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Zacharias and Elizabeth-
Parents of John the Baptist

The Forerunner of the Promise:

Have you ever been disappointed? You were full of enthusiasm and you just knew your plans were going to go just the way you had them planned. And they did not! Your bubble popped, and you were disappointed. It just felt like life had let you down.

What did you do? How did you handle your disappointment?

Some look at disappointment as a time of personal growth; they pick themselves up, and use it as a learning experience.

Others look at the same type of experience, pull back from life, and will never try that again. Some even become bitter and carry the unpleasant experience with them for the rest of their lives.

Zacharias and Elizabeth had lived with a disappointing experience. They were unable to have children.

Luke 1: 8-20
Zacharis' Time to Serve as Priest

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.

(In 1 Chronicles 24, King David divided the sons of Aaron into 24 divisions to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem. These priests served for a designated period (two weeks per year) in the Temple and then returned to their homes. When it was time for one division to serve in the Temple, they would draw lots to determine the priest that would go into the Temple to burn incense to 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.

Compare Mary’s response with Zacharias’ response. Mary was troubled.

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.

(The Bible calls these who dedicate themselves to the Lord as Nazarites. A Nazarite is a person who takes a vow of separation from the world and devotes himself to the service of God for a limited time. God appointed two men before their birth, to be Nazarites: Samson and John the Baptist. Who was the person in the New Testament that observed the rights of a Nazarite? Paul.)

He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 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.”

What did Luke mean by the expression “in the spirit and power of Elijah?”

John Wesley said that John the Baptist had the “same integrity, courage, austerity, and fervor, and the same power attending his word.”

Elijah was a large, looming figure, surpassing most great prophets. Elijah, ‘suddenly’ appeared in this deplorable state of the world, desperately needing reform, with a ‘ferocity’ and ‘stern ruggedness’ that leaps out of the scriptures in fiery, rebukes, challenges and contests. Elijah preaches ‘repent’ to Israel.

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.”

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. 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.”

Why did Gabriel tell Zacharias he would “be mute and not be able to speak until the day these things take place” which was for 9 months?

He did not believe. He did not have faith in the working of God.

Did Zacharias block the favor and blessing of God?

Do you sometimes block God’s Favor and blessings?

What would cause you and me to miss God’s favor and blessings?

I am sad to say that we all do from time to time.

How do we recognize this and, more importantly, how do we avoid blocking God’s blessings?

Think with me. Early this morning, God said, “Today I am going to bless you; You, Bill; You, Ken; You, Betty; and each one of you. In order for me to bless you, we must spend the day together; I must be in your presence all day. I will be with you every moment of today and it just so happens that I have today available and I am willing. Are you willing to keep me in your presence today? Are you willing to spend the day with me?

“If you leave me at home or somewhere along the road, I cannot bless you. I can only bless you while I am in your presence.”

What would you do? Would you keep God in your presence for a full day?

At the very least, the day would be full of joy, peace, and love. Any day we continually feel God in our hearts makes it a special day. We have a spring in our step, everything just seems to go smoothly, and tasks are fun and the day pleasant and cheery. Any day we feel God's presence is a day to remember.

Why isn’t every day like this” Why isn’t every day a joyous day to remember? Why not spend every day in the presence of God? Just basking in the glow of God.

What creates a bad day? Could it be that we went out the door alone? We left our Lord at the house alone. Today we go it alone, struggling to get through the day. Running into obstacle after obstacle until we are just completely worn out.

Don't Leave Home Without Him!

This is a day without God. We must learn: DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT HIM!

How does this happen? How do we lose the blessings and favor of God?

It happens when we put our interest ahead of God’s interest.

There is a wonderful story in the Book of Haggai that Haggai explains to the people of Israel how they blocked the favor and blessings of God. The prophet Haggai outlines how God’s children can live and walk under God continual blessing and favor.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord (Psalm 118:26).

God blesses those who walk in faithfulness and shows favor to those who favor Him.

What are the causes and reasons people lose God’s blessings and what must they do to come back into His favor?

Putting Self-Interest in Front of God’s Interest!

Rebuilding of the Temple

God sent Haggai to help His people get their priorities in line. They were putting their self-interest in front of God's interest.

This starts in the fifth chapter of Ezra (see Ezra 5:1). In 536 B.C., a remnant of about 50,000 Jews had returned from Babylon to Judah under the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia. They quickly rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. Two years after returning, they had laid the foundation to rebuild the temple. The Samaritans had offered to help rebuild the Temple, but the Jews refused their offer. The Samaritans sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt.

Fourteen years passed. The people got caught up in the routine of life—farming, building houses, raising families, and that sort of thing. They forgot about rebuilding the Temple. Even their leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, had gotten used to things as they were. Into that scene, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to proclaim His message to this returned remnant.

The Book of Haggai comprises four precisely dated messages from the Lord. The first (1:1-15) was on the first day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius (1:1, August 29, 520 B.C.). The second (2:1-9) came on the 21st of the seventh month (2:1, October 17th). The third (2:10-19) and fourth (2:20-23) messages came on the same day, the 24th of the ninth month (2:10, 20; December 18th). To sum up the first message:

God will grant true blessing when we put His house first.

Charles Feinberg said, “In short, Haggai is saying, ‘Give God the supreme place in your life.’” Or, as Jesus put it, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

How do believers today lose the blessing and favor of God? By stopping work on His temple! It happens when we stop praying and seeking God - when we stop building up His spiritual body!

His temple! What is the temple of God that is under construction today? Scripture says it is our bodies: "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The story in Haggai says if you, the people, put self-interest first, I, God, will cause your spiritual life and therefore my blessing to dry up. There is a high price to pay when we leave God at home and go searching for things of self-interest.

This occurred after the Israelites were freed from Babylon and return to Jerusalem.

Haggai points to the problem. When the people put God's interests first, He provided their food and shelter. Indeed, he cared for them in every way: their vineyards grew and their grapes were heavy. They slept peacefully at night, and their children danced in the streets. None of their enemies prevailed against them. It was a marvelous time of God's blessing.

Then the people became absorbed with their own interests!

The Israelites became discourage and turned to self, their self-interest. God was not against them providing for their families and He isn’t against us providing for our household. We are to be diligent in our daily work and business. However, the Israelites had stopped doing God's work completely. Self-interests had possessed their every thought!

God says, "I called for a drought upon [you]... upon all the labor of [your] hands" (verse 11). He is saying, "If you begin to neglect your soul and turn to material things, you will end up joyless, dissatisfied, empty, and dry! I will bring a spiritual drought - and all your hard work will only make you feel worse! You will say, 'Is that all there is to life?"'

To the carnal Christian, God is saying, "I've called for misery, dryness, so you couldn't find any satisfaction - so it would drive you back to Me! I want you to put My interests first, so I can once again bless and favor you!"

Thank God, He does that! Each of us ought to pray, "Lord, anytime I start to slip away from You, make me miserable!"

In response to Haggai’s message, the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God (Haggai 1:12-14). The people turned from their self-interest and returned to working on the temple. 

The Second Reason Christians lose God’s Blessings is that they get fixated on comparing themselves with others.

The second reason God’s blessings are lost is because we compare ourselves with others and with our past. Instead of living in the moment, standing in the presence of God, we move to a rosy time of our memory or worst; we badmouth ourselves and compare our life with the life of someone else.

In our story of Haggai, the Israelites lost their zest and enthusiasm for rebuilding the Temple when they realized this Temple would not measure up to the same standard and glory as the Temple that Solomon built sixty-eight years earlier. This causes them to grumble and complain.

The implications of this attitude were very serious - and it angered God! Haggai said to them: "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?... Is it not in your eyes in comparison to it as nothing?" (2:3). He was saying, "You're standing here measuring your present situation with something in the past - and it's making you miserable!"

This strikes at the very heart of our lives. “I remember when I could do this or do that. I remember when I could hit a golf ball nearly 300 yards. I remember when I could stay up all night and be fine the next day. I remember when our family did. . . . I’m telling you, this kind of thinking will wear you out and bring depression to you. It is one of the key reasons Christians lose the blessing and favor of God!

If you have ever wondered if God likes complainers, read about the Israelites after they were freed from captivity in Egypt. God had for them a land of milk and honey and because of their unbelief and lack of faith; they were given the long road of wondering in the desert for 40 years.

This happens to Christians today. I am convinced, therefore, that many devoted Christians give up the fight. They compare themselves to other believers - and they become discouraged because they feel hopelessly inferior!

The Third reason God’s people lose God’s blessings and favor is they begin to “just go through the motion of worship.”

The third reason Christian lose God’s favor and blessings is that they think that just because they come to church, they are holy and are pleasing to God. Just being in church does not make one holy and pleasing to God. The physical body is in the church, but the mind is on earthly, self-satisfying things.

"If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt to touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean" (Haggai 2:12).

Haggai pictures a priest carrying home a cut of sanctified meat from the altar of sacrifice. The prophet asks, "Does that holy meat transfer holiness to his garment? When he puts it on his table at home, does it communicate holiness to any of the other food there?" The answer was an emphatic, "No!"

Here is Haggai's point: Being around holy things does not transfer holiness to you!

These Israelites thought the land itself was holy, so living on the land made them holy. Likewise, today, many Christians convince themselves they are right with God as long as they come to His house. They think that through the sanctifying praise and prayers of God's people, somehow the holiness of God will be transferred to them.

Yet singing in the choir, doing good works, sitting at the Lord's table - none of these spiritual things in themselves can make you righteous. You can sit in a holy meeting hearing and seeing all the blessing of God - but it will not make you holy if you do not allow the spirit of God to dwell in you.

In summary, God’s message through Haggai for us today is to keep a check on our heart and monitor what lives in our heart.

Haggai’s message to the people of Israel was first, that God wants us to continually build our temple for His glory. This happens when we study God’s word and grow spiritually. The rebuilding of the soul (mind, emotions and will) is a process and takes time and effort for each Christian. Old ways and old habits do not disappear overnight.

Next, Haggai warns against comparing ourselves with others and even with our past. We are not another. God made you an individual, a unique individual and He said, “It is good.” To want to be someone else or even to get down on yourself because you are not like someone else does not please God. You are you and God loves you. Trying to be something that you are not displeases God and causes us to lose God’s favor and blessings.

Finally, we learn from Haggai that just being in the presence of holiness does not make you holy and pleasing to God. Holiness is an internal feature. It deals with the heart, the mind, our emotions, and our will. Holiness begins when we turn to God and say, “Lord, here I am. Take me, make me and use me for thy service and thy glory.” God’s favor and blessings come to us when we yield totally to Him and realize that pleasing God is more than just being in the presence of holiness.

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