The theme for today’s Advent reading is second chances, and as I sat at our makeshift dining room table and stared out into our backyard thinking about the best way to introduce the study, I suddenly had to pause and smile with the thought that we are sitting right in the middle a second chance! When we had to move from the first house we purchased back in the late 1990’s, a part of me wondered if we would ever be able to buy another house.
But I didn’t dwell on that thought for long as life caught up with us and we eventually rented a nice home, in a great neighborhood and lived there for almost ten years before trekking off to Oklahoma to complete my ministerial schooling. Things really went into upheaval when we returned to California though and faced the journey with the attack on my wife’s health. At that point life seemed to be up in the air!
Then when I had to make the tough decision to obey the Lord and quit my secular job in order to take care of Piper 24/7, our only hope for the future was placed in the Lord’s hands. As most of you know, we faced a lot of criticism with that decision, but both my wife and I felt like we were enveloped in his peace and in His love and that somehow our tomorrow would work out for our benefit.
I remember praying one night about how we would finance our later years as I was using my retirement savings for Piper’s medical expenses, and only heard Papa God telling me that He would take care of us. And today, as I sit in our lovely new-to-us home, I can only but rejoice that a short five years later with numerous miraculous sets of events, He has given us given us that second chance of owning a piece of property that is far greater than either my wife or I could ever have imagined!
Zechariah and Elizabeth experienced their own second chance from a set of life’s circumstances that could never have yielded their results without the helping, miraculous hand of the Lord! They never gave up. They stayed faithful to the Lord, learned from their mistakes and kept moving forward despite any setbacks or discouraging words spoken against them. Can the same be said about you? Consider that as you study today’s Friday, the first week of Advent reading.
Friday, the first week of Advent
Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 23:5 / Malachi 3:1 / Luke 1:57-80
When I read through the story of the birth of John the Baptist, it is easy for my heart to be suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of excitement and expectation! As the joyous event unfolds, we find Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives gathering about them because they realize that something special from the Lord is happening. They are astounded when the parents of the baby snub tradition and decidedly name their child John. Then they are even more amazed when Zechariah who had been unable to say a word since a mysterious Divine visitation a year before, suddenly begins to speak and sing out praises to God!
The crowd that has gathered proceeds to ask questions wondering “What kind of child will this be?” (Luke 1:66 NKJV), and amazingly enough the Spirit of God falls upon the old priest and he begins to prophesy the answers to all their questions! Like the song that the young virgin girl Mary had sung out many months before, Zechariah begins by blessing God and then goes into an eloquent dissertation bringing to the remembrance of all within the sound of his voice, the covenant made to Abraham hundreds of years before, which foretold of His promise for the salvation of His people.
Then Zechariah’s attention turns to his eight day old son and he “proclaims the dignity, employment, doctrine and success of his son: and the ruin and recovery of the Jews and the Gentiles.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible – Luke 1:76) Talk about the proud Papa! Zechariah took the first opportunity he could to begin to brag on his son and as John was to do for Jesus, he spoke out and prepared the way for the ministry of his child.
To me it is not as important as to the words that Zechariah spoke that day, but as to what actually was being exhibited in the course of the events of John’s birth. First we see the old priest who failed miserably when given the opportunity to demonstrate his faith when the angel Gabriel appeared to him to announce what was going to happen on that day. I am pretty positive that Zechariah must have spent many long hours delineating over what had happened, and considering how he would do it differently if he had the chance. Well, God did give him a second chance and when the priest did not give in to the pressure of his friends and relatives and declared that their child would be named John as the angel of the Lord had stated, his tongue was instantly loosed and he was mightily used of God to announce to the world the unfolding of God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of mankind!
Then within the text of Zechariah’s prophecy, we see our heavenly Father reinstating the glory of King David’s family name, which had been trashed through the generations of unbelief and apostasy by the Jewish people. He declared that God “has raised up a mighty Savior for us in the family of his servant David.” (Luke 1:69 God’s Word ©) Here another second chance is given to get back on track to the plan He had promised and had been cultivating for literally hundreds of years.
Then through the ministry that He had planned for John the Baptist and was introduced through his elderly father’s prophecy on that fateful day, we see God giving His people a third second chance in order to stop the runaway train that they had been aboard and refocus their undivided attention back on Him… And on His mercy, His faithfulness, His promises and on His ability to provide a Savior of Whom John would later declare: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2 NKJV)
Our heavenly Father is the God of the second chance! As He would continue to demonstrate through the lives of Peter, Paul, John Mark and countless others throughout the generations to come, He will do the same for you and me. How exciting and how relevant that He would express this expectation of his nature to the world at the very beginning of the culmination of His plan for salvation that was planned before the world began.
Grab ahold of that excitement and expectation as you celebrate the Christmas Season this year. Think on that wonderful time when John came into the world in preparation for the coming of Jesus. Let the plans and purposes as well as the second chances of God permeate your understanding. Focus your attention back onto Him. Let go of the failures of your past and allow Him to use you mightily for His purposes in your future! Have a wonderful weekend.
I would encourage you to take some time this weekend to go and review the past week’s readings. Then jot down your thoughts and make whatever “rearrangements” in your lives, in your thinking, or even in your words so that you might better align yourselves with His plan for you and your family! Another good idea might be to write down those places in your life that you would like a second chance in. Then turn them over to the Lord and look in expectation for His new opportunities… when you’re done, fold up the sheet of paper and place it in your Bible and then move forward in your life! Who knows… maybe you’ll accidently come across that note at a later date and marvel at how far you’ve come and at all that you have accomplished since the list was made and committed to the Lord. Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Second Chance am I expecting today?”