Are you ready for what God wants to do through you? In this post, we will look at two different people; Zachariah and Mary. Both receive a special visit from an angel with the announcement of the greatest assignment of their lifetime. One responds in doubt, the other one in faith. Are you currently in tune with what God is doing in you and what He wants to do through you? Is He speaking? Are you listening?
In this short series, we are preparing for Christmas. In this post, I want to focus on two big announcements leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We look first at the story of the announcement an angel made to Zachariah about the birth of John – who would later be called John the Baptist, and then at the one of the angel visiting Mary who would be the mother of Jesus.
The Announcement of John’s birth
Luke 1:5-25 (NLT)
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
The question I would like you to ask yourself is: am I prepared for what the Lord wants to do through me?
Let’s first look at the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. John would be a man with a ministry in the line of the Old Testament prophets. For 400 years, there had been no prophet in Israel. For this whole period, God had been silent….
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt frustrated with God being silent, but 400 years is a very long time. But we know now that this wasn’t the silent treatment of an angry partner, but a silence before the storm. God was about to do something that would change the whole game.
God makes the impossible, possible
Zachariah and Elizabeth certainly weren’t the first people to conceive a child through God’s miraculous intervention. The story of salvation starts with Abraham and Sarah, a childless couple in their 90’s with a promise that out of them God would bring forth a great nation that would be a blessing to the whole world. I guess that sometimes God just wants to do a miracle to make clear that it is His doing, not human doing.
Also here, God is clearly saying: I’m doing something new, and it is Me doing it. This is the time I have chosen to carry out My plans! And you, Zachariah and Elizabeth, get to play a major part in that. You will be the recipient of a personal miracle and the fulfilment of a lifelong prayer, but also, you will have the privilege to raise up a man that will prepare the way for the Messiah.
Zachariah responds with doubt
Zachariah was a man of faith. His whole life he had lived in service to God, and Luke calls him a righteous man. It could have been the fear, the surprise or perhaps a secret faith crisis – but Zachariah responds with doubt to the announcement of the angel. How can I be sure of this? Zachariah asks…
What a guy! I mean, for one, there are some things that happen to a woman when she is pregnant, physically, that are very had to miss… Not to mention the hormones that start flying around the room… Yet, the angel ignores his male ignorance and goes straight to the second obvious thing Zachariah is bypassing with his question, is that it is an angel of the Lord that is bringing him this message – not some random guy!
Zachariah does get a sign, but it is not a cool sign like the ones Moses and Gideon got when they responded with doubt to the appearance of an angel. Zachariah becomes mute for the whole nine months. Maybe this is God just giving some very practical advice to husbands with pregnant wives… but I think it goes a bit beyond that.
God is, again saying: this is my doing, not yours. Just stay still for a while and be patient. Trust me, I will do what I promised. I’m doing a new thing. Not just for you guys personally, but for the whole nation of Israel. Even more so, for the whole world.
The announcement of Jesus’ birth
Luke 1: 26-38 (NLT)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
The second story, the announcement of Jesus’ birth is similar, but there are some important differences. What is most striking, is that the scene is very different. The announcement of the birth of John happens in Jerusalem in the Temple – the most significant and holy place on earth. It is brought to a couple that have lived their whole lives in service to God – an established and respected couple.
This announcement of the birth of Jesus is done to Mary, an insignificant girl from an insignificant town in an insignificant area of the country. But for God, no one is insignificant.
Again, God makes the impossible, possible
I don’t think there is such a thing as a difficult miracle or an easy miracle for God. Let’s just say that making someone pregnant without a guy around is certainly more noteworthy than making someone pregnant who is actually too old. The miraculous conception of Jesus is absolutely unique. If God wanted to draw some attention to the birth of the forerunner, then even more so to the birth of the Messiah.
The fact that Jesus was conceived in this way was not just to make it unique or to draw some attention. It is a crucial fact in our understanding of who Jesus Christ is.
Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. He is born of a woman, but conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man.
And because of this, Jesus is the only one that could carry out God’s mission to redeem humanity, atone for sin, reveal the Father and show us how we should live. Jesus is the new move of God. He is the coming King.
Mary responds in faith
It is so interesting to see that Zachariah’s first responds to the great news that he received was one of doubt. But when Mary, this young girl from the middle of nowhere, receives an even greater message with, mind you, more complicated consequences, she responds in faith!
Mary responds “how will this happen?” which is very different from Zachariah’s “how can I be sure this is trustworthy?” Mary displays an attitude that God can work with. “I am your servant. May everything you have said about me come true”.
Are you ready?
Now, back to the question that we started off with. Are you ready for what God wants to do through you? Are you ready for Him to speak to you? Are you ready for a special assignment, however big or small? Are you eager to hear from Him, even though it seems like He has been silent for a while? Here are three things we need to understand about being ready for what God may want from us.
1. God carries out His plans through us
The announcements we’ve talked about today changed the course of human history. The Saviour is coming. Get ready.
Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God has been committed to redeem humanity and to redeem the planet, and to use human beings to make this happen. Even here at this crucial stage of the plan.
He still does that through you and me. God is assigning us with the responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus, the King. He has created each of us for a special purpose. He has got an assignment for you as well. That is why these stories are so significant for us, because they tell us something about how God works and how we should respond when He begins to move.
Here’s the thing. God doesn’t need us to carry out His plans, but He chooses to do so. He wants to do so. He wants people to participate in the fulfilment of His plans.
For Zachariah, this meant a lifelong prayer was answered. For Mary, it meant her whole life was turned upside down, because she would become pregnant before she was married, and likely, not everyone was going to believe her excuse.
2. God cares about the details
Here is what I love about our God. Ultimately, of course, it is the big picture that matters. God wanted to send a prophet, and He was going to send His Son to the earth. Yet, in carrying out this plan, He blesses this faithful older couple that has been praying for a child for so long.
He was going to birth the Messiah through a miracle, yet He is kind enough to pair this young woman up with a guy that can handle the situation. An angel would also appear to Joseph telling him not to break off the engagement, because it is indeed the Holy Spirit that made her pregnant.
God is a God of the details. When He is carrying out His plans, He is not only involving us in it, but also preparing us for it, growing us through it and supplying what we need to do it.
With this in mind, Mary could respond with the words: May everything you’ve said about me come true. For Mary, there was no guarantee at this point that her family, her friends or her future husband would believe this. The angel didn’t say he would also quickly pay a visit to Joseph. Mary could have spent the rest of her life as an outcast. But faith says:
If God is with me, I will not fear
If God is sending me, He will supply for me
If God is calling me, I’m privileged
If God is moving, I want to move with Him
3. When God is speaks, listen intently
The first thing God does after a silence of 400 years, is muting a man. Do you think that this may be significant?
There may come a time in your life, when God says it is best to just shut up for a while. Zachariah regretted his first response right away and got the ultimate foot-in-mouth experience. I think this wasn’t so much a punishment for a lack of faith, but more a prophetic illustration like Ezekiel having to play out a whole war scene announcing the destruction of Jerusalem or Habakkuk marrying a prostitute as an illustration of the faithfulness of God in spite of the idolatry of the people.
If God would mute me for a while, I would feel absolutely paralysed. I love to talk.
But I think that, when God is preparing us for something, silence may be our best companion, because in the silence we can listen better. I believe that a big part of our preparation for what God wants to do to us, happens in the silence. It’s a way of letting go, and making space for God to fill. Shutting up for a while may be the best thing we could do, because only when we hear what God is saying we can respond to what He is doing.