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.
The answer to Zacharias’ prayer did not come from Gabriel, it came via Gabriel. Gabriel did not answer his prayer. Gabriel was the messenger to deliver the answer.
The answer to his prayer, and to our prayers, come from God. His servants that inspire fear, are just that, servants. A meeting with the Secretary of Education is impressive, but not as impressive as the President of the United States. An angel is cool, but nothing compared to the One in Whose presence he stands.
God, thank You that we have direct access to You! Thank You that You do not call us servants any more, but friends! You have invited us to draw near to You! Help us to draw near.
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.
The angel Gabriel is quoting the prophet Malachi, from the very last verse of the Old Testament.
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
By the way, in Zacharias’ day this wasn’t just the Old Testament, this promise was the last words of God – and about 400 years old.
To modern readers, this is like reading the Mayflower Compact from 400 years ago (the guiding principles of the founders of our country). So much changes in 400 years. But the difference was not just one group of historically significant people contributed this document to our history – the Malachi prophecy was the words of Almighty God!
Zacharias wasn’t just having a baby boy – he was having the foretold messenger that was prophesied 400 years ago.
But that task that John the Baptist began is still not done.
$100,000,000,000. That’s One Hundred Billion Dollars. According to a government research study, that’s the cost of abstenee fathers. We need the hearts of the fathers turned to the children today. Let’s pray that God will continue His work and can use us in His ministry.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Zacharias was old and tired. “Well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7). And now afraid (Luke 1:12). He was scared to death. As if the angelic visit wasn’t enough, trying to raise a newborn boy at an old age?
And to top it off, he would be mute for nine months (Luke 1:20).
Was God punishing Him? No – Zacharias was righteous and blameless (Luke 1:6).
God was blessing Him with joy and gladness (Luke 1:14).
God wants to make you joyful!
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
How long do you think Zacharias had prayed for a son? If his wife was 20 at the time they were married, and now was “well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7) – they were now perhaps in their 60s or even older?
Imagine the young couple, newly married, the young priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth. Several months into their marriage, they are worried, and make an appointment to talk to the high priest. He asks them to check for sin in their life (Deuteronomy 7:12-14). They return home, confess their sins, and wait.
The next year, they make another appointment to talk to the high priest, and perhaps he told them to pray like Isaac did and make this a specific prayer request (Genesis 25:21).
Perhaps the third year they meet again with the high priest, and were told this time to pray like Daniel, for three weeks at a time, fasting even (Daniel 10:3), until the satanic messenger is defeated (Daniel 10:13).
Perhaps the next year they talked to the high priest, and were told to pray like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7), who year after year went to the temple barren, and “wept sore” (1 Samuel 1:10).
Perhaps the fifth year, the high priest suggests that they copy the pattern of Hannah, and make a vow to give their son to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11). A Nazarite vow.
Where was the God of Psalm 113:9? Did the promise of Deuteronomy 7:14 fail? They met the conditions – they were righteous in the sight of God (Luke 1:6).
The years turned into decades. The wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18) was now “well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7).
Perhaps they had been praying decades for the prayer request, only for Zacharias to give up because they thought it was impossible. He may have admitted that God’s ways were beyond his comprehension, and like Job he would accept his fate (Job 1:21).
He continued to serve God in the temple, faithfully in full-time service.
But after he had given up, when it seemed impossible, God answered His prayer.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Zacharias and Mary were both visited by an angel. Zacharias and Mary were both told to fear not. Zacharias and Mary were both told they would have a child. Zacharias thought he was too old. Mary didn’t have a husband. But when told of the LORD’s plan, they had different responses.
Zacharias had prayed for a son (Luke 1:13), but now didn’t believe when the angel told him (Luke 1:18).
Mary hadn’t prayed for a son at this time, but didn’t understand how it could happen (Luke 1:34).
The LORD is ok with you not understanding, but is not ok with your not believing.
“In July, 1853, it pleased the Lord to try my faith in a way in which before it had not been tried. My beloved daughter and only child, and a believer since the commencement of the year 1846, was taken ill on June 20th.
“This illness, at first a low fever, turned to typhus. On July 3rd there seemed no hope of her recovery. Now was the trial of faith. But faith triumphed. My beloved wife and I were enabled to give her up into the hands of the Lord. He sustained us both exceedingly. But I will only speak about myself. Though my only and beloved child was brought near the grave, yet was my soul in perfect peace, satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, being assured that He would only do that for her and her parents, which in the end would be the best. She continued very ill till about July 20th, when restoration began.
“On Aug. 18th she was so far restored that she could be removed to Clevedon for change of air, though exceedingly weak. It was then 59 days since she was first taken ill. * * * * * *
“Parents know what an only child, a beloved child is, and what to believing parents an only child, a believing child must be. Well, the Father in Heaven said, as it were, by this His dispensation, ‘Art thou willing to give up this child to me?’ My heart responded, As it seems good to Thee, my Heavenly Father. Thy will be done. But as our hearts were made willing to give back our beloved child to Him who had given her to us, so He was ready to leave her to us, and she lived. ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’ Psalm xxxvii. 4. The desires of my heart were, to retain the beloved daughter if it were the will of God; the means to retain her were to be satisfied with the will of the Lord.
“Of all the trials of faith that as yet I have had to pass through, this was the greatest; and by God’s abundant mercy, I own it to His praise, I was enabled to delight myself in the will of God; for I felt perfectly sure, that, if the Lord took this beloved daughter, it would be best for her parents, best for herself, and more for the glory of God than if she lived: this better part I was satisfied with; and thus my heart had peace, perfect peace, and I had not a moment’s anxiety. Thus would it be under all circumstances, however painful, were the believer exercising faith.”
“Let me here add a word of Christian counsel. To enter upon the marriage union is one of the most deeply important events of life. It cannot be too prayerfully treated. Our happiness, our usefulness, our living for God or for ourselves afterwards, are often most intimately connected with our choice. Therefore, in the most prayerful manner, this choice should be made.
Neither beauty, nor age, nor money, nor mental powers, should be that which prompt the decision; but 1st, Much waiting upon God for guidance should be used; 2nd, A hearty purpose, to be willing to be guided by Him should be aimed after; 3rd, True godliness without a shadow of doubt, should be the first and absolutely needful qualification, to a Christian, with regard to a companion for life.
In addition to this, however, it ought to be, at the same time, calmly and patiently weighed, whether, in other respects, there is a suitableness. For instance, for an educated man to choose an entirely uneducated woman, is unwise; for however much on his part love might be willing to cover the defect, it will work very unhappily with regard to the children.”
“In November, 1856, a young Irishman, Mr. James McQuilkin, was brought to the knowledge of the Lord. Soon after his conversion he saw my Narrative advertised, viz.: the first two volumes of this book. He had a great desire to read it, and procured it accordingly, about January, 1857.
God blessed it greatly to his soul, especially in showing to him, what could be obtained by prayer. He said to himself something like this: ‘See what Mr. Müller obtains simply by prayer. Thus I may obtain blessing by prayer.’
He now set himself to pray, that the Lord would give him a spiritual companion, one who knew the Lord. Soon after he became acquainted with a young man who was a believer. These two began a prayer-meeting in one of the Sunday Schools in the parish of Connor. Having his prayer answered in obtaining a spiritual companion, Mr. James McQuilkin asked the Lord to lead him to become acquainted with some more of His hidden ones. Soon after the Lord gave him two more young men, who were believers previously, as far as he could judge.
In Autumn, 1857, Mr. James McQuilkin stated to these three young men, given him in answer to believing prayer, what blessing he had derived from my Narrative, how it had led him to see the power of believing prayer; and he proposed that they should meet for prayer to seek the Lord’s blessing upon their various labours in the Sunday Schools, prayer-meetings, and preaching of the Gospel. Accordingly in Autumn, 1857, these four young men met together for prayer in a small school-house near the village of Kells, in the parish of Connor, every Friday evening.
By this time the great and mighty working of the Spirit, in 1857, in the United States, had become known, and Mr. James McQuilkin said to himself, ‘Why may not we have such a blessed work here, seeing that God did such great things for Mr. Müller, simply in answer to prayer.’ On January 1, 1858, the Lord gave them the first remarkable answer to prayer in the conversion of a farm servant. He was taken into the number, and thus there were five who gave themselves to prayer. Shortly after, another young man, about 20 years old, was converted; there were now six.
This greatly encouraged the other three who first had met with Mr. James McQuilkin. Others now were converted, who were also taken into the number; but only believers were admitted to these fellowship meetings, in which they read, prayed, and offered to each other a few thoughts from the Scriptures. These meetings and others for the preaching of the Gospel were held in the parish of Connor, Antrim, Ireland. Up to this time all was going on most quietly, though many souls were converted, There were no physical prostrations, as afterwards.
“About Christmas, 1858, a young man, from Ahoghill, who had come to live at Connor, and who had been converted through this little company of believers, went to see his friends at Ahoghill, and spoke to them about their own souls, and the work of God at Connor. His friends desired to see some of these converts. Accordingly Mr. James McQuilkin, with two of the first who met for prayer, went on February 2, 1859, and held a meeting at Ahoghill in one of the Presbyterian Churches. Some believed, some mocked, and others thought there was a great deal of presumption in these young converts; yet many wished to have another meeting.
This was held by the same three young men on February 16th, 1859; and now the Spirit of God began to work, and to work mightily. Souls were converted, and from that time conversions multiplied rapidly. Some of these converts went to other places, and carried the spiritual fire, so to speak, with them. The blessed work of the spirit of God spread in many places.—On April 5th, 1859, Mr. James McQuilkin went to Ballymena, held a meeting there in one of the Presbyterian Churches; and on April 11th held another meeting in another of the Presbyterian churches. Several were convinced of sin and the work of the Spirit of God went forward in Ballymena.
On May 28th, 1859, he went to Belfast. During the first week there were meetings held in five different Presbyterian Churches, and from that time the blessed work commenced at Belfast. In all these visits he was accompanied and helped by Mr. Jeremiah Meneely, one of the three young men who first met with him, after the reading of my Narrative. From this time the work of the Holy Ghost spread further and further; for the young converts were used by the Lord to carry the truth from one place to another.
“Such was the beginning of that mighty work of the Holy Spirit, which has led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands; for some of my readers will remember how in 1859 this fire was kindled in England, Wales and Scotland; how it spread through Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland; how the Continent of Europe was more or less partaking of this mighty working of the Holy Spirit; how it led thousands to give themselves to the work of Evangelists; and how up to the year 1874 not only the effects of this work, first begun in Ireland, are felt, but that still more or less this blessed work is going on in Europe generally. It is almost needless to add, that in no degree the honour is due to the instruments, but to the Holy Spirit alone; yet these facts are stated, in order that it may be seen, what delight God has in answering abundantly the believing prayer of His children.”
The Bristol Church with which Mr. Müller was connected has been privileged to set an example to the Church of God of the way in which Foreign Missionaries (who are so greatly needed) can be sent forth in answer to prayer. Mr. Müller writes on p. 516, Vol. I. of his Narrative:—
“I also mention here, that during the eight years previous to my going to Germany to labour there, it had been laid on my heart, and on the hearts of some other brethren among us, to ask the Lord that he would be pleased to honour us, as a body of believers, by calling forth from our midst brethren, for carrying the truth into foreign lands.
But this prayer seemed to remain unanswered. Now, however, the time was come when the Lord was about to answer it, and I, on whose heart particularly this matter had been laid, was to be the first to carry forth the truth from among us.
About that very time the Lord called our dear brother and sister Barrington from among us, to go to Demerara, to labour there in connexion with our esteemed brother Strong, and our dear brother and sister Espenett, to go to Switzerland. Both these dear brethren and sisters left very shortly after I had gone to Germany.
But this was not all. Our much valued brother Mordal, who had commended himself to the saints by his unwearied faithful service among us for twelve years, had from Aug. 31, 1843, (the day on which brothers Strong and Barrington sailed from Bristol for Demerara), his mind likewise exercised about service there, and went out from among us eleven months after.
He, together with myself, had had it particularly laid upon his heart, during the eight years previously, to ask the Lord again and again to call labourers from among us for foreign service. Of all persons he, the father of a large family, and about 50 years of age, seemed the least likely to be called to that work; but God did call him. He went, laboured a little while in Demerara, and then, on January 9, 1845, the Lord took him to his rest.—
When we ask God for a thing, such as that He would be pleased to raise up labourers for His harvest, or send means for the carrying on of His work, the honest question to be put to our hearts should be this: Am I willing to go, if He should call me? Am I willing to give according to my ability? For we may be the very persons whom the Lord will call for the work, or whose means He may wish to employ.”