The Chorus of The Virgin and the Barren: When Faithfulness and Favor Rejoice Before the Lord

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-nine through fifty-six of the first chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find a marked and noticeable transition taking place within this first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke. If you begin reading this first chapter you will notice that Luke chooses to begin his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ with the silence being broken by two distinct and two specific angelic messages delivered by the angel Gabriel. As you come to this first chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find that the beloved physician opens and begins with the angel Gabriel being dispatched from before the throne of God in heaven and sent unto the Temple of the living God which stood in the midst of Jerusalem. The opening verses of this chapter will find the angel Gabriel appearing unto Zacharias as he stood before the altar of incense in the temple to fulfill his priestly duties and responsibilities. As Zacharias stood before the altar of incense we find the angel Gabriel appearing unto him in secret and in private in order that He might deliver unto him the word of the Lord delivered and brought straight from the throne in heaven. While Zacharias was fulfilling his priestly duty before the Lord there in the temple the angel Gabriel appeared to him in order that He might not only deliver unto him the word of the Lord but also that he might reveal unto him that his prayers have been heard by the Lord and would in fact be answered. This concept of prayer and ministry is actually quite remarkable, for when we think about and consider that which was written concerning Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth—not only do we find them both walking in righteousness, but we also find them walking in obedience to all the commands of the Lord blameless. What’s more, is that concerning Zacharias you will find that in addition to his obedience and faithfulness before the Lord, he also continued in his faithfulness in prayer and ministry unto and before the Lord. It is absolutely wonderful and incredible to think about and consider the fact that it was true that Zacharias continued in his obedience and faithfulness before the Lord as it pertained to His commands, but in addition to this we also find him persisting in his obedience and faithfulness in ministry and prayer before the Lord.

What I do love and absolutely appreciate when reading this first chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Luke is the fact that when he sets forth to detail and describe the account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, he chooses to begin with a faithfulness before and faithfulness unto the Lord. It would be very easy to get caught up in the angelic visitation of Gabriel when he appeared unto Zacharias in the Temple of the Lord, however, I am convinced that to do so would be to miss and lose sight of that which should truly take center stage in this moment. If the main crux and the main thrust of this passage was simply about the visitation of Gabriel I am convinced that Luke wouldn’t have chosen to write and include commentary on the obedience and righteousness of Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth. There is not a doubt in my mind that what marks and what makes this particular event and occurrence so unique and so incredibly powerful is the undeniable and indisputable faithfulness of one man—not only faithfulness in obedience to all the commands of the Lord, but also faithfulness in ministry and faithfulness in prayer. One of the most noticeable realities that surrounds the life of Zacharias is the fact that while we don’t know his age, nor even how long he and his wife Elizabeth has been married, we find him continuing to be faithful in both prayer and ministry. When the angel Gabriel appeared unto him by the altar there in the temple we find the angel acknowledging that the Lord has indeed heard his prayers and was ready and prepared to answer those prayers. If we aren’t careful it would be very easy to over look that which is found in the word of the angel, however, I am convinced that to do so would be a terrible tragedy and mistake. I am convinced that when we choose to begin reading concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, it is absolutely necessary to consider the fact that even during a period of silence from heaven—even during a period when there was no open vision, nor any prophetic word being released from heaven—Zacharias continued to remain faithful in his prayers before and unto the Lord. Despite the fact that Zacharias and his wife were living during a period of intense silence from heaven, they chose to remain faithful in their obedience before and unto the Lord as it pertained and touched the commands of the Lord.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but feel compelled to pause for a moment and bring us to face with the presence of faithfulness in obedience before the Lord during a period of silence, but also faithfulness in ministry before and unto the Lord during a period of silence. What’s more is that I can’t help but bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible JR reality of faithfulness in prayer before and unto the Lord during an intense period of silence. I find it absolutely wonderful, remarkable and incredible to think about and consider the fact that even in the midst of the silence—even in the midst of no open vision or revelation from the Lord—Zecharias continued to remain faithful in ministry, faithful in prayer, and faithful in obedience to all the commands of the Lord. Pause for a moment and consider this reality, for it is something that is absolutely tremendous, and something that is absolutely remarkable when you take the time to truly think about and consider it. It says something about Zecharias to be a man who chose to continue to remain faithful in obedience unto all the commands of the Lord during a period of intense silence in the earth—a period when there was no open vision and no open revelation from the Lord within the earth. The last and final word from the Lord was delivered through and by the prophet Malachi, and would be the final word from heaven before a four-hundred year period of silence would ensue within and upon the earth. During those days there surely was a famine of the word of the Lord which the Lord prophesied through His servant Amos. Consider if you will the following words which were written, recorded and prophesied by Amos according to the word of the Lord unto the children of Israel:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

There is not a doubt in my mind that the words which we find in this passage of Scripture are a tremendous and wonderful picture of the time period in which Zecharias and his wife Elizabeth were born into, grew up, and even lived their adult lives within. I am completely and absolutely convinced that the words which we find in this passage of Scripture are quite astounding and quite remarkable, for they bring us face to face with the period of time in which there was no open vision from the Lord, nor was there any open revelation from the living God of heaven who sits upon the throne. There truly was a famine of hearing the words of the Lord as men and women might have wondered if the living God had forsaken and abandoned them. The more I think about and the more I consider the days in which the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zecharias in the midst of, the more I am convinced that his word which was brought from and delivered from the throne of God in heaven was absolutely wonderful, for his message would break a period of silence that had covered and blanketed the earth for four hundred years. After four hundred years of silence—after four hundred years when there was no open vision, nor any open revelation from the Lord—the angel Gabriel would be tasked with the responsibility of appearing unto Zecharias in the temple of the Lord as he stood before the altar to offer incense unto the Lord according to his Lot and as was his custom. I am absolutely amazed at the awesome and tremendous fact that when the beloved physician Luke begins the story and account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, he does so by highlighting—not only and not merely the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Zecharias, but also by highlighting the faithfulness of Zecharias during an intense period of silence. What’s more, is that not only do we find the faithfulness of Zecharias highlighted during a period of silence, but we also find his faithfulness highlighted in the midst of barrenness. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and wonderful fact, for not only do we find the faithfulness of Zecharias being highlighted and demonstrated during an intense period of silence, but we also find his faithfulness highlighted during a period of barrenness. The beloved physician makes no mistake about the life of Zecharias, and is sure to highlight his faithfulness before the Lord in the midst of barrenness in the life of him and his wife Elizabeth. FAITHFULNESS IN THE MIDST OF THE SILENCE! FAITHFULNESS IN THE MIDST OF THE BARRENNESS! I am wonderfully and powerfully convinced that we must recognize and understand this particular concept, for by failing to do so, we miss out and lose sight of that which was truly highlighted during this particular period of time. It would be during this period of time where the faithfulness of Zecharias would be highlighted—not only faithfulness in ministry, but also faithfulness in prayer, and faithfulness in obedience before and unto the Lord. I am thoroughly convinced that it is absolutely necessary to highlight the faithfulness of Zecharias during this time, for not only was Zecharias faithful in prayer, faithful in ministry, and faithful in obedience to the Lord in the midst of intense silence which covered and blanketed the earth, but he was also faithful before the Lord in the midst of barrenness which was upon the life of his wife Elizabeth. Consider if you will that which is written concerning Zecharias and his wife Elizabeth during at at this particular time:

“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zecharias, of the course of Albania: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of His I course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the al tar of incense. And when Zecharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak. Unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zecharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:5-25).

The words which we find and the words which we read in this particular portion of Scripture are quite astonishing and quite remarkable, for the words which are contained therein highlight the tremendous faithfulness of Zecharias—not only faithfulness in obedience to the ordinances and commandments of the Lord, but also faithfulness in prayer and ministry before the Lord. The simple fact that the angel Gabriel declared unto Zecharias that his prayer had been heard strongly suggests the fact that even in spite of the silence, and even in spite of the barrenness that had gripped and laid hold of his wife Elizabeth’s womb, he continued to pray before and pray unto the living God. Despite the fact that Zecharias knew that his wife was barren in her womb, he continued to pray before and pray unto the living God. What’s more, is that I would even dare say that while Zecharias stood before the Lord in His holy temple to fulfill and complete his ministration of incense, Zecharias continued to offer up prayers before and unto the Lord concerning his wife. There is not a doubt in my mind that when I read this passage of Scripture there is every indication that not only did Zecharias continue to pray before and pray unto the Lord during and throughout this period of barrenness and silence, but Zecharias prayed before and prayed unto the living God while he engaged himself in the ministry of incense before the altar of incense in the temple. Oh it is an absolutely remarkable and wonderful thing to think about and consider the fact that during a period of silence and during a period of barrenness Zecharias continued to remain faithful to the Lord—not only in obedience to His commands and ordinances, but also in ministry and prayer. What’s more, is that what the beloved physician Luke writes and records concerning Zecharias and his wife Elizabeth conceiving and bringing forth a child is that ZEcharias continued to remain faithful to his wife in intimacy. Despite the fact that Scripture records that they were both advanced and stricken in years, and despite the fact that Elizabeth had been barren for so long a period of time, Zecharias continued to remain faithful to his wife—not only in prayer which was demonstrated by the response of Gabriel in the temple of the Lord, but also in the fact that there is every indication that after the days of his ministration was complete, Zecharias and Elizabeth returned unto their home and they once more engaged themselves in the covenant and consecration of marriage. Despite the fact that Elizabeth was barren and unable to bear any children—that didn’t stop Zecharias from continuing to pray before and pray unto the living God that she might bear and bring forth a child, and even remaining faithful unto her in intimacy. Oh that we would truly come to terms and that we would truly understand what is found in this passage of Scripture, for it brings us face to face with the wonderful reality of faithfulness before and faithfulness unto the living God—even in the midst of silence, even in the midst of barrenness, and even in the midst of unanswered prayers.

I have to admit that I absolutely love that which is written and recorded concerning this particular passage of Scripture, for not only do we find the angel Gabriel appearing unto one who was barren, but we also find the angel Gabriel appearing unto one who was a virgin. The angel Gabriel appeared unto one who had intimacy yet could not bear and bring forth a child, and the same angel appeared unto one who had not had intimacy and would ultimately bear and bring forth a child. At this period of time—not only would one who was barren conceive and bring forth a child, but also one who was a virgin would conceive and bring forth a child. Oh that we would truly get and understand this, for when the living God sought to break a period of silence that had lasted four hundred years—not only did he dispatch the angel Gabriel unto a virgin and unto the barren, but the living God also caused that which was barren and that which was virgin to conceive and bring forth that which would fulfill the plans and purposes of the living God within the earth. The living God would cause that which was barren to conceive and bring forth a child, as well as that which was virgin to conceive and bring forth a child in order that His plans and His purposes might be fulfilled and completed within the earth. In the case of the barren womb we find faithfulness highlighted by the angel Gabriel, while in the case of the virgin we find favor highlighted by the angel Gabriel. Consider if you will the contrast between the word the angel Gabriel delivered unto Zecharias in the temple, and the word which the angel Gabriel delivered unto Mary in the town of Nazareth when he appeared unto her:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I. Know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26-38).

WHEN IMPOSSIBILITY UNITES FAITHFULNESS AND FAVOR! For all intense and purposes neither the barren, nor the virgin should have conceived and brought forth a child. When you read this particular passage of Scripture there is theme that unites both Mary and Elizabeth—that of that which is impossible with man. In this passage of Scripture we find the barren being visited by the angel Gabriel and promised that it would conceive and bring forth a child, while we also find the virgin being visited by the angel Gabriel and being promised that she too would conceive and bring forth a son. We must recognize and understand this, for when it comes to the barren we find the faithfulness of Zecharias in prayer, in ministry and in obedience to the commands of the Lord highlighted by the beloved physician Luke, while in the case of Mary we find the favor of the Lord being highlighted. When the angel Gabriel appeared unto Mary in the town of Nazareth we find him not only speaking unto her and declaring her to be blessed, but we also find him declaring unto her that she was highly favored of the Lord. This is actually quite remarkable and quite astonishing when you think about it, for when you consider this passage as a whole you will find the faithfulness of man and the favor of God meeting in order that the plans and purposes of the living God might be manifested and brought forth in the earth. The beloved physician Luke highlights the faithfulness of Zecharias in prayer, in ministry and in obedience highlighted, and almost as the catalyst that thrust and dispatched the angel Gabriel from before the throne of God in heaven unto the city of Jerusalem and unto the temple which stood in the midst therein. What’s more, is that when the angel Gabriel appeared unto Mary, it was not faithfulness that was highlighted, nor was it prayers that were highlighted [Mary was certainly not praying for a child], but rather it was the favor of the living God upon her life that caused her to conceive and bring forth a child. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read this passage of Scripture we must come face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality of the faithfulness of man before the living God, as well as the favor of God upon man that causes that which seems impossible to become possible within the earth. There is within this passage of Scripture a wonderful and powerful call—not only to a life that is faithful before the living God in prayer, in ministry, and in obedience to the commandments of the Lord, but also to a life that is spent walking in the favor of the Lord. There is every indication that Mary neither expected nor anticipated this visitation from the angel Gabriel, and yet the angel Gabriel came and appeared unto her with a message of favor from the very throne of God in heaven. Oh that we would get and understand this, for it brings us face to face with that which takes the impossible and makes it possible—namely, the faithfulness of man before the living God, and the favor of God upon man. I am completely and utterly convinced that it is the faithfulness we engage ourselves in, as well as the favor of the living God that causes that which is impossible with men, and that which seems to be impossible in the hearts of men to become possible with God in the earth.

I absolutely love that when you come to the thirty-ninth verse of this chapter you find Mary arising with haste and making a journey into the hill country of Juda in order that she might come unto the house of Zecharias and Elizabeth. Scripture records how Mary would spend three months with Zecharias and Elizabeth there in the hill country of Juda, and undoubtedly would have been present to see and witness the transformation of Elizabeth’s physical body, and to witness the growth of that which was present within her womb. What’s more, is that it’s almost as if the Lord allowed the virgin and the barren to conceive together—not only to highlight faithless and favor, but also to demonstrate the support and relationship that exists between these two realities. At one point both the virgin and the barren were under the same roof there in the hill country of Juda, as Elizabeth who was with child would be present under the roof, and Mary who was going to be with child would be under the roof. What’s more is that when you read the words which are contained within this passage of Scripture you will find that when Mary entered into the house of Zecharias and Elizabeth—not only did the babe leap within the womb of Elizabeth, but so also was Elizabeth filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak forth praises before and unto the living God. What I so love about the words which Elizabeth declared and proclaimed was that she would emphatically declared and proclaim unto Mary, saying, “blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Please pay close and careful attention to that which Elizabeth spoke unto Mary, for Elizabeth not only spoke of being blessed of the Lord for believing the word which was spoken unto her, but Elizabeth also emphatically declared and prophesied that there would be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. Elizabeth not only highlighted the belief within Mary’s heart concerning that which the Lord had spoken unto her, but Elizabeth also highlighted the tremendous fact that there would be a performance and a fulfillment of that which the Lord spoke unto her through the angel Gabriel. Undoubtedly Mary told Elizabeth all the Lord had spoken unto her, and Zecharias told Mary all that the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him as he stood before the altar of incense in the Temple of the Lord and performed his offering of incense. There in the same house the barren and the virgin would rejoice together, as the living God would cause both to conceive in order that his plans and purposes might be brought forth and fulfilled in the earth. It would be there in the hill country of Juda that the barren and the virgin would rejoice in the Lord of hosts, and celebrate a God who could take the impossible and make it possible. It would be there in the hill country of Juda that the barren and the virgin would celebrate the faithfulness of the living God toward them—both as a response to faithfulness, as well as a response to the favor of the Lord. It would be there in the hill country of Juda where the barren and the virgin would rejoice together, and where the faithfulness of man and the favor of God would meet and engage in a beautiful harmony and chorus of praise and honor before and unto the living God.

There in the hill country of Juda the faithfulness of man and the favor of God would meet and engage in a wonderful and beautiful harmony before the Lord as they would both celebrate a God who would and who could take the impossible and make it possible in the earth. It would be there in the hill country of Juda where the virgin and the barren would celebrate the coming of the messenger of the Lord, as well as the Messiah of the Lord within and upon the earth. It would be there in the hill country of Juda that these two would engage themselves in a symphony and chorus of praise and honor before the living God as they celebrated His wonderful deeds and miraculous power. Oh that we would truly appreciate and embrace that which is found within this passage—especially within the words which are found in the song which Mary sang before the Lord—for there was a strong and powerful celebration of the power and might of the living God who would do among and do unto men great things, and would shew strength with His arm, would scatter the proud in the indignation of their hearts, and who would put down the mighty from their seats. I can’t help but find within this passage of Scripture a wonderful and powerful picture of what should be taking places within our houses of worship in the earth in this generation, for there should be a mighty and powerful chorus and symphony of praise and honor before and unto the living God who causes that which is impossible with and before man to become possible in the earth. There should be a mighty chorus and symphony of praise and honor before the living God as men and women not only celebrate the favor of God, but also walk in and demonstrate their faithfulness before the Lord in prayer, in ministry, and in obedience to the commandments and ordinances of the living God. It is absolutely remarkable and wonderful to read this passage of Scripture and find a celebration of a God who could not only cause the barren to conceive, but who could also cause the virgin to conceive and both to bring forth seed in the earth. Oh that we would read the words of Mary’s song and that we would truly celebrate in the power, the might and strength of the living God who could take those of low estate and elevate and exalt them in the earth to fulfill and accomplish His plans and purposes within the earth. Oh that our own souls would magnify the Lord, and that our spirits would rejoice in God our Savior as Mary herself expressed and exclaimed in the hill country of Juda when the faithfulness of man and the favor of God met and engage in a wonderful and beautiful harmony of praise and honor before and unto the living God.

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