God’s Promise To Zechariah

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Luke 1:5-25

In the movie Mary Poppins, the two children, Jane and Michael Banks, jumped into bed after their incredible first day with the amazing Mary Poppins. Jane asked, “Mary Poppins, you won’t ever leave us, will you?” Michael, full of excitement, looked at his new nanny and added, “Will you stay if we promise to be good?” Mary looked at the two and as she tucked them in replied, “Look, that’s a pie-crust promise. Easily made, easily broken!”

Personal and corporate honesty often pays off in dramatic ways. Donald Douglas, for example, built a reputation for his aircraft company and worked to preserve it. There was the time Douglas was competing with Boeing to sell Eastern Air Lines its first big jets. Eddie Rickenbacker, who headed Eastern, is said to have told Douglas that his specifications and claims for the DC-8 were close to his competition on everything but noise suppression. He then gave Douglas one last chance to out-promise Boeing on this feature. After consulting his engineers, Douglas reported back that he did not feel he could make that promise. Rickenbacker replied, “I know you can’t. I wanted to see if you were still honest. You just got yourself an order for $135,000,000. Now go home and silence those jets!”

A promise is a solemn assertion, by which one pledges his veracity that he will perform, or cause to be performed, that which he mentions. The Hebrews were called the “children of the promise”, as all true believers in Christ are called. These “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” There are four classes of promises mentioned in Scripture: Those relating to the Messiah; Those relating to the church; Those relating to the Gentiles; Those relating to Israel as a nation.

Promises, not concrete successes, are the basis of Christian leadership. True worship always involves an element of mystery. God reveals Himself but rarely explains Himself. Christians do not live on explanations but on promises, and on deepening relationships. God deliberately keeps some things secret to keep us humble and trusting Him.

Jesus went to Jerusalem one Passover holiday and met a man who had waited thirty-eight years at the Bethesda pool for a healing. Tradition had it that every so often an angel of the Lord would stir the waters and whoever stepped in first would be cured. For thirty-eight years, this man had reached out for a healing only to be muscled aside by someone bigger and faster. Some folks say this man didn’t want to be healed, or else he would have pushed other folks aside and hustled into that pool himself. I say true patience is so scarce, we’re apt to confuse it with apathy. There’s a load of difference between the two. Apathy curls up into self-pity when times get hard. Patience quietly waits its turn, trusting that God will get around to making things right in his perfect time.

No one is greater then his/her word. “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes,’ and your `No,’ `No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33)

A promise is a promise! Steve McQueen was a top billed actor who lead a life as tough as the ones he portrayed on the screen. Success filled his life until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty. In his despair he attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a profession of faith and requested an opportunity to speak with Billy Graham. A connecting flight in Los Angeles allowed Dr. Graham to spend a couple of hours with Mr. McQueen in the actor’s limousine. The great evangelist shared numerous scriptures in his quest to give spiritual hope and confidence. Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. In Titus 1:2, Steve McQueen found his hope -“the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.” He requested something to write down the verse but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternal life with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the hope of God’s eternal promise.

God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night, the brighter they shine. The large tractor-trailer trucks that travel the highways of the nation are subject to a load limit. This means that there is a limit as to how much weight each truck is allowed to carry. There is a good reason for establishing such limits. If the trucks were allowed to exceed their weight limit, the roads would eventually fall apart, because each road is designed to support vehicles only up to a certain weight. Likewise, God knows how much we can bear when he allows us to be tested. He has assigned a definite “load limit” to each of us and never exceeds it.

As children, lost in a woods, are fearful of the sinister darkness — and then, suddenly, hearing a sound from the blackness, a familiar voice. It is the father calling us out of the world’s darkness. He calls us, seeks us, wants to bring us to Himself.

Thankfully, the star of Bethlehem isn’t an empty star, and I pray, that after claiming that star our hearts won’t be found empty when someone who is spiritually hungry comes calling. The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

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