicated their authority over the child. But there were those rare occasions when a special child was born, where God would take away from the parents the authority to name the child. His name shall be Isaac. His name shall be Samuel.

His name shall be John. His name shall be Jesus. You see, when God does that, He's saying this child is set apart. This child will be sanctified and consecrated for a special task that I have called Him to perform. And so not only does the angel tell Zacharias that he's going to have a son, but he tells him what his son's name is going to be. And that will become important when the child is born, when the child is born, as we will read later in Luke's narrative. And here's why the Lord is naming this child, because He's on a mission, and He belongs to God. For He will be great, the angel says, in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, not because He was going to be a Nazarite, but because He was going to have a special role as a prophet who was an ascetic prophet, one who would come out of the desert just like Elijah. And He goes on to say, He'll be filled with the Holy Spirit even from His mother's womb.

Those of you that think that you can disturb the womb because that which is in it is only so much undifferentiated protoplasm and not a human being take heed. Before John the Baptist was even born, while he was still in his mother's womb, he was filled by the Holy Ghost. And He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

What? He's going to be an evangelist, as it were, an instrument of God to convert many of the people whose hearts had been hardened, people of Israel who were the heirs of the covenant of grace, who now despise the covenant of grace. Oh, they still had their children circumcised, but they did that as a mere formality. Their faith had long ago died, and they were now actually in their unbelief in a posture of hostility towards the Lord their God, just as the vast majority of people who live in our land are today. And if the odds have anything to say, just as there are others, there are people sitting in this room right now whose hearts are hardened against God. But John is going to change that. That is, he will be the instrument of God to change these things. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and He will go before God in the Spirit and the power of Elijah. He's not going to be Elijah. He's going to be Elijah redivivus in a sense. He is going to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of the return of Elijah, not because God's going to bring Elijah back from heaven, but because He's going to anoint this child with the same power and the same Spirit that He had given to the great prophet Elijah.

Why? To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Oh, I hate going over this so quickly.

There's so much here. What does He mean, turn the hearts of the fathers to the children? Some commentators say that they're going to finally have a generation of godly people who will make the patriarchs in heaven happy to see them.

I don't think it means that much. I think it's probably simply that the hostility, the breakdown of family relationships that sin engenders in nations when they depart from the Lord God was going to change. A new era was coming.

A new epoch was about to break through in history, and you're going to see a dramatic change in families, in the houses, in the relationships between the parents and their children. And not only that, the disobedient who scoff at the truth of God will finally see the wisdom of the just. For throughout world history and biblical history, those who embrace the truth of God appear to be fools in the eyes of the world.

But the real fool is the one who says in his heart, there is no God. But your Son, the angel says, is going to turn many of the people around that they will see the wisdom of righteousness, the wisdom of the just who embrace it. And then He's going to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. In fact, Zacharias, that will be his chief task, his number one responsibility will be to make straight the way of the Lord, to be the herald of the coming Messiah, to be the one who goes before Him whom the Lord is sending to redeem His people.

And your Son is going to do that. This was too much for this old priest. He hears these words from the angel, and listen to his response. He said, how can I know this?

I'm an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. Somebody sent you to the wrong address, Mr. Angel. You can't possibly be telling me these things. Don't you see me? Don't you see the gray on my head? I'm an old man. I'm too old for this stuff. And my wife's well advanced in years. She can't have children. Are you playing with me?

Am I hallucinating? This is more than I can believe. And so filled with doubt, Zacharias says, this can't be. It can't happen.

We can't do it. You know, I learned a long time, I can't, never did anything. Zacharias needed to read the little engine who could. He needed to have his homework again, his theology of the Lord God omnipotent. And when he says, I can't, he means God can't. I know I can't.

I'm too old. So, he introduces himself to this mysterious visitor from heaven. He doesn't say, my name is Zacharias. He says, my name is I'm too old, and my wife is advanced in years. Now, what does the angel say instead of looking at him and say, maybe you'll write me. I better check the address. And you don't have to worry about burying this child.

The stork will deliver him. Let me tell you who I am, Mr. Too Old. I'm Gabriel Zacharias.

You don't know who you're talking to. I'm not just a run-of-the-mill, everyday rank-and-file angel. I'm Gabriel. I'm an archangel.

My normal habitation is in the immediate presence of God, and it's the Lord God Himself who sent me here with all of the power of His might and all of the might of His truth. Don't tell me you're too old. I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this gospel, these glad tidings. But you don't want to hear it, and you will pay a price for that, Zacharias.

And if you want to know what that price is, you're going to have to wait till next Sunday morning, or the Sunday afternoon, which is ever the case may be. But in the providence of God, if I live long enough, we'll finish this passage, but not this morning. That's Dr. R.C. Sproul with a message from the Gospel of Luke, and you're listening to the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. Dr. Sproul was a wonderful pastor. My wife and I were blessed to sit under his pastoral ministry for years at St. Andrew's Chapel, and we always loved it when he concluded the message with a twinkle in his eye, like in that sermon. The people loved him, and he loved the people of his church.

You heard R.C. 's biblical insight in today's passage as he preached. It's so practical and helpful, and that insight was captured in a series of commentaries.

We'd like to provide you with a digital download of R.C. 's commentary on Luke's gospel. It will prove to be a wonderful study companion for you as you continue your own study of this gospel. So contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will make it available to you right away. You can go online to make your request and give your gift at Next week, Dr. Sproul's message is titled, Silencing the Voice of Doubt. There is little question that Zacharias had a difficult time believing what the angel had said to him. So we hope you'll join us next Sunday as we continue our C sermon series from the Gospel of Luke, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-17 02:17:32 / 2023-09-17 02:25:17 / 8

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