Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Messengers of Hope - The Promise is Alive!

Christmas is a time when many people re-read the Bible story depicting the birth of Jesus. Before we get to the story of Jesus, we first read about the birth of His cousin, John, because their lives were interconnected right from the start.

     Luke chapter one tells us about the lives of an older couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth. They were well past their childbearing years, and had never had children. In ancient times, an infertile woman bore a huge stigma of shame because she could not produce an heir. Zacharias prayed faithfully for his wife to be able to bear a child. Zacharias served in the temple as a priest, but priests didn’t ordinarily hear from God. In those days, it was the prophets that heard from God; but on one particular day, God’s presence was in the temple while Zacharias was performing his priestly duties. God sent an angel to deliver a message to Zacharias.

     “Zacharias, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a son, and you will name him John,” said the angel Gabriel. “He will bring you great joy and happiness – and many will share your joy at John’s birth.” The messenger continued to expound on the purpose, calling and powerful ministry of this son. He even asked Zacharias if he remembered a certain prophecy that predicted the birth of this child. Now, if you’re like me, you’d be absolutely blown away by an encounter like that! Sometimes we have prayed for something for so long and so much time has passed, we think it’s never going to happen. I believe that’s the state Zacharias was in when the angel showed up. Because his hope had been deferred for so long, unbelief and hopelessness had taken hold of Zacharias’ heart. His response to the angel was to ask, “How can I be sure of what you’re telling me? This is hard to believe!” (Luke 1:13-18)

     The angel, who did not want Zacharias to speak unbelief over the miracle about to occur, made the man mute in order to protect the promise of God about to be birthed. Gabriel told Zacharias, “Because you did not believe my message, you will not be able to talk – not another word – until you experience the fulfillment of my words.” (Luke 1:20) Something the angel said, and perhaps it was the miracle of Zacharias suddenly becoming mute - impregnated Zacharias with faith; he went home to his wife and shortly thereafter she conceived the son that the messenger had prophesied. 

    Have you ever wondered why God seems to keep us in the dark about certain things? We can pray for certain things for a long time and think, “Well, God does not seem to be speaking on this, I guess He just doesn’t want to grant this request.” There is another perspective; one which may be much more in keeping with God's nature. His nature is to say yes! What if the way He chooses to answer our prayer is so surprising He simply doesn’t want us to speak out of our own unbelief?

    The angel’s job was not over, though. He had another message to deliver! About 6 months later, Gabriel visited a young virgin girl by the name of Mary. “Greetings!” He said. ”You are favored and the Lord is with you!” [Among all women of the earth, you have been blessed.] (Luke 1:29)

     I think about Mary, who probably had not been praying that she would become the recipient of an angelic encounter. I highly doubt if she ever had the thought that she would birth the Messiah! I don't think she was thinking, “Hey, I bet today is the day I meet an angel who will tell me something that is so amazing it will blow my mind?” Mary was likely only a teenager when the angel visited her. She was thinking about her wedding, not about being chosen to birth the Son of God! Yet, it’s the incredible compassion of God that compels Him to seek out the disadvantaged, the discouraged and the oppressed. He always looks for someone with whom He can partner so that He can release healing and deliverance in the earth. God knew of the oppression that affected people. He wanted to deliver them from chronic unbelief. He wanted to deliver them from all the power of the enemy that was set against them. He knew that people needed to see the form of God, living and moving among them, so that they could understand the love of their Heavenly Father and His compassion to heal, deliver and shepherd their souls. And so, He looked for a willing vessel to carry out His plan for mankind. His eyes looked upon the whole earth for someone who would be both innocent in their heart, and willing to say yes to His plan; but also strong enough to go through the spiritual warfare that would come against them. He chose Mary and Joseph. Mary also asked the messenger a question. “But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?” (Luke 1:34)

     The angel proceeded to tell Mary how this child that would be born would be not just her child, but the Son of God. In order to give Mary a moment to consider what she had just heard, Gabriel shared a testimony of Elizabeth being with child. “It sounds impossible, but listen – you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet, she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So, the impossible is possible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Because of this amazing testimony and the encounter with a messenger of God, Mary decided in her heart: “Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.”  (Luke 1:38).

     There is an interesting interplay between Zacharias’ response and Mary’s. Zacharias’ response was full of unbelief. The angel’s appearance with the message that his prayers had been heard and about to be answered was something he hadn't anticipated. His response revealed that unbelief in his heart. He had waited so long for an answer he simply gave up believing. Even though he still prayed for his wife, his heart wasn't really in it anymore. Zacharias had come into agreement with unbelief!  Zacharias’ ability to speak was restored upon the birth of their promised child. When he communicated that the child’s name was John, in keeping with the will of God, as declared by God’s messenger, his ability to speak was restored. 

     Perhaps there is something that you, too, have been praying for an awfully long time, and if you look at the evidence in the natural, you’d be tempted to say, “It’s too late now. It’s never going to happen.” Perhaps your mind has sized up the situation and come to the conclusion that whatever it is you hoped for is completely impossible now.

     Remember the words of the messenger, “It sounds impossible, but the impossible is possible with God.”

     Just because something hasn’t come to pass yet is not a true indicator of whether or not God has actually said ‘No.” Many prayers are all about timing, and God's timing is very different than ours. Mary gave thoughtful consideration to what the messenger said, and decided in her heart to agree with him. When she agreed with the messenger, she came into agreement with God. She joined her faith with His, and the miracle of conception occurred. If it happened to Mary, it can happen to you!

    In Mary’s day, the Jewish people were oppressed by the Roman Empire. For her to speak about a King who would demote the powerful and the rich, and elevate the poor and humble meant one thing. God was moving towards setting them free! The overflow of her soul was expressed in a poetic overflow of prophecy:

“My soul lifts up the Lord!
My Spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
For though I’m God’s humble servant, God has noticed me.
Now and forever, I will be considered blessed by all generations.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
Holy is God’s Holy name!
From generation to generation,
God’s loving kindness endures
For those who revere Him.
God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
The hungry – God has filled with fine food.
The rich – God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,
As promised to our ancestors,
Remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary’s prophesy is remarkably similar to what Zacharias sang as a prophetic song to the Lord at John’s birth:

“May the Lord God of Israel be blessed indeed!
For God’s intervention has begun,
And He has moved to rescue us, the people of God.
And the Lord has raised up a powerful sign of liberation for us
From among the descendants of God’s servant, King David.
As was prophesied through the mouths of His holy prophets
In ancient times:
God will liberate us from our enemies and from the hand of our oppressors!”
“God will show mercy promised to our ancestors,
Upholding the abiding covenant He made with them,
Remembering the original vow He swore to Abraham,
From whom we are all descended.
God will rescue us from the grasp of our enemies
So that we may serve Him without fear all our days
In Holiness and justice, in the presence of the Lord.”
“And you my son, will be called the prophet of the Most High.
For you will be the one to prepare the way for the Lord!
So that the Lord’s people will receive knowledge of their freedom
Through the forgiveness of their sins.
All this will flow from the kind and compassionate mercy of our God.
A new day is dawning:
The Sunrise from the heavens will break through in our darkness,
And those who huddle in night,
Those who sit in the shadow of death,
Will be able to rise and walk in the light,
Guided in the pathway of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79)

     God searches the earth for those whose hearts are fully turned towards Him. He looks for those who He can raise up to perform His will upon the earth. We see a great deal of shifting power structures right now. This is evidence in the natural realm that God’s intervention has begun! He is moving to rescue us from wicked oppressors! The amazing thing is the timing of our world events, the recent elections and the upcoming presidential inauguration all speak of another great reversal of power. A movement is taking place all across the earth to shift the balance of power and release a social, economic and political revolution. We are witnessing the impossible situations of our day become possible because God has willed it. He has ordained it! Ungodly, corrupt power structures are being removed. Our prayers and decrees have the effect of dismantling the spiritual scaffolding surrounding our governmental leaders and cutting away at the web of entanglements that have enabled influential world powers to scheme with collusion in secrecy. They once seemed untouchable and above accountability. They seemed beyond anyone’s reach. That is what brought discouragement and hopelessness to our nation. Yet, the recent elections and the fact that a businessman who had never been in politics won the presidency against all odds has become the nightmare of all those opposed to righteousness, justice and equity. The enemy may be livid with rage, but as children of God, “WE HAVE THE POWER.” On a world scale, God is speaking to us to encourage us once again, “Believe! What once seemed impossible can become possible with God!” Keep praying for our nation, but no longer let unbelief or double-mindedness fall like a wet blanket on your prayers. Know for certain God is looking to partner with faith-filled intercessors to bring His will to pass!

     In conclusion, I just want to add that the election of Donald Trump also serves as a prophetic sign. It’s an encouragement for us all to resurrect our hope and faith in God. Regardless of how much time has passed...regardless of what things may look like in the natural...let your prayers be filled with faith. Whatever it is that you have been believing for, know that with God anything is possible. He delights in impossible situations! If you’ve dropped your promise along the road of discouragement, or buried in a grave believing the promise was dead; dig it out and believe again. God is renewing your hope and He’s sending you help! It’s time to unlock the coffins of despair! It’s time to pull your promise out of the grave and know that He is God! He will be exalted among the nations. He is Lord over His word. He is Lord over your promise. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God!

1 comment:

  1. Blessed to have come across this website! I will not give up!