December 3, 2017 – When All Hope Is Lost

Speaker: Don Dyck

Study Series: An Advent Prayer Journey

Study #1: When All Hope Is Lost

Scripture: (all Scripture links go to BibleGateway.com)

audio

Link to Podcast

For thought and reflection:

  • Have you ever struggled with unanswered prayer? You may have prayed fervently, with great faith and conviction that God not only would hear your prayers but answer and act. Yet the expected answer and action on God’s part has never materialized.
    • Some reasons for unanswered prayer:
      • trivial and frivolous prayers
      • expecting God to make up for our laziness or carelessness
      • asking for that which is contrary to God’s Word
      • sin and broken relationships (Psalm 66:18; 1 Peter 3:7)
      • selfish gain (James 4:2-3)
      • lack of faith (Matthew 17:20-21 but note how little faith is needed – see also Luke 17:6)
  • But what about those prayers that are offered from a life that is fully centered on God and his purposes – praying the “Jesus way” – yet God is strangely silent and seemingly absent?

Advent → from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit”

  • a season of preparation a season that invites us to adopt a posture of watching and waiting in two key ways
    • 1) to step back in time before the birth of Jesus and enter into the experience of those who were waiting for the arrival of the Messiah
    • 2) to engage in actively watching and waiting for the second coming of Jesus and the ultimate fulfillment of all he came to do on earth

At the beginning of his account of the life and ministry of Jesus, Luke introduces us to Zechariah who has experienced unanswered prayer on two fronts:

  • In his personal life
  • On a national level
    • over 400 years of “silence” – waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the one who would lead Israel fully back from exile and establish them once again as a nation under God’s rule

Background and context of Zechariah’s experience as told to us by Luke

  • Days of Herod
    • puppet king put on the throne by the Romans but not recognized as the rightful king by the Jews
    • rebuilt the temple, but more as a monument to himself than to God
  • Zechariah
    • “God remembers” or “remembered by God”
  • Elizabeth
    • “God is my oath or vow” – possibly includes a sense of the abundance of God
  • Priests belonging to the division of Abijah
    • over 20,000 priests in Israel divided into 24 divisions – provided service in the temple for one week two times in the year as well as at the special festival times of Passover, Pentecost, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Booths (harvest)
    • the division of Abijah was a lesser significant division
  • Notice the description of their character and the stark contrast with their situation:
    • Both of them were…
      • …upright in the sight of God…
      • …observing all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly…
      • But… they had no children…
  • “Chosen by lot”
    • twice daily priests were chosen by lot (a once in a lifetime privilege) to burn incense on the altar of incense – in an area just outside of the holy of holies – as a perpetual offering to God, representing the prayers of intercession of the people who were in the outer area at the time (Luke 1:10)
  • “…your prayer has been heard…”
    • a double fulfillment contained in this statement – God is fully aware and responding to both the plight of Zechariah and Elizabeth as well as that of his people even though many – perhaps most – had lost all hope
  • John
    • “God is gracious”
  • John’s “job description”:
    • he will bring back the people of Israel to God making ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:16-17)
    • compare with the last words recorded by the prophet Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6)
  • Zechariah’s doubt / unbelief and self-description (Luke 1:18) in contrast to that of the angel (Luke 1:19-20)

Living as people of hope

  • First candle of the Advent wreath – the Prophets Candle representing hope
    • even when silent and unseen God is not absent and his plan and purpose will be fulfilled
  • Communion
    • renewing our hope and anticipation of the coming of Jesus and the establishment of his kingdom
    • lives marked by joy and active engagement in bringing about the kingdom of God

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