Today, we’re continuing in our message series Christmas Blessings from the gospel of Luke. Our message today is entitled Prepare the Way for the Lord. As we’ve been studying the Christmas story in this series, we’ve seen how God unfolds His plan, one step at a time. Each step in God’s plan involves people selected by Him for their role. Often these people seem to be unlikely candidates. Yet God makes no mistakes and supernaturally empowers them by His Spirit.
The Christmas story in first chapters of Luke shows how God prepared the way for Jesus’ birth. The birth of Jesus, the son of God taking on human flesh, changed history forever. God is still in the business of changing history, in fact changing eternity. God desires to change the lives and eternal trajectory of people in our world today.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
People in the first century mocked Christians because Jesus had not returned yet. We are now 2000 years later and Jesus has not come back yet. This verses explains why Jesus has not returned. When Jesus returns there will be no more opportunity for people to repent and change their eternal destiny. So, God is patient. As Jesus remains in heaven, more and more people are saved. God does not wish for anyone to perish in hell for eternity.
So, not only did He send Jesus to make a way for us to be saved. He also continues to give people time to repent and give us time to reach more people for Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, heaven is not the default destination for people and only really bad people perish. Hell is the default eternal destination for every person unless they believe in Jesus. God calls believers today to prepare the way for people to be born again and saved. God calls each one of us to step outside of our comfort zone and tell others about Jesus.
Romans 10:13-14 (NLT2) For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
God doesn’t normally send angels to spread the Gospel to the world. He tells us to simply share the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives. As we do that, more and more people will turn their lives over to the Lord.
Today we’re going to learn more about God’s plan for John the Baptist. God’s plan for John’s life was for him to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. We can learn much from John’s life about how to prepare the way for Jesus today. Sometimes people think that things they have done have disqualified them from preparing the way for the Lord. But …
Luke 1:57-58 (ESV) Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
The birth of a son to the aged Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah was a miracle. An angel had announced to Zechariah that they would have a son. Zechariah, a priest, doubted that the miracle could actually happen. So, the angel Gabriel make Zechariah unable to speak for his unbelief. But now, the angel’s prophecy had come to pass and the baby was born. Everyone rejoiced as the childless couple finally had a son to raise.
Luke 1:59-60 (ESV) And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”
The couple came to the temple to circumcise their son and to give him a name. Normally, children in those days were named after their fathers. As Zechariah could not speak, his wife Elizabeth told the relatives that he would be named John. John was the name that the angel had told Zechariah to name their son.
Luke 1:61-63 (ESV) And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
The relatives then began arguing with Elizabeth about the naming of the boy. Finally, they tried to communicate with Zechariah, who up to this time had written on a slate to talk. Zechariah wrote on the tablet agreeing with his wife that the boy’s name is John. All the people were amazed at the strangeness of what was happening. But another miracle now happened.
Luke 1:64-65 (ESV) And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea,
As Zechariah obeyed the Lord’s words through the angel despite the families arguments, God gave him the ability to speak again. And the first thing that Zechariah spoke was to give thanks and blessing to God. This was quite a story and people all across Judea spread the news of the miracles that had happened.
God gave Zechariah a second chance. Zechariah had really blown it in his encounter with the angel. The angel Gabriel, probably the highest angel in heaven personally came to tell Zechariah that his and Elizabeth’s prayers were going to be answered. They were going to have the son they had been longing for all their lives. Yet, despite talking to an angel, Zechariah doubted God’s Word would come to pass.
But God gave Zechariah a second chance. Not only did God keep His promise that the son would be born, He gave Zechariah back his speech at the birth. Each of us has done things to displease God in our lives. Most of the things we have failed at come from doubting God. Most sin in our lives comes from us trying to get something for ourselves, rather than trusting God to give us good gifts. But the good news, from Zechariah’s example is that God gives second chances.
Don’t disqualify yourself from being used by God in the future because of past failures. Begin to believe and follow God’s instructions like Zechariah did. As you do, God will be there to strengthen and carry out His plan for your life. Not only does God give second changes, God always keeps His promises.
Luke 1:67-69 (ESV) And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
Just as Mary and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit, now Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as the women prophesied, now Zechariah begins to prophesy about what God is doing. These were not words that Zechariah dreamed up. No it was the Holy Spirit speaking God’s truth through him. He begins by blessing God for visiting his people. This visitation of God would bring redemption and salvation to the nation of Israel.
Luke 1:70-71 (ESV) as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
God’s holy prophets had hundreds and even thousands of years previously spoken of a coming Messiah. A Messiah who would save people from their enemies. And now Zechariah and Elizabeth had a son who was privileged to prepare the way for this Messiah.
Luke 1:72-73 (ESV) to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
Notice that Zechariah speaks of God’s promises made going all the way back to Abraham. That God would send the Messiah to show mercy to His people, those who had the faith to believe. The essence of God’s promises are prophesied in the next verses.
Luke 1:74-75 (ESV) that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
God’s promises have to do with first of all being delivered from our enemies. The enemies of God’s people are sin, Satan, sickness and death. Jesus came to deliver those who follow Him from these enemies. But deliverance from our enemies makes it possible to serve the Lord without fear. To walk no longer in sin, but serve Him in righteousness for all of our lives. This beautiful and profound prophesy by Zechariah lays out God’s plan for the coming Messiah. It reminds us that God always keeps His promises.
There are thousands of promises in the Bible, God’s Word. Those promises are designed to bless our lives and draw us closer to the Lord. But in order to reap the benefits of God’s promises, there are several conditions. First of all, you have to read and know God’s promises. Secondly, you have to believe that God really will keep His promises. Finally, you have to meet the conditions of the promise, as many promises are conditional.
No matter what you’re going through in life, God has a promise to help you be an overcomer in your situation. You might wonder, how will I ever find the right promise for my situation? God has a wonderful way of showing you the right promise at the right time as you read His Word on a daily basis. If you wait until you have a problem to search for a promise, it will be more difficult. Many times, the message on Sunday or a small group Bible study will alert you to a promise that God has for you. Just remember that God has a promise for every problem you may face. And He always keeps His promises. Each and every believer is called by God for a mission in this life and …
Luke 1:76-77 (ESV) And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
Zechariah’s prophesy now turns to focus on their new born son John. These verses summarize the mission of their son John the Baptist. John would be a prophet of God, the last prophet of the old covenant. He would begin His ministry before Jesus to prepare the way for Him. John’s main message would be to call people to repentance and forgiveness. To open their hearts to receive Jesus and His salvation.
Luke 1:78-79 (ESV) because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Zechariah speaks again of the mercy of God, shining the light of Jesus into the darkness. Replacing the shadow of death with life. Guiding people from rebellion against God into having peace with God. Zechariah spoke all these things in faith. Even though he would not see John’s or Jesus’ ministry in his lifetime,
Luke 1:80 (ESV) And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
John was filled with the Spirit and grew strong in spirit as the years went by. As Zechariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years, they undoubtedly passed away by the time that John was a young man. From this verse, it seems that John then made is home in the wilderness. Finding their time and solitude to grow stronger and closer to God. John followed in the pattern of many other prophets and Jesus Himself. We know that Jesus began His public ministry at age 30. And John began His ministry just shortly before Jesus did at a similar age. God prepared John for the difficult task of preparing the way for the Lord. A task in which John would fulfill his mission, but lose his earthly life as a martyr for the faith.
God calls each one of us to serve Him in this life. We also are to prepare the way for the Lord in the people around us. For those who are parents, you are to prepare your children to receive and grow in the Lord. This mission does not end when your children leave home, but continues through life and extends to your grandchildren. God has placed you in a unique place of influence with your relatives, friends, workmates and neighbors. God is calling you to prepare the way for the Lord in each of their lives.
How can you do this? Simply through prayer and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes, we may feel inadequate for the task. We wonder how we can convince anyone to follow Jesus when so many are far from Him. Your task is not to convince people, it’s simply to share the story of who Jesus is and how He has changed your life. The Holy Spirit will do the job of convicting hearts when we answer God’s call to be witnesses for Jesus.
God has prepared you to reach your world for Him. He’s a God of second chances. He’s a God of wonderful promises that He always keeps. And He’s promised to never leave or forsake you as you follow His call.