Monday, May 30, 2016

Our prayers—part of God's eternal purposes



"Gabriel Visits Zacharias" - by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
(Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, 
Candler School of Theology, Emory University”)


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 1:5-25

TO CHEW ON: "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.'" Luke 1:13


This story of John the Baptist's beginnings give us a sense of God putting into action ancient and detailed plans. God used the assignment of a lifetime—Zacharias's one opportunity to burn incense in the Holy Place—to deliver, through Gabriel, a life-changing message.

From Zacharias's viewpoint, this was an answer to a very earthly, marriage-long prayer—to have a son.

To God, though, it was way bigger. It was an essential part of preparing for the climax of a plan first announced in Genesis 3:15. Bits of this plan are strewn through the Old Testament. Picking out elements from our story:

Nazirite:
Gabriel, in his description of John's style of life ("...drink neither wine nor strong drink" - Luke 1:15) referred back to the lifestyle of a person separated to God, a Nazirite described way back in Numbers 6:2,3.

Elijah:
Gabriel went on to say that Zacharias's offspring (John) would prepare the way for Him (God's special messenger) "… in the spirit and power of Elijah" - Luke 1:17.

We remember Elijah, the prophet who wasn't afraid to confront Ahab. He lived out of the public view during a three-year drought, and then clashed with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and begged the Israelite onlookers to again follow God. After that, we remember how Queen Jezebel threatened his life.

John too would end up living in seclusion and then calling people to repentance, pointing out Jesus as Messiah, and baptizing Him. His bold confrontation of Herod for his immorality ended in him being beheaded at the request of Herodias, another royal consort.

The prophecy of Malachi:
Gabriel quoted the Old Testament prophet Malachi (who also referenced Elijah) " 'He (John) will also go before Him "… to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…" ' " Luke 1:17.
Compare with Malachi's words:
"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers" - Malachi 4:5,6.

John's birth was indeed an answer to Zacharias's prayer but it was also so much more!

I like to believe that God's purposes are similarly interwoven into the lives of us believers; that the things we pray for (and if we're attached to Jesus—He in us, us in Him—even our prayers are His ideas - John 15:7) lead to answers that help complete His work and purposes on earth just as Zacharias's prayers for a son did.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for this glimpse into the workings of Your ways. Help me to trust that You are similarly working Your eternal purposes through the prayers and answers to pray in my life. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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