How do you approach life? Do you expect good things from God or do you expect nothing good? We get what we expect. It reminds me of a story I heard about a wise clerk who worked at a convenience store in a small town out west.
One day, a stranger walked in, picked up some bread and milk, and made his way to the cash register.
“New to town?” the clerk asked.
“Yep. Just moved here with my family,” the stranger replied.
“Well, then let me be the first to welcome you,” the clerk offered, extending his hand.
“Thanks,” the stranger said as he shook it. “Say, what are the people like in this town?”
“Well … what were they like in the town you just left?” the clerk queried.
“Oh, they were fantastic,” the stranger replied. “Friendly, upbeat, and generous. We hated to leave.”
“I know what you mean,” the clerk nodded. “I think that’s pretty much what you’ll find here, too.”
A few days later, another stranger walked into the convenience store. Like the first, he picked up a few staples and headed to the cash register.
The same clerk asked, “New to town?”
“Yes,” the stranger mumbled. “Just arrived.”
Following the same track, the clerk smiled and extended his hand. “Let me be the first to welcome you!”
The stranger took his hand reluctantly, frowned, and quickly looked down. “So what are the people like in this town?”
“Well … what were they like in the town you lived in last?” the clerk queried.
“Not great,” he stammered. “They were cold, aloof, and selfish. We were glad to get out of there.” He looked up at the clerk.
“I know what you mean,” the clerk affirmed. “I’m afraid that’s probably what you’ll find here, too.”
Our outlook on life can determine if you enjoy your life or not. It can even determine the blessings you receive all because you chose to acknowledge them or not. If it’s true that we get what we expect, it’s worth noticing our expectations—and shifting them toward a more positive outcome.
God is calling all of us to live a life of extraordinary dependance upon Him. God wants us to live by faith, not by sight. God wants us to stop expecting what we expect to get out of life, and start expecting to see Him move in our midst. He wants us to expect the unexpected.
We can see this in the first angel visitation concerning the birth of Christ with Zechariah and Elizabeth. Read Luke 1:5 – 25 It’s interesting that as Luke begins to tell the story of Jesus, he doesn’t begin with Jesus himself. He doesn’t even begin with Mary and Joseph. He begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth. But I understand why Luke did this. It’s because the story of Jesus doesn’t begin with the birth of Jesus. It goes way back into the Old Testament and has to do with the fulfillment of prophecy.
Zachariah means “Remembered of God” and Elizabeth means “One who gives loyalty to God.” (Strongs Hebrew and Greek Dictionary)
What We Can Learn From Zechariah and Elizabeth
Read Luke 1:5 – 25
1. The text tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God (v. 6).
Let’s not misunderstand what the text is saying about them. They were not sinless. The Bible is clear that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). And this is even clear from this passage, because Zachariah sinned when he doubted God’s message. Rather, they were made righteous by God’s grace because of their faith in the coming Messiah. And they were blameless in the sense that they earnestly sought to please God in all that they did, not in order to earn God’s favor, but out of their love for God.
Zechariah took his job as a priest seriously. Even though his own family couldn’t grow numerically, he diligently performed as a priest because he loved God and hoped that God would show mercy on his family to bless them with a child.
Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron, the first priest of Israel. Zechariah was a priest. It is interesting that John came from this background and Jesus, the Messiah, didn’t. John could have taken his rightful role as a priest because of his linage but John was born to prepare the way for Christ. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah and this tribe of Israel were never priests. Only the tribe of Levi or Levites were priests.
Another interesting thing to note is that angels never appeared in the temple before Gabriel’s appearance to Zachariah and never did an angel appear in the temple again. How God loved this family and wanted to show it by having such a unique revelation of them having a child and what that child was born for.
2. If we want to have peace with God, we’ve got to be like this couple.
We’ve got to believe in Jesus Christ to save us from our sin. And because we know the grace of God, we ought to serve Him out of joy. This is what this couple did; serve God out of joy not obligation.
They had peace in their lives. Living obedient lives to God brings His peace. Living disobedient lives will always bring unrest and chaos in our life and the lives close to us. We affect others by the choices we make. Having peace is so essential in life. Living a righteous life brings peace.
What about you? Have you been living your life in obedience to please God or living your life to please your self? Even our actions or how we treat people can be a reflection of living a righteous life or not. Guard your peace by doing the right thing and not following your flesh.
Proverbs 16:7 KJV
“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Isaiah 32:17 NIV
“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
3. Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child.
The text also tells us that this godly couple didn’t have any children. Children are a blessing. We need to remember that. They’re not a hindrance. They may keep you from advancing in your career. They may need constant attention. They may require you to devote your entire life to caring for them. But they are a blessing, and we need to see them as a blessing. Zechariah and Elizabeth saw children this way. They desperately wanted a child. According to verse 13, Zechariah had prayed for a child. When you pray, trust God. He will answer at the best time in the best way. Sometimes God will answer your prayer in the most unexpected way at the most unexpected time. But when you trust in God you need to learn to expect the unexpected.
They prayed for a child for many years I am sure, but now they were up in years and Elizabeth was beyond childbearing. I believe they figured God wouldn’t answer their prayer do to the facts of their age and how their bodies have aged. We do that don’t we? We pray a prayer and then time goes by and we don’t see an answer. We look at the facts and decide it wasn’t God’s will to give us what we asked for and we resign to the fact that it won’t happen.
Zechariah must have forgotten to trust God’s timing when it came to this prayer. Zechariah had prayed for a child. An angel told Zechariah that he would have a child, and not just any child.
Verse 15: “This child would be great before the Lord.”
Verse 16: “This child would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord.”
Verse 17: “This child would go in the spirit and power of Elijah, and would prepare people for the coming of the Lord!”
This would be the man of whom Jesus says, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John.”
Zechariah should have responded with praise! But notice how Zechariah responds, “And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’ And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’ (Luke 1:18-25) When you pray, trust God to answer. And when God answers, don’t be surprised that He answered! If you know Christ as Savior, then God is your Heavenly Father who desires to give good gifts to His children.
4. The reproach was taken away from Elizabeth.
Luke 1:24 – 25 NKJV
“Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’”
In the Jewish culture of that time when a woman didn’t have any children it was a reproach or disgrace. The word “Reproach” means: “an expression of disapproval or disappointment, loss of reputation, something that causes shame or disgrace.
People disapproved of her because of her barrenness. She was, in a way, rejected by society because of her lack of children. God is a god Who sees and he saw Elizabeth’s view of herself of being a reproach. He saw her reproach and wanted to take it all away. Giving Zechariah and Elizabeth a child not only answered their prayer but it also turned their disgrace away. God has a way healing us totally and completely in all areas. God has more for us then disapproval. He has His divine approval.
God approves of us. No matter what people say or what you believe, God approves of you because you have His Son living inside of you. He will turn ashes into beauty and your mourning into dancing. Expect the unexpected!
5. Elizabeth and Zechariah were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit the moment the Messiah’s mother, Mary, greeted her.
Luke 1:39 – 45 NKJV
“Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Mary was excited about what was going to happen! She quickly went to tell her relative Elizabeth about it. Mary didn’t know who to talk to about this, but she knew Elizabeth would understand, because she was in a very similar situation.
But before Mary could say much at all, John the Baptist starts to fulfill his prophetic role. It was John’s job to point to Jesus as being the Christ. He started doing this even before he was born! (v. 41). This verse says a lot about how we’re to think about children, even before they’re born. The Bible never refers to an unborn child as anything but a baby. It’s not a group of cells, or a tissue, or a fetus. It’s a baby! Life begins at conception!
So the baby inside Elizabeth leaped for joy! This caused Elizabeth to cry out in praise and prophecy. Elizabeth’s child was unexpected because Elizabeth had always been barren!
Zechariah was also filled with the Holy Spirit and Prophesied. After John was born and he wrote on a tablet saying his name would be John, he immediately could talk again and was filled with the Holy Spirit and Prophesied saying:
Luke 1:68 – 79 NKJV
“Blessed is 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, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied the goodness of God. They both believed that their child was given to them by the Lord. Their belief carried them to the fulfillment of the promise given them. They both expected the unexpected.
You need to expect the unexpected. Don’t be surprised when God does the miraculous in your life! He’s God! God does miracles more easily than we can do anything! God made the sun with less effort than we can flip a light switch! We have to lift an arm, He merely spoke a few words! We might be impressed that we can build a boat and float, but Jesus could walk on water! We can turn on a faucet and fill a glass with water, but Jesus turned water into wine! With God all things are possible.
Don’t give up on what you are believing for. God hears our prayers and will answer them in His time. Remember when things look hopeless that is when the God of hope steps in and does the unexpected. Expect the unexpected in your life and watch what God does this year for you.
Pastor Kris Belfils