Exploring new places and interesting people is a very exciting thing. During the pandemic lockdowns, many of us longed to get out and see something … anything … new and different. I can remember the thrill of watching new programs like Wandavision on Disney+. The concept, the storyline, and the setting were a breath of fresh air every week, and gave me an hour of respite from the housebound constriction of life indoors. My mind was able to go to new places and it lifted me up.
Today we will embark on an exploration on a familiar topic: the Holy Spirit. When you focus your reading on just that one subject, you will begin to notice things that may have easily been overlooked in previous studies. As you read this story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, look just at the references to the Holy Spirit and take your focus away from the impending arrival of John the Baptizer. Reading it this way will give us clues about the nature of our triune God:
Luke 1 (Common English Bible)
One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. 9 Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.
Clue number one: the Holy Spirit was upon John at his conception. What does this tell us about the activity of God? That God is present at the moment we are conceived, giving us every good gift we will need for the rest of our lives.
Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? These are abilities that are born in you and should be used to serve God. Not everyone has your compassion! Not everyone has a desire to be welcoming and hospitable! Not everyone can sit in a finance committee meeting without falling asleep! (Guilty!) The things that you are “just naturally good at doing” are gifts of the Spirit.
Now we see what the Holy Spirit intended to do in John:
16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God.
Surely the work of the Holy Spirit includes reclaiming those who had fallen away from worshipping the Lord. This is an important message today! Many of us began to worship online at the beginning of the pandemic when churches were closed. We found ourselves worshipping from the comfort of our couch and pajamas. Then we began to just worship the comfort of our couches and forgot to tune in. Suddenly weeks had passed, and the habit of connecting with our church faded away.
7 He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
This insight into the activity of the Spirit of God announced God’s intention for all his children. This Spirit, present in both the Old and New Testaments, is given to us to turn our hearts back to God and our families, and confronts our disobedient behavior. This Spirit draws us back to right thinking. This Spirit works to make us ready for a relationship with God.
What is the Holy Spirit telling you today? Have you put your need to worship on a back burner? Has laziness overtaken you? Are you being nudged to change your behavior? Is God calling you to do something new with your time?
May the Spirit convict us all of our need for God’s righteousness and align our thinking with Christ.
PS I will be taking a brief sabbatical for the next two weeks, and I have scheduled devotions to upload on their normal days. They will appear on my website and the At Water’s Edge Facebook and Twitter pages. But I won’t be able to share them on Facebook as I usually do. How can you help? You can share them on your page! As they say, sharing is caring! Thank you for your support and your love of Scripture. See ya real soon!