Don’t Be Afraid!

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God is in control, so don't be afraid!

Luke(6), Matthew(15) (Part of the Advent(9) series)
by Stuart Johns(130) on December 20, 2020 (Sunday Morning(173))

All-Powerful (Omnipotent)(7), Sovereignty(12)

ADVENT – ANGELS (Love)

Don’t Be Afraid!

(Luke 1:5-38; Matthew 1:18-25)

 

INTRODUCTION

What was your greatest fear about going to the doctor as a child? ​​ Most children are afraid of getting a shot. ​​ As a parent, we try to call them down and let them know they don’t need to be afraid. ​​ It only takes a couple of seconds and it will be over.

 

As adults, we can be fearful of the unknown. ​​ Anything new can cause us to be fearful. ​​ Starting a new job, moving to a new city or state, going to college for the first time and being out on your own, going to a new school. ​​ All of those can cause us to be fearful.

 

We’re going to talk about three Biblical characters today that had reasons to be fearful. ​​ They were confronted with things that were new for them that included a visit from an angel.

 

After 400 years of silence, I can only imagine that the angels were eager to share the good news that Jesus was coming into the world. ​​ They were very busy for a period of time, as we will see today.

 

The angels had a common theme – Do Not Be Afraid!

 

BIG IDEA – God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

 

Let’s pray

 

BODY

  • Zecharias’ Angel Encounter (Luke 1:5-25)

    • This was during the time of Herod’s reign

    • Their background

        • Zecharias (Jehovah has remembered) was from a priestly family – Abijah

        • Elizabeth (God is my oath) was also from a priestly family – descendant of Aaron

        • They were both upright in the sight of God – observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly

        • In the midst of ungodly surroundings, they were in the world but not of the world

    • The priesthood at this time

        • There were nearly 20,000 young men that were eligible to serve in the temple at this time

        • They were broken up into 24 courses/divisions

        • That meant that each priest served two weeks each year

        • The rest of the year, they took care of their own farms

        • They used the lot system, “according to the custom of the priesthood,” to determine who would serve in what capacity

          • First Lot – cleanse the altar and prepare its fire

          • Second Lot – kill the morning sacrifice and sprinkle the altar, golden candlestick and the altar of incense

          • Third Lot – burning the incense (once in a lifetime opportunity)

        • Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord

          • This is a practical example of that verse

          • God needed Zecharias to be in the Holy Place on this particular day

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign! ​​ (God is in control)

            • Do you believe that today?

            • Are you struggling to believe that God is in control?

            • What situation are you going through that’s making you feel like God isn’t in control?

            • There is nothing too hard for Him

            • He can handle whatever fear and anxious thought you are experiencing

          • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

        • Zecharias was going to need that reminder

    • The Angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appears

        • Zecharias had been chosen, by God, through the lot, to burn the incense

        • As he is standing in front of the altar of incense, Gabriel appears

        • Zecharias’ is startled and gripped with fear

          • startled/troubled – Greek word is tä-rä’s-sō which means “to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread

          • fear – Greek word is fo’-bos which means “fear, dread, terror

          • Can you imagine burning the incense, which was a once in a lifetime experience, and being confronted with an angel from the Lord? ​​ What was going through his mind

            • Was he thinking – “Does this happen to everyone?”

            • Was he thinking – “I’m a dead man. ​​ Did I do something wrong with the burning of the incense.” (it could have meant divine judgment)

        • The angel dispels his fears

          • “Do not be afraid”

          • Your prayer/petition has been heard – Greek word is
            de’-ā-sēs, which means contextually, of prayers imploring God’s aid in some particular matter

            • This matter could have been his prayer for a son

            • It could also have been the prayer of every priest that burned the incense, that God would send the Messiah

          • Because of the next statement, the angel is probably referring to his prayer for a son

            • God answers prayer three ways: ​​ Yes, No and Wait.

            • Zecharias and Elizabeth had been waiting a long time and perhaps had stopped praying for a child

          • They are to name him Johanam/John (The Lord is Gracious)

            • He will be a joy and delight

            • There would be great rejoicing

            • He will be great in the sight of the Lord

            • He is to be a Nazarite – no wine or fermented drink

            • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth

            • He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah

            • He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children

              • Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. ​​ He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

              • “This quotation from Malachi 4:5-6 is meaningful for more than its reference to Elijah. ​​ These were essentially the last words in the Old Testament, and now God’s revelation is resuming where it had left off.” ​​ [Guzik]

    • Zacharias’ Doubt

        • He asked the angel a question

          • How can I be sure of this?/How will I know this (for certain?)

          • I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.

          • Zacharias is looking at the natural instead of the supernatural

          • He looked at the circumstances first, and what God can do last

          • “It is simply that he feels it must be too good to be true, and he has probably protected himself from disappointment by not setting his expectations too high. ​​ We rob ourselves of many a miracle by the same attitude.” ​​ [Guzik]

          • “This, of course, was unbelief, and unbelief is something God does not accept. ​​ Zacharias was really questioning God’s ability to fulfill His own Word! ​​ Had he forgotten what God did for Abraham and Sarah? ​​ Did he think that his physical limitations would hinder Almighty God?” ​​ [Wiersbe]

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is all-powerful! (omnipotent)

            • Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. ​​ Nothing is too hard for you.”

            • Are you questioning God’s ability to do the supernatural in your life?

            • Are you questioning God’s ability to handle the struggle that you’re currently experiencing?

              • Are the physical issues you’re having too hard for the Lord?

              • Is the rift in a relationship with someone in your family, at work, in your community, or at church too hard for the Lord?

              • Are the financial struggles you’re experiencing beyond God’s ability to deal with?

              • Is the emotional rollercoaster you’re on too difficult for God to help with?

              • Is the political divide and racial tensions we’re experiencing in our country, right now, out of God’s reach?

              • Are you experiencing fear about any of those situations?

              • Take heart!

              • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

          • Zecharias was doubting God’s ability to fulfill His Word and we are guilty of the same thing

        • How is your faith in an all-powerful, sovereign God?

        • Zecharias’ faith was going to be strengthened, because the angel was going to give him a sign that would prove God’s power and sovereignty

    • The Angel’s sign

        • First the angel identifies himself as Gabriel

        • He explains that he stands in the presence of God

        • Zacharias will not be able to speak until John is born

        • The people are concerned about Zecharias

          • Zecharias had stayed in the temple longer than most priests who burned the incense

          • They realized that something supernatural had taken place while he was in there, because he couldn’t speak when he came out

          • He tried to communicate what had happened by making signs

            • He was using body language to communicate with them

            • Did you realize that 55% of our communication is nonverbal?

            • Tone is 38%

            • Content is 7%

            • Zecharias should have been able to communicate what had happened with just hand motions and facial expressions

        • When Zecharias had completed his temple service, he returned to his home

    • Zacharias returns home to the hill country

        • After his service was done, we went back to see Elizabeth

        • Elizabeth becomes pregnant

        • Zacharias’ unbelief did not stop the work of God.

        • “Your unbelief will not stop the work of God. ​​ It will not hinder the purposes of God.” ​​ [Chuck Smith]

 

  • Mary’s Message From God (Luke 1:26-38)

    • Gabriel is busy again

        • Six months after appearing to Zacharias, he is back to earth to speak with Mary

        • He greets her by saying that she is highly favored and that the Lord is with her.

    • Mary was troubled/perplexed by this greeting

        • Greek word is dē-ä-tä-rä’s-sō which means “to agitate greatly, trouble greatly.

        • Why would Mary have been troubled greatly?

          • She was from a poor family and not considered great in the eyes of society

          • She was a simple young girl (15-16 years)

          • Why would she be highly favored

          • This really expresses her humility as a young lady

    • Gabriel sets her mind at ease and then gives her the Good News

        • “Do not be afraid”

        • You have found favor with God

        • Gabriel tells her everything

          • You’re going to be pregnant and give birth to a son

          • Name Him Jesus (Greek) – Jehoshua/Joshua (Hebrew)

          • He will be great and called the Son of the Most High

          • The Lord will give Him the throne of David

          • He will reign over the house of Jacob forever

          • His kingdom will never end

    • Mary’s reaction

        • How would you react if you heard all of that in three quick sentences

        • When a woman is pregnant, they usually tell you that and then pause for your reaction

        • Gabriel didn’t pause

        • I wonder if Mary heard anything after, “You will be with child and give birth to a son . . .

        • Her response leads me to believe that she didn’t

          • How will this be, since I am a virgin?

          • This statement is different from Zacharias in the fact that Mary believed what Gabriel said, but needed some clarification of how it would come about

          • “Her question in Luke 1:34 was not an evidence of unbelief; rather, it was an expression of faith. ​​ She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. ​​ How could a virgin give birth to a child?” ​​ [Wiersbe]

    • Gabriel’s clarification

        • The Holy Spirit will come upon you

          • Greek word for “come” is ep-e’r-kho-mī which means “to come upon, overtake one, of the Holy Spirit, descending and operating in one

        • Power of the Most High will overshadow you

          • “The word overshadow means ‘to cover with a cloud,’ like the cloud of Shekinah glory.” [Guzik]

          • “It is the word applied to the presence of God in the holy of holies in the Jewish tabernacle and temple (Ex. 40:35). ​​ Mary’s womb became a holy of holies for the Son of God!” ​​ [Wiersbe]

        • He relays the news that Elizabeth is six months pregnant even though she had been barren

        • He declares the power of Almighty God – “nothing is impossible with God.”

    • Mary’s submission

        • The dream, the hope, the desire of every Jewish girl was coming true for Mary – to be the instrument through which God would send the Messiah.

        • “Many young Jewish girls, when they had a boy born to them, would call his name Joshua. ​​ Hoping that maybe God would use that child to be the instrument of His salvation. ​​ And that was a reason, one of the reasons why being barren was considered such a curse.” ​​ [Chuck Smith]

        • I am the Lord’s servant. ​​ May it be to me as you have said

          • What faith

          • What strength

          • She was willing to be scrutinized by her culture to fulfill the purposes of God

          • “All this took more trust in the Lord than we might think. ​​ Mary agrees to receive a pregnancy that will be seen as suspicious, and this in a culture that had a death penalty for adultery. ​​ Mary identified herself with sinners so that the purpose of God would be fulfilled.” ​​ [Guzik]

          • “A ‘handmaid’ was the lowest kind of female servant, which shows how much Mary trusted God. ​​ She belonged totally to the Lord, body (Luke 1:38), soul (Luke 1:46), and spirit (Luke 1:47).” ​​ [Wiersbe]

          • Mary didn’t need to be afraid of how this supernatural pregnancy was going to happen and how her family, friends, and neighbors would react, because God was in control

        • Application

          • God may call you to do something for Him that seems counter cultural

          • It may be supernatural

          • It will probably cause you to be scrutinized and criticized by your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors

          • But you don’t have to live in fear about following the Lord

          • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

    • We’ve seen two supernatural appearances by Gabriel, but there was one more important visit that needed to take place

 

  • Joseph’s Dream (Matthew 1:18-25)

    • Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant

        • “Probably, it was after her return from her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she continued three months (Luke 1:56), that she was perceived by Joseph to be with child, and did not herself deny it.” ​​ [Matthew Henry]

        • Imagine for a moment how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant

        • He knew what his cultural responsibility was, but he loved Mary

    • Joseph was a righteous man

        • He was very concerned about keeping the commands of God

        • He is also merciful

        • “He is a moral man who stands for rightness, but he is also merciful, which is a rare combination. ​​ Most people are either moral or merciful.” ​​ [Courson]

          • Would you agree with statement?

          • Are you more moral or merciful?

          • I would have to say that I fall more towards the moral side, but realize that I need to be more merciful

        • This rare combination would serve Joseph well

          • He was planning to divorce her quietly, so she wouldn’t be criticized and scrutinized by the community

          • Also, he was basically saving her life, since the punishment for adultery was death

        • While Joseph is trying to decide what to do, the Lord steps in

    • He is considering divorcing her when an angel appears to him in a dream

        • How many of us have experienced a dream that gives us insight into a problem we’re trying to solve?

          • Did you realize that your brain is a powerful tool?

          • It continues to work even while you sleep

        • Joseph son of David – this was serious, pay attention

          • The angel uses his full name

          • Most of us have probably experienced this with our mothers

          • When they use our full name, we know we have to listen and pay attention

        • Do not be afraid, take Mary as your wife

          • It would be very difficult for Mary to explain to Joseph the supernatural overshadowing of the Most High

          • It would not make sense in the natural world

          • Guys, we have to honest with ourselves. ​​ We strive to understand things on our own and work things out on our own before we consult God. ​​ Women are much more open to the things of God

          • We should work to be the spiritual head of our household, instead of letting our wives take the lead

        • Joseph was going to need some instruction about naming this baby

    • Naming the baby Jesus was to be a fulfillment of prophecy

        • God communicated that to Mary directly through Gabriel

        • Now he has also communicated it to Joseph in a dream

        • Naming your son after you was very important, culturally

        • They would be breaking tradition

        • Zecharias was going to be breaking tradition when he named his baby boy, John (no one in his family had that name)

    • Joseph obeys immediately

        • I’m just as impressed by Joseph’s obedience as I was with the shepherd’s obedience

        • Lord, help us to obey immediately!

 

CONCLUSION/ACTION

When you are faced with supernatural situations or difficult cultural circumstances, you need to remember several things:

 

  • Do not be afraid, God is in control

    • He knows what is best for you and He has not been caught off guard by your situation or circumstances

    • Psalm 56:3-4, When I am afraid, I will trust in you. ​​ In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. ​​ What can mortal man do to me?

    • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Put my trust in God concerning the situation I am currently fearful about.

  • You may not understand God’s plan, but you can trust Him by faith, because He is sovereign and all-powerful

  • Just Obey

    • Zachariah’s obedience in naming his son, John, brought healing to him – he was able to talk again (Luke 1:62-64)

    • Mary and Joseph’s obedience brought about the Messiah, the Savior of the world (becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit, taking Mary as his wife, fleeing Bethlehem at the prompting of the angel, returning to Nazareth)

    • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Obey what the Lord is telling me to do, because He knows best.

 

Mary and Joseph probably had a lot to be fearful about

 

“The Holmes Rahe scale assigns points to various life stressors. These points are called LCUs or a life change units. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe concluded that an individual experiences a total of 300 LCUs is at high risk for illness. Among other things, the list includes such events as:

 

Marital separation 65

Marriage 50

Marital reconciliation 45

Pregnancy 40

Adding a new family member 39

Change in financial state 38

Trouble with in-laws 29

Change in living conditions 25

Change in working conditions 20

Change in residence 20

Change in church activities 19

Change in social activities 18

Change in sleep habits 16

Minor violation of the law 11

 

Joseph and Mary could conceivably have experienced all of the events listed above for a total LCU count of 435. This total excludes divorce (73 points), as it was threatened but not carried out. Neither jail terms (40 points) or minor violations of the law (11 points) are included in the previously mentioned total, but Mary's pregnancy out of wedlock was a violation of Jewish law which, some contend, could have resulted in stoning. Christmas (12) is also excluded.”

 

David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/december/3120715.html]

 

Instead of being fearful, Mary and Joseph were hopeful, because they knew that God was in control.

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