Our Sufferings & God’s Concern (Tidings of Great Joy series #1)
Jason White



Does God really care about the suffering of His children? Luke’s Gospel account of Jesus doesn’t start off like most biographies. Instead of beginning with the birth of Jesus, Luke tells us about another baby… promised to an elderly priest and His barren wife. In this passage, we see how God cared for the suffering of individuals while also preparing for the salvation of the world!






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You guys may be seated. And as you're doing so tell somebody next to you. Merry Christmas. I know I know you're like wait a minute. That's a little quick here right? I mean we're did is just Thanksgiving weekend but no Thanksgiving is officially behind us now. So all you people who say you officially can't wait to put your tree and your lights up. We're past that moment. Okay. We don't abide by that rule in my family. Natalie starts really early. So our house has been decorated for a little while now. And it's awesome. I love it. I love getting up early in the morning with coffee and didn't go to read my Bible and pray and have the Christmas tree lights on and the mood there just sets the tone for the rest of the day. It's it's awesome. I spent all day Saturday after the after the rain will after the initial downpour that morning and got teased a little bit that the rain was done because the sun came out. And I started to put all of my Christmas lights up and then like more kept coming in waves every now and then. But I did not let that deter me. All right, I finished hanging up. I almost fell off the roof had a total gridwall experience. I might not have been here this morning. But I survived. Right. I told Natalie last year I got up on one small section of the roof that I would never do that again. But I convinced myself this year that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was last year. And I could do it. And as soon as I got up there, I remembered why I had told myself I would never do that again. Because I literally almost fell right back off the thing. But praise God, I didn't anyway, all that to just say, I'm excited about Christmas, I hope that you are to this place will get transformed. Beginning tomorrow and this week we'll be decorating for Christmas, it'll look completely different. When you show back up here and we are starting a new Christmas series today. That's all on the book of Luke how Dr. Luke explained the birth of Jesus and introduces us to him. So we're gonna be going verse by verse through Luke chapter one and two over the next several weeks. So thanks for being here today. Thanks for joining us online today. And I hope and pray that you'll be here over the next several Sundays as we continue to dive into His Word together. Today, we're going to look at the first several verses in chapter one starting in verse one. So if you have your Bible or a device with a Bible app on it, you want to pull it out and follow along that way. We'll be starting in Luke chapter one, verse one in just a moment. So most of you know this already, but this summer, Natalie went in for what was supposed to be a fairly routine surgery, and ended up being anything but that we were told initially that this was no big deal that she should expect maybe a three or four day recovery, and that she'd pretty much be back to normal after that time. And so that's the mindset that of course, we went into the surgery, but we when she came out of surgery, like I said it was anything but that she was in a tremendous amount of pain in all honesty I've never seen in 20 years of marriage, Natalie just bury her face into a pillow and cry and wail because she was in pain. But that's where she was at. She was just into that much discomfort and that much pain and it was hard to watch. I know it was hard for her to experience. It was brutal. It was It was awful. We ended up back in the hospital three or four days later, we stayed there for another three days only for them to not really be able to be able to figure out what was even causing the pain and they just sent us home and she was still in pain and it was hard and there was discomfort and there were no real answers. And this just went on for weeks, week after week after week. She had signed up to the teaching here at Kings Academy. She taught last year and had planned on going back and felt like it was her duty to go back and so she attempted that and tried to go back to teaching but that was so hard because she was still in a lot of pain. This was even six to eight weeks after the surgery but she was trying to get through it in hopes that it was going to subside and it was just going to go away and she was doing everything that she could just to get through the day and make it go well for the kids. She rigged up Some little heating pad that she tied to her to give her some relief. But every time I would go by and walk past her room and check on her, I could tell by the look on her face that she was in discomfort. There were administrators who were saying that kids were worried about her and noticing the look on her face, and that it brought her to tears because she was in so much pain and dealing with so much stress. And I remember watching her go through all of this. And I remember just having so many questions, I remember just thinking, God, where are you in all of this? Like, why God, why would you allow this to happen to her? They What did she ever do to deserve that? Right? And, and this isn't the first time she's had a number of different experiences, unfortunately, where she's had to walk through some really hard things like that. And it just leaves you in a place where you start questioning and wondering, how did we end up here? And why? And where are you by the way, God in all of this pain in this suffering? You've been there. All of us have been there, we all suffer. We all experience these things. Some of you are there right now. More and more I talk to people, the more I hear from all of us that we have these discomforts, these challenges, these things we suffer with just the disappointments even in life, right? We were supposed to end up here by now in our life, and we haven't gotten wherever that is, whether it's married, or you are married, and now it's completely unraveled and you've been divorced, or you're on the verge of those things, and you're going how in the world did I did we end up here? Maybe it's health issues and similar things that you deal with with those things. Maybe it's something like infertility or just relational issues with family, career life goals, I mean, it maybe you've lost someone that you love, maybe that's the toughest thing that we have to go through and see sometimes is when somebody that we love and care for and we're doing life with passes away, and we no longer have them here. We got that phone call from Natalie's dad's sister that she had passed away the day after Thanksgiving. I mean, we're with family, we're hanging out, we're celebrating and you get the phone call that somebody that you love, and you grew up with, is no longer here. I mean, that's not an easy phone call to take. None of us want to hear that news, and especially on the holidays. And, and that's the other thing about the holidays, and Thanksgiving and Christmas. I mean, these are great, and they're festive. And we get up for them. And there's a lot of us that that really enjoy those things. But there's something about them that amplify the challenges and the struggles and the hardships even more we feel the loss of someone in our lives even more. During this time. We feel the disappointments in our lives even more. During this time, we begin to question God, where are you? How did I end up here? And why did you let me end up here? This is the reality of our lives in the world that I mean, really each one of us live in from time to time. And unfortunately, some of you may be right now. You know, the good news is that we're not alone. In our struggle, Scripture doesn't even shy away from the fact of telling us about people's struggles and disappointments throughout history. And as we begin to dive into this Christmas message series, today, we're even going to be introduced to a couple of people who experienced these exact same kinds of disappointments and struggles and who, no doubt probably asked many of the same questions that you and I ask when we go through these things. Or maybe you're even asking right now in these moments. So look at what Luke says beginning here in his gospel, he he first starts off just telling us why he wrote the gospel in the first place. In verse one. He says many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those from who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too, decided to write an orderly account for you most excellent the awfulness, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Now, we don't really know exactly who this guy the awfulness is. There's some debate about that. There's a lot of scholars and those who write come commentaries who make educated guesses about who he was, but no one can really say with certainty exactly who Theopolis was, but we do know that Luke was writing to him for the purpose of him knowing the certainty he says, of the things that he had been taught. So apparently, if the awfulest do some things about Jesus, he had been taught some things about Jesus, most scholars even believed that he probably was a Christian that he had put his faith and trust in Jesus. But maybe, I mean, think about that with this particular time that Luke was writing in Jesus had been born, he had grown up for three years, he had done all of these miracles, He had taught all of these things gotten to all of this attention. He had gone to the cross, there was all this talk about him rising from the dead, and then ascending and going back to heaven. So people are talking, people have been talking, they're sharing their personal stories, or what they've heard, or what they've heard someone else, say to someone else to someone else that they finally heard, and maybe some of it was accurate, but a lot of it probably wasn't so accurate during that time. And so there were probably people like Theopolis, who heard things about Jesus heard the truth received him into their lives, but then people were going now you know who Jesus really is, don't you need to begin to doubt begin to wonder, I mean, that happens even in our own lives, some of us put our faith and trust in Jesus, and we're told who Jesus is. And then all of a sudden, we hear other people saying, well, this is who Jesus is, this is how he relates to you. And you go, Wait a minute, I don't even know if I know anymore and begin to doubt wrestle and struggle and ask questions. And Luke says, Hey, I'm writing this so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught, or here's b puts this in his Bible exposition commentary about what Luke has here. He says, The Life and message of Christ were so important that many books had already been written about him, but not everything in them could be trusted. Luke wrote his gospel so that his readers might have an accurate and orderly Narrative of the Life ministry and message of Jesus Christ. Luke had carefully researched his material, interviewed eyewitnesses, and listen to those who administered the word most important. He had the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And so Luke begins his gospel just telling us why he's writing it in the first place. And so he's gathered all of this material about the life of Jesus. He sits down to write to tell us about Jesus. And he starts by not telling us about Jesus. He actually tells us about a married couple of names Zechariah. And Elizabeth, look what he says in verse five. In the time of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zachariah who belonged to the priestly division of abajo. His wife, Elizabeth, was also a descendant of Aaron. So he introduces Zechariah. And Elizabeth to us right off the bat. And he tells us a few things about Zachariah and Elizabeth, right that Zachariah belong the priestly division of Elijah, that this meant that Zachariah would have been a part of the priest from the Division of Elijah, and that he was going to serve in the temple during the major Jewish festivals, and a couple of times, a couple of weeks, a year, he would carry out kind of the daily rituals and sacrifices and participate in all that God had called him to do within the temple there. In other words, this was a high honor. I mean, this is someone, it would have been a high honor for him. But it was also someone through the eyes of in particularly the Jewish nation, would have been seen as someone that was respected just because of his lineage just because of who he was. And what it is that he got to do the same thing about, you know, Elizabeth, even just the fact of mentioning is she was a descendant of Aaron meant that she was from a family of priests. And so when he introduces them to us, you and I, 2000 years later may go that's really doesn't mean anything to me, but to them, and then real general audience that are going oh, well, that right there is a pretty respected couple, just based on their lineage there. And and then Luke gives us even more information about them. In verse six, he says both of them, both Elizabeth and Zechariah, were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly. Now, that doesn't mean that Zachariah and Elizabeth were sinless. What it does mean is that they were good, moral people who were trying to be faithful to God who were diligently doing their duties before the Lord. And so when you put both of those things together again, is Luke introduces us to Zachariah and Elizabeth, we see they're respected by other people around them, because of the lineage that they have. And because of how they've lived, they've tried to live righteously and faithfully to guide but look what Luke says about them, even though they're respected people. And even though they have been faithful to what the Lord has called them to, he says in verse seven, but they were childless, because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. There's old and then there's very old. In other words, this isn't happening for Are them is what he's trying to say. Now is tough is this can be for those who are struggling with infertility. And believe me, it's tough. It's really tough. In this culture, he was even way more tough, way more difficult because I mean, listen, there were two different levels on on a practical level, children were just needed for the family, all the work that had to be done in a family, children were needed to be able to get all the work that just had to be done in this particular day and age, that children were needed because parents got old, and, as according looked very old, and they needed kids to take care of them during that time. But even above and beyond just the practical side of things, it was such a big deal to them, because it was seen in this culture, as divine punishment, that it wasn't one of those things where God is just kind of absent. It's like God is actually punishing you for something that you've done. And that's the reason that you aren't having children. Try living with that. Try waking up every single morning going, God, I still don't know what it is that I've done to deserve this punishment. What is it that we've done? Have we done something reveal it so that we can repent so that we can turn and we can finally have kids? Can you imagine living with the weight and the guilt and the shame that was put on them by themselves and the rest of those in their community? And especially when Luke pointed out that they were even righteous in observe the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly talk about someone ever wanting to ask the question, where are you God? Like, how did we of all people end up here? Same kind of thing we were talking about earlier, it had to be true of Zachariah, and Elizabeth. Luke goes on. He says in verse a once when Zacharias division was on duty, he was serving as a priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Now, this would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for Zachariah. I mean, there were around 18,000 ish priest in the Israelite nation who served at the temple. And this meant that Zachariah was the one guy out of the 18,000 that were serving, they got to go into the holy place of the temple and offer these sacrifices. This was a big deal. This was a high honor, most of the 18,000 priests never got to do this in their lifetime. So to get chosen and be the one that gets to serve in this way, was an extremely high honor. What would have happened is that Zachariah would have gone into the temple, he would have entered into the holy place which is next to the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God and and he would have burned the special spices and this, this aroma from the spices would have symbolized the prayers of the people of God rising to God him self. And while the incense was burning, Zachariah would have fallen on his knees and began to pray. Luke points out that there were worshipers and people outside who were already praying while he was offering these sacrifices. And it it makes you wonder, what were they praying for? They're going through these things, Luke's careful to mention that the people are outside praying, Zacharias praying? Well, first, they would have been praying for God to just receive their offering that they were giving him in the moment. But the other thing is that they would have been praying for the redemption of Israel, because listen, this was a time when the entire Israelite nation was asking as a whole God, where are you? How did we end up here? The reason being the thing about this specific time that Luke is writing about is that God had been relatively silent for about 400 years. If you read through the Old Testament, you see that God had shown up he had rescued them from captivity brought them out of captivity, but then after the Prophet Malikai it seemed like God just vanished. 400 years go by and they're waiting. The Greeks have taken over the Romans have taken over them. They're living under their rule and their reign their oppression. Where are you, God? Were your chosen people. How could you let these people Keep coming in and taking over us. How did we end up here? whole nation is crying out asking these things so they would have been praying, God, redeem us show up as your people deliver us as your chosen people, your holy nation. So Zachariah is inside, he's burning incense. He's on his knees praying people are outside on their knees praying to receive the offering for him to show up and deliver them do something about the situation that we're in. what Luke says happens next, verse 11, then the angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zacharias saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zachariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. And you are to call him, John. What an incredible moment, right? I mean, to be one of the 18,000 priests to get to offer the sacrifices in the first place. Now honor of going in and the special feeling that he would have to just be able to participate that and then to have an angel show up and talk to you and scare the doodoo out of your ride. I mean, it always happens right when angels show up which it would probably any of us, grips him with fear. But he says, Hey, Zachariah, it's okay. It's understandably extendable, that you're scared, but but you don't have to worry. I bring good news. Right. He says your prayer has been answered. What prayer? What was it the prayers that he would have been offering for him to have a son all the prayers that him and Elizabeth had prayed over all the years for him to give them a son? Was it the prayers that he was offering for God to accept his offering for them to deliver for him to deliver Israel? What prayer was it? Well, certainly, because of what were told in the very next sentence, we know that it was the first I mean, the angel did specifically say that they would have a son. But perhaps there was more to it than just that. Perhaps what he's saying here isn't just that your prayer for a son has been answered. But maybe another prayer has been answered. And I think we'll begin to see that and see it a lot more clearly. As we go on. So let's keep plugging along. Verse 14, says he will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He has never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he is born. Now he wasn't told to never drink alcohol or wine, because there's something necessarily wrong with it because it's a sin to drink alcohol. It's not what the Bible communicates overindulgence of alcohol is what it communicates as being a sin. Nowhere in the Bible are we told not to drink alcohol, but not to the drink to the point where we are drunk and that it controls us. His point in saying this was that John was consecrated for the Lord, he had a he was born into this world for a special purpose. Now, we're not told exactly what that is here. But later on in chapter one, we will see that he was born to be a prophet, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit for God to speak through him to his people. And so this is what happened in that moment. And what he was told about the situation so far and who John would be, but he continues to go on until even more about this son that he was going to have and verse 16. Look what he says there, he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God, and He will go on before the Lord and the spirit in power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. John was being born to Zachariah and Elizabeth, to prepare people for the coming of the Lord, for the coming of Jesus Himself, the the eternal Son of God that was going to leave the glory and the riches of heaven and wrap himself squeeze himself if you will, into humanity into a human body be born into this world to deliver his people and redeem His people and rescue them. And listen, preparations had to be maid for his calming. And John was his chosen instrument to prepare his people for the sending of his son. And so one of the things that we begin to see is that it wasn't just the prayers of Zachariah that Zachariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a son. John was also an answer to a bigger prayer of the beginning of the redemption of the people of Israel, and really the entire world. Zachariah has some doubts. He's being told this angel of the Lord shows up. Probably doesn't happen every day. Probably take it to the bank that what he's telling you is true. But he has some doubts. Verse 18, Zachariah asked the angel, How can I be sure of this? Okay, Zachariah, there's an angel standing right there in front of you. But you know, how, how can I be sure that this is really going to happen here, right. So how can I be sure this, I'm an old man, he says, and my wife is well along in yours. Now, I do want to point out just rather quickly, especially to the men who are married in the room that he points out that he is an old man, but that his wife is just well along in yours. Just trying to help you out there. Apparently, we can get some good practical marriage advice, even in Luke's gospel hear of telling us about the birth of John the Baptist and his son. So your old cheese just well along in years, or better yet, just don't even touch that one. But seriously, have you ever tried to do what Zachariah is doing here? I mean, I have right you, you're you're asking the Lord for direction about some things. You're you're wanting him to speak into certain things in your life? Or what direction is that you're moving? And you begin to sense maybe he's talking to you, but then you ask for confirmation. Right now, will you give me a sign, I just want you to gut feel like you're telling me to go this way. And this, but I need a sign. I need some confirmation. I think we've all probably done that. And I, I get that again, if it's you and I right. Because we can confuse our voice with or the Lord's voice with our fleshly voice or what the world is saying to us that we should do or what someone else is telling us to do. But again, there's an angel standing right in front of him that had appeared and told him to I think that's pretty much the sign in and of itself. And that's really what the angel kind of goes on to say in verse 19. The angel said to him, Listen, I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God. And I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news, I am the sign right, verse 20, though, and now you will be silent and not be able to are not able to speak until the day this happens. Because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the appointed time. And so he got his sign. It just wasn't probably the sign that he was looking for, because now he was going to not be able to speak for about the next eight or nine months. And it wasn't just that he couldn't speak. We found out later in the chapter that he was deaf to I'm thinking Lord, you could have given me another sign rather than doing this. But this is the way it plays out. Luke goes on to verse 21. It says meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah. While all this was happening out there. They're waiting for Zachariah and wondering why he stayed in the temple so long. When he came out. He could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. Verse 23, 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. So God does show up, he follows through on his promise that He sent the Gabriel sent the angel Gabriel to tell him about and we even see here in verse 25, that Elizabeth does recognize this is something that he has done for her. Now, I think that's really important. I honestly think that's really striking. I think you should underline that. I think you should highlight that. And make note of that, so that you and I don't forget this. Why is this such a big deal? Because you know, and I know that God ultimately sent John the Baptist into this world to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ, his son. I mean, what God was up to and sending John the Baptist was preparing people for the greatest work If that would ever be accomplished in the history of the world, the God of the universe would show up and be born as a man, he would go to the cross, he would take all the sins of the entire world, he would pay for the entirety of all the sins that had ever been committed, that people were committing right then, and all the sins of the future, he would die for them, He would be raised from the dead, he would defeat the power of sin and death forever, and offer the free gift of salvation to anyone who would receive it by faith. I mean, this was the huge ultimate purpose of what God was up to, in sending John into the world to prepare people for His coming in. Yet Luke takes time to mention here in his Gospel, that this was also a work that God did at the same time, just for Elizabeth. Think about how striking that is, Luke has gathered all of this information, talk to all these eyewitnesses started ordering you how much time that probably took. And now he's trying to put it together in this account, to declare and tell people then and for all time, who Jesus really is, in his whole point and bring up John the Baptist was to talk about he was the precursor to what God was going to do to redeem the entire world. And Luke says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I would say, God says to Luke, be sure to include when you tell them about my Son, Jesus, you're telling them about John the Baptist, what I did for Elizabeth too. That means so much to me. I don't know what that does to you. But to know that the God of the universe, who was sending His Son and to rescue the entire world, was at the same time doing something for one of his kids. Just to be a blessing to her. She said, The Lord has done this for me. No, we didn't Elizabeth he, he did this to rescue the entire humanity, right to break through the darkness and redeem people from the darkness in the sin and, and the world that was broken here. And yet, she says he, he did it for me to remove my disgrace from among the people. And the Lord made sure that we knew about it. When you and I go through hurts when you go through disappointments, when you go through those times where you're going, where are you? How did I get here? They were in a place where God had been silent for 400 years. Elizabeth went her entire life. She was very old. We were told day in and day out with guilt and shame. Where are you? God? Where are you? God? Where are you? God? Where are you? God? Where are you God? Evidently he knew what he was doing. Evidently he was at work. She just hadn't seen it. God is at work in ways that you and I may not see. When we're walking through those times, where we're doubting God, where we're struggling, where we're wondering what it is that he is up to. It's a my hope and prayer as we continue to look at the Christmas story. We're pointing to this birth of Jesus that we won't miss that buried in the Christmas story about Jesus who was coming to redeem the world, is a story about how God also took care of a need of one of his own kids. And shows us that He is able to do things at a level where he is doing big, Eternal Kingdom minded things and moving the whole world along in some way according to His purposes, but at the same time able to see you and know you and what you're going through in his at work doing something even in the middle of your doubt your struggle and your disappointment and your pain. Know that today. Lean on him today as you walk through that or when you go into those times. And you're reminded about the Christmas story.