I dearly love hearing a father or mother talk about their children and what they are doing in life, when they are excited and almost in awe of how much their children are accomplishing. I had lunch today with a friend who talked about his son and how proud he was of him and his life for God.
It caused me to think of the time when the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah as he ministered in the temple. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth were older and had been married for a long time but had never been able to have children. Now Gabriel explained to him that things were about to change drastically for them. His wife was going to have a son. “You are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13b-17)
Zechariah and Elizabeth are a godly couple who have devoted their lives to serving God. But, until now, something was missing. They wanted children and things had seemed somewhat empty when she wasn’t able to give birth to a child. But now, that was all to change. Wouldn’t it be something amazing to have an angel of God tell you that your child was going to be a joy and delight. Most of the time when we anticipate the birth of a child it is with joy and delight. But, as years pass, and challenges arise, it often seems that the joy and delight is fading.
But what is so amazing to me is the promise that their son that was still only a promise, was to be great in the sight of the Lord. It is entirely possible for a child to be great in the eyes of the parents when they aren’t great at all in God’s sight. It is also possible for one to be great in God’s sight and a huge disappointment to their parents. For parents to both be filled with Joy and delight about the life of their child and God to see them as great is extremely powerful. Surely that is what every Christian parent longs for as they look at their children.
It draws us to ask the question, what makes a person great in God’s sight? If it were being great in people’s eyes we might think of things like making lots of money, being a great athlete, getting higher degrees of education, or starting a business that is successful. But, in God’s sight, none of those things would carry much weight. Look at the things that Luke tells us would make John great in God’s sight.
Notice Luke says Gabriel demanded that they bring him up as a Nazarite who wouldn’t drink any wine or fermented drink. Instead of his being filled with wine he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Later when Mary, the mother to be of Jesus came for a visit, John leaped in his mother’s womb due to her presence and the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He will filled with the Spirit in the womb of Elizabeth. From the beginning of his life he was devoted to God and was guided by the Holy Spirit in everything. Notice that today God calls upon every follower of Christ to be filled with the Holy Spirit instead of being drunk with wine wherein is excess (Ephesians 5:18). When we allow the Spirit to control us and guide us we live the life that God calls us to live in the world.
But there were three other significant reasons why John was great in God’s sight. First, he would go in the spirit and power of Elijah the prophet. Second he would turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to to wisdom of the righteous and third he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord. These are things that can make anyone great in God’s sight. Going in the power and spirit of Elijah involves living under the Holy Spirit’s guide in life, of marching to his orders and listening for his lead. It is great in God’s sight when we can somehow turn the hearts of parents back to their children. It is terribly easy as parents to become so involved in our adult world that we turn the training and discipline of our children over to other people. But no one can take the place of a loving father and mother who love their child so deeply they are ready to sacrifice many of the blessings and opportunities of their lives for the benefit of their children. I wonder how many promotions we would turn down in life or how many opportunities we would skip if our hearts were set on our children and their good rather than on us. Notice he tied with the turning of the hearts of parents to their children, turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. So, our focus can’t be just on our own children but of striving to take the people we know and love in life to God and his will for them. When we can turn anyone away from Sin to God we change the whole world for them.
Finally, he said he would be great in God’s sight because he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Here is the challenge for everyone of us. If I want to be seen as Great in God’s view, I need to start with me, then my wife or husband to make certain we are committed to God fully. Then we need to focus on our children to make certain they learn the will of God and are encouraged to live the life of a follower of Christ. In the process we will strive to witness for God to all those who our children are around from day to day. Ultimately, that interest and turning people to God reaches out to people I meet, those in the area, ones who work with me or just people we know from some aspect of life. Our longing is to be that witness for God to everyone we can to turn their hearts to God rather than to sin.
I want to be great in God’s sight and I certainly want my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be great in His sight. Isn’t that a noble ambition for us all?