Monday, November 9, 2009

Luke 1:5-38 Part 1

In my devotions, I decided to move into the Book of Luke. As I read the first chapter I was once again in awe of God's judgement and fairness.

Two people heard incredible news.

Both question.

One is punished but one is comforted.

We will look at one of the characters in this account today.

Zacharias and Elizabeth were both "righteous in the sight of God", elderly, had not had children, and were well past the child-bearing age. As a priest, the time came for him to go into the temple to "burn incense before the Lord".

Can you imagine his surprise when he looked up and saw and angel standing before him!

And we are not talking about some childlike, curly haired, nothing-but-wings-on-him angel (who came up with that!). We are talking about an awesome, fearsome creation of God who carries His messages to His people (why else would they always begin their conversations in the Bible with "Do not be afraid"?).

The angel told Zacharias that his "petition has been heard". Talk about faith! Even though Zacharias and Elizabeth were far along in age and past the child-bearing age, was he was still praying for a son? Or was it that the prayer that he had given up on so long ago was finally going to be answered?

How many times do we bring a petition before the Lord and even though it seems hopeless, we continue to bring that petition before Him.

Or, maybe after years of praying, you have stopped asking the Lord for an answer. He still hears your petition, even though you have given up on asking.

"Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John." Wow! After years of praying, God answered the request for a son that Zacharias had had. And this was not going to be just any son. This son would be special! He would have a name different from his family (see here for the post on that), he had a list of rules to follow to help him stand out and to remind him of his special purpose, and he would be the forerunner for Christ (so many lessons in just these verses! Look for more to come soon.).

Zacharias' response is astounding! "How shall I know this for certain? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."

Okay, let's think about this.

You had an angel appear to you in the house of God telling you what you had been praying for, giving you very detailed information about the importance your child would have, and you want to know how you can know this for certain!

But don't chuckle or laugh and say, "What is wrong with him?" because we have often had the same response to God (although, granted, we may never have had an angel tell us God's plan face to face). God speaks to our hearts, and He can very well use people to speak to us for Him. We know when God is speaking to us and leading us, and yet many times we have the same response as Zacharias, "How shall I know this for certain?"

Here comes my favorite part in the entire passage!

From my years of teaching 4th and 5th grades at a Christian school, my students always got my act-out-every-part-in-the-account-so-they-can-see-it-live-and-get-an-idea-of-the-feelings-the-characters-were-experiencing. So imagine if you will a HUGE fearsome, beautiful angel of God standing before you (you would be looking up at him), "And the angel answered and said to him, speaking with a loud booming voice (that strangely, no one else can hear) "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God;" Basically, he gave his name and rank, and that should have been enough for Zacharias to know this for certain. I am thinking that just having him stand in front of me would have been enough, but who is to say. We have never stood in this man's shoes.

(Voice still booming, but maybe with a hint of aggitation in it) "and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news." What was supposed to be a joyous conversation has now turned into a tongue lashing! Can you imagine God's feelings at this point? He had wanted to give Zacharias the answer to his petition as a gift, but instead Zacharias is questioning the validity of the offer.

How many times do we do this same thing to God? He wants to bless us, to give us the answer to our prayers, and we turn around and question if He is able to do that for us.

"And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words..." How many times do we have a wonderful surprise planned for our children and then, because of a misbehavior, we end up having to correct instead? It pains us to have to correct our children, how much more God who loves us with and undying love and wants the best for us? I can imagine the saddened look on His face, the slouch of His shoulders in sadness as He directed Gabriel to dole out the sentence of punishment to Zacharias.

The question is... why was God so hard on Zacharias' disbelief?

Isn't it understandable for Zacharias to be a little wary of this promise since he and his wife were older? This is what I believe the answer is. As a priest, didn't he know of the accounts of Abraham and Sarah, Manoah and his wife (Samson's parents), and the Shunamite woman and how God opened their barren wombs and gave them children? Didn't he know that this was not God's first time granting a child to two people beyond the child-bearing age? God had a history of blessing the barren with a son, and Zacharias and Elizabeth would join that blessed group.

Now take a look at your own life.

Look at your prayer list.

Does God have a history of getting you through the month when your bank account looks hopeless? Then you can know for certain that He will come through again, if you are walking in wisdom financially.

Does God have a history of getting your family the groceries you need to keep them well fed? Then you can know for certain that He will direct your steps at the grocery store.

Does God have a history of protecting you and your family in your travels? Then you can know for certain that God will keep his hand upon you and keep you in all of your ways.

Does God have a history of supplying even your unspoken wants and needs? Then you can know for certain that He will continue to do so.

He is God, and He sits on the Throne.

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