God With Us, the Promises and Annunciations

Luke 1

We’ve looked at a few different angles of God’s grace with his people throughout advent:

  • His providence that comes according to his discretion and plan—Galatians 4, “in the fullness of time God sent forth his son”
  • His presence that is gracious, but may leave us limping—Genesis 32 “the sun rose on Jacob as he passed Penuel limping, because of his hip”
  • His audience which is our constant hope, but sometimes feels too distant to help—1 Samuel 1, “I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.  Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

Today we’re looking at Luke 1 where we read about John and Jesus’ birth announcements

  • Some people send cards—these two get angels!

This chapter—the announcement of the Messiah and John the Baptist is full of fulfilment

  • Fulfillment because history itself is getting ready to change
  • There was one period of history:  From Adam until Mary of Nazareth had a baby
  • Now there’s a new period—the time of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world

Unlike Matthew, who loves to the phrase “this was to fulfill what the prophet said”; there’s no direct citations in Luke 1. 

The fulfillment comes in allusions to the OT through prophecies and foreshadowing

  1. OT Prophecies alluded to, there’s a lot here but the two most prominent:
    1. The virgin will conceive and bear a son, Isaiah 7:14 –1:34-35
      1. Luke gives us the additional detail describing how she’ll conceive
    1. The power of Elijah, 1:17—Malachi 4:5-6  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
  2. OT foreshadowing
    1. Old people having babies—Z and E, Abraham and Sarah
    1. An angel announcing a baby—Isaac
    1. The Temple work of Zechariah—everything about the temple pointed to a savior.
      1. But especially that little phrase about Gabriel appearing next to the altar of incense
      1. This little piece of furninture, about the size of a small end table, was crucial to temple ceremonies—especially on the day of atonement
      1. The altar of incense provided the cloud of smoke necessary to protect the high priest on the Day of Atonement  Leviticus 16:12-13 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die.
  3. When the incense was laid on the altar of incense it made a cloud that protected the priest on Yom Kippur and the whole day pointed to Jesus’ work which covered the sins of his people—the very work that Zechariah’s son John would be proclaiming in the power of Elijah
    1. And just like Elijah came in the power of the Holy Spirit only to be surpassed by Elisha, so too would John’s ministry be surpassed by Jesus, the greater Elisha
    1. Why is fulfillment so important in the Bible?
      1. Proves that God is faithful to his word—false gods aren’t
      1. Shows us that God saves us in our history rather than above it in heaven.
        1. He could just proclaim salvation, but fulfilling his word and revealing it in his word requires God to do it in our time and our space—not eternity.
      1. Reminds us that God has worked in our past, too.  God hasn’t just worked in the grand story of redemption, He’s also worked in our stories.  Zechariah and Elisabeth waited a long time for a child, John wasn’t just a prophet of immense redemptive historical importance, he was their baby they waited a long time for.
  4. Light shines in the darkness
    1. Look at what Zechariah says in v.78 “the sunrise shall visit us from on high”
      1. Like most everything in his prayer this an OT Allusion.
      1. Mal. 4:2 “for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”
    1. Think about his context in this prayer:  John has just been born, a reason to rejoice!
      1. But Jesus hasn’t been born, not yet
      1. The Romans are still ruling, oppressing the Jews
      1. He and Elisabeth won’t even be around too much longer to see John grow up
    1. The sunrise of God’s faithfulness is coming, but there’s still a lot of darkness.
      1. Zechariah, Elisabeth, and even Mary rejoice at the prospect of seeing God’s grace shining in the darkness
        1. The baby in the manger isn’t the climax of God’s story, in many ways it’s just the beginning
        1. But in reality we know this story began in the garden of eden and won’t end until “every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord”.
      1. Zechariah, Elisabeth, and Mary rejoice because of two things that are true for all of God’s people:
        1. They know that God is faithful—like Paul says in Romans 8 “all things work out for the good of those who love God”, it echoes Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:54-55 “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”  God keeps his word, his promises never fail—they are always fulfilled.
        1. And they will always remember the time Gabriel showed up. Gabriel  isn’t coming to your house any time soon, but the principle is the same:   Don’t forget the times God has already shown up in your life.
          1. Through friends’ love for you
          1. Through spiritual, physical, or emotional provision ion some way
          1. In your church’s care and concern for you
        1. There are several psalms that deal with Israel’s history, the reason for that is so that Israel will remember and rejoice in how God has always fulfilled his promises to his people.  Christmas isn’t the end, even Jesus’ resurrection isn’t the end—but these realities, these works which Jesus accomplished are true Hope reminding us we are not alone—God is with us, because he became one of us.
        1. The final important truth about fulfillment we should always hold on to is that God is always at work fulfilling his purpose—.  History isn’t finished yet.  God is fulfilling it now. Advent reminds us that Jesus came to fulfill what God began promising in the garden, and Jesus is coming again to finish fulfilling it too.  In the fullness of time all our hopes will be realized in the Savior who forgives his people by the tender mercy of God who sent him.  To those sitting in darkness turn and see the light of the world—the wonderful counselor, the prince of peace, your mighty God, place your hopes on him because all else will fail, but He never does.  Amen.