2012 Christmas I: What is the Purpose of Your Birth?November 25th, 2012 • Posted in Christmas, Luke's Gospel, Messages/Sermons • 789 views
What is the Purpose of Your Birth?
Key verse 1:13
“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.’”
Today’s passage is about the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. An angel appeared to Zechariah, John’s father, and prophesied about his son as the prophetic forerunner of the Coming King Jesus. Do you know what the last two verses of the entire Old Testament are? Malachi 4:5-6 says, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” These two verses are the conclusion of the entire Old Testament, that God promised to send the prophet Elijah and the King Jesus.
God was silent for the next 400 years. It was a dark period in Israel’s history. Israel had been ruled by the Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. It seemed that God had forgotten His promise to Israel. But God didn’t forget His promise. Our God is always faithful and trustworthy. God remembered His nation and fulfilled his promise through the family of Zechariah and Elizabeth by raising up their son, John the Baptist. The story of the Old Testament ends with the prophecy of coming of the prophet Elijah and the story of the New Testament begins with the fulfillment of this prophecy.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. It was the time of Herod, king of Judea. The author Luke didn’t say anything about Herod except for the fact that he was king of Judea. Luke described his life with only 3 words. That’s it. He used Herod as a historical backdrop for Zechariah. Herod must have thought that he was the main actor and star of his time. He might have written hundreds of pages of his autobiography describing who he was and what he did, but in the eyes of God he was not the main actor or star of his time. He was a passing extra who was just holding the placard, “Herod’s time,” by where Zechariah was. Many people like to think of themselves as the main character. That is why we work hard to become successful and distinguished. Many kings in the Old Testament strove to be main characters, but the Scripture summarizes their lives with one sentence, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” We have to see our lives through God’s eyes. And we have to do what God wants us to do, not what we want to do. We have to always examine our hearts to see whether we do what God wants us to do.
Luke focused not on a king but on an ordinary priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Zechariah means “God remembers,” and Elizabeth means “His oath.” So their names mean, “God remembers His oath.” God remembered and kept His oath from Mal 4:5-6 by raising up John the Baptist in the family of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. People tend to relate sickness or suffering to sin. But this is not the case. As we learned from the story of the blind beggar in Jn 9, we need to see things from God’s higher perspective. Elizabeth’s infertility was to display God’s glory.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. At that time there were about 20,000 priests throughout the country; far too many to minister in the temple at one time. Therefore the priests were divided into 24 separate groups of about 1,000 each, according to David’s instruction (1Chronicles 24:3-19). Zechariah was a member of the division of Abijah. Each division served in the Jerusalem temple one week twice a year. In this particular week, Zechariah’s division of priests was serving in the temple. Each morning and evening twice daily, one of the priests would enter the Holy Place in the temple to burn incense. Offering the incense before the Lord was considered a great privilege. A priest was only allowed to do so once in his lifetime, and many priests never had the opportunity. It was not by chance that Zechariah was on duty and that he was chosen that day to enter the Holy place.
When Zechariah prayed inside, the other priests and people would wait outside for Zechariah to offer the incense and pray on behalf of the nation. When the people would see the smoke from the burning incense, they would pray. The smoke symbolized their prayers ascending to God’s throne. These assembled worshipers were the faithful in Israel who were waiting and praying for deliverance and for the Coming of the Messiah. Faithful believers had been doing this twice daily since their captivity in Babylon 600 years before. It is admirable to see people being faithful to daily prayer for an entire year. It is remarkable to see people praying daily for 10 years. But praying twice a day, offering incense for 600 years??? It is REALLY INCREDIBLE!! They are really faithful people throughout the generations.
Imagine how awesome it would be to mobilize all our coworkers to pray twice a day in the sanctuary for our city and nation. Our God is faithful, so we too must be faithful, starting with daily prayer and Daily Bread. We as the body of Christ must corporately come to God in prayer, praying for our city, nation, and for each other. Here I again learn that I need to pray for our city and nation. I am naturally inclined to focus on my family, fellowship, and church, not on the city and nation. We need to see the bigger picture of God’s plan. Otherwise we are naturally inclined to pray only for ourselves. I pray that we may get together corporately and offer our prayers for the nations to God. I pray that God may bless our Friday meeting so that we may continue to share testimonies and pray for the people and nation.
While Zechariah was burning incense and praying for the nation, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the heart of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John was born to become a forerunner of the Coming King. His birth was special because he was born to a forerunner of the Coming King and angel prophesied about his birth. How about our births? Do our births have any special purpose? First of all, let me ask you a question. Why were you born? I suppose no one can answer my question because no one was born of his or her own will but of someone else’s. And we all believe that the someone else is God. In other words, we were born of God’s will, regardless of how we were born. Then our births must have special meaning and purpose because we know that God is not a comedian, but a deliberate Creator with special intention and purpose. So do our births have a special purpose? Yes. Then, what could be the special purpose? Why were we born? I don’t think we were born to become rich, comfortable, or popular or to be CEOs or doctors or lawyers. I believe that we were born for more than that – higher, bigger and greater than that. I don’t like the idea of displaying my ID badge which says, “William Shin, MD” and declaring to the world, “I am a medical doctor.” It’s because I am MORE and BETTER THAN a medical doctor. I AM a son of the King. We ourselves are the evidence for the greater purpose of our birth. Even though we achieve many things, in the end we will find ourselves not really satisfied with our lives. We feel that there’s something missing, that there must be more than this. Why do we feel this way? It’s because we were born to be greater than that.
The interesting thing is we were born for greater purpose than even that of John. Jesus said in Luke 7:28, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” What does it mean? Who are among those born of women? They are the people born from the time of Abel to the time of John. Among them John was the greatest, because he was the forerunner of the King. The people in the Kingdom of God are those who are born of the Spirit in the Kingdom from the time of King’s first coming to the time of the Second Coming and after. It must be clear that there was no Kingdom of God on Earth before King Jesus came to the Earth. It had been only the kingdom of the world. But when King Jesus came, He brought His kingdom with him. That is why Jesus said in Mk 1:15, “The time has come, The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” So we are living in the Kingdom age. I think we are those who are least in the kingdom of God. I believe that we are greater than John, because we were born for greater purpose than that of him. His purpose was to tell the people, “The King is coming. Repent and come to Him.” But our purpose is to tell the people, “The King has already come. Accept Him and live in His kingdom. It is awesome. Let us rule the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom.” John hadn’t really fully known the King or experienced the Kingdom. That was why he doubted Jesus when he was in prison, questioning, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John didn’t have a full knowledge of the King, His cross, His empty tomb, and His Kingdom, simply because he was born and died before the King rose from the tomb. This knowledge had been hidden from him. As a result, John had only partial access to the full revelation of Christ and the full manifestation of the Holy Spirit. But we have the full access to those, simply because we were born after the King and received the Holy Spirit and were given the entire Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. Through His cross King Jesus restored our original identity and position as the rulers God created us to be in the beginning. Now we, as royal priests, rule the world with King Jesus by preaching the gospel and praying for people. We experience and live in the Kingdom right now. Therefore, we were born for a greater purpose than that of John. We don’t need angel’s prophecy about our lives because we have the Scripture, the book of prophecy. The Scripture prophesied about our identity, our future and our destiny. It might be nice and encouraging to hear prophecies from angels, but I would rather hear them directly from God through His written Word, the Scripture.
So let me ask you a question. What is your prophetic word that personally speaks to you about your birth and destiny? Although the angel prophesied to Zechariah about his son, John didn’t hear the angel’s prophecy directly from the angel. John had no idea about what he would become. John had to find, hear, or receive the prophetic word from God on his own. To John, it was Isaiah 40:3. When the priests and the Levites asked John for his identity, In John 1:23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” This prophetic word sets his life direction and his future destiny; thus he prepared the way for the King and Kingdom. To Martin Luther, it was Romans 1:17, which says, “The righteous will live by faith.” His prophetic word determined Luther’s destiny as well as the course of human history.
So what is your prophetic word that personally speaks to you about your birth and destiny? 1 Peter 1:23 says, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” Every Christian is born again through the living and enduring word of God. If you don’t have this word, you are either not a real Christian or a forgetful Christian. We must find the Word, which God personally placed in His Scriptures for his beloved children as a prophecy to them. Or if you have it, you need to nurture and cherish the Word through deeper personal meditation so that the Word shapes your future destiny. I pray that we may discover it or nurture it this coming week while meditating and writing testimony.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” When the angel told him about the amazing news of the birth of his son, Zechariah couldn’t believe angel’s word, although he had been praying for it. So Zechariah asked for a sign from him, who must have felt offended by Zechariah’s unbelieving word because the angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. The angel’s said, “Don’t you know who I am? I am Gabriel, the chief of angels. Every day I talk with the Almighty God face to face. I stand in His very presence. He sent me directly to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” This verse implies that angels may also have some kind of personality. We can see that the angel was unhappy and even angry with Zechariah’s unbelieving words. He might have thought, “Since you requested sign, I will give you a sign. I will zip your mouth to see whether you believe my word or not.” So the angel told Zechariah in verse 20. “and now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
From Zechariah, we learn it is better to be silent than to speak unbelief. Speaking unbelieving words creates and cultivates a negative atmosphere because they spread from one person to the next. It is very harmful for our soul and for our community. I pray that we may speak word of encouragement to each other so that our community may grow continually.
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. Zechariah became a clown, moving his hands and feet, trying to speak through body gestures. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” God prepared spiritual environment in Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family so that John the Baptist might be born. During 9 months, Zechariah couldn’t say a word of unbelief or complaint or negativity to his wife. So for 9 months, the baby John received no negative outside influences. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.
From today’s passage we learn that our births and lives have special purpose, which is to become kingdom builders as sons and daughters of God. I pray that we may all fulfill this God-given prophecy and destiny through preaching the gospel and praying for the people and loving one another.