JOY – for Zechariah and Elizabeth

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we approach Christmas this month, we will look for those who found JOY.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, like Abraham and Sarah, had reached old age without a child. Why think of them at Christmas? Their story sets the stage in Luke’s gospel.

Zechariah was born of the the priestly line, so twice a year Zechariah and other priests in his division took a turn to spend one week in Jerusalem. They did jobs in and around the Temple, cleaning the brass bowls and gold cups, etc. One of their group would be chosen by lot to enter the holy place.

On this occasion, Zechariah was chosen for this distinct honor to supply the incense before the morning sacrifices and after the evening sacrifices.

When he walked into the holy place for his special duty,

. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:11-15a 

The angel also said that this son was to take special Nazarite vows and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. He will bring many people back to the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah! Wow. Surely this made Zechariah rejoice with gladness. But, with doubt, he asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

The angel let Zechariah know right away who he was talking to.

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to tell you the 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.” Luke 1:19-20

The people outside were wondering why Zechariah was in the holy place so long. When he came out, he gestured trying to tell them what had happened. They realized he had seen a vision. 

We aren’t told Elizabeth’s immediate reaction, but we can imagine her great JOY after all these years of wanting a child. Obviously something miraculous had taken place. 

After she gave birth, the people assumed they would name the baby after his father. “No!” she said. “His name will be John.” The people questioned Zechariah. He wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”

With that declaration, that obedience, he immediately was able to speak and he praised God. His JOY burst forth into a song, the words recorded in Luke 2:67-79.   

 When John grew to become a man, he was known as John the Baptist because he preached repentance and baptized many. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.

~ Joyce ~ 

Joshua – Crossing the River

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The time has come. The people watch in reverence and silence as the priests step in unison carrying the ark of the covenant. It is the sign! They wait patiently as it passes through the camp. They know when it reaches the front, they will wait until the ark is a certain distance beyond them, and then the movement will begin, tribe by tribe.

Usually, the Jordan River is not particularly deep, but the spring rains and the melting snow from Mount Hermon have caused the river to be at flood stage. As they walk closer to the river, those toward the front begin to see the rushing water. The younger ones have never seen this much water. Imagine the fear in their hearts.

        

Think about the priests. They guardedly carry the ark, being careful not to stumble. A pole runs through two rings on each side of the ark. The four men each grasp the poles at the ends. The ark itself is not to be touched. If the ark falls toward one man, touching him, the man will die.

Imagine their fear as they approach the surging river. They have been instructed that,

… as soon as the priests set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. Joshua 3:13

Wow, sounds like the Red Sea miracle. Evidently God decided the younger ones needed the same assurance of His presence and power.

But just think about these priests. The miracle doesn’t happen until the first two put their feet in the water, all the while balancing the ark! We are talking about faith and steadiness of hand, not to mention trusting the Lord to support and guide. Makes my hands sweat just thinking about it.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves carrying a load, trying to balance it with other things going on. At times we have to manage the load with other people. It calls for steadfast faith. It may even call for trust beyond our knowing. Can you trust God with it?

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17

The priests made it! Let’s watch the people as they pass through. There is the grandfather who, just last night, taught his family about the time when he walked through the Red Sea. With tears of joy, he touches his heart with one hand and raises the other in praise to God.

       

Over there is the father who is suddenly a child again gawking at the wall of water—just like he remembered it so long ago.

And here is the child, his face filled with wonder as he realizes those stories he heard over and over were really true. His eyes dart from water to dry land to the ark that represents the God of miracles!

~ Joyce ~