image courtesy of photobucket.com
* This post is the fourth (and last) in a “dear diary” series from Luke 1. The first post is here.
** The first “dear diary” series is here.
Wednesday, August 11 — 6:00 am
I’ve just completed a study of Luke 1 that particularly focused on Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist. I’ve never really studied about Zechariah before, always being more interested in both his son and his distant cousin-in-law, Jesus. But I’ve enjoyed this study and learned a lot.
It’s pleasing to God when we believe him, trust him, and are obedient to him. If Zechariah’s bout with, and recovery from, being deaf and dumb are representative of what God expects from us, trust and obedience necessarily follow belief. Zechariah was given a promise by God, and questioned it. As a result, he was not allowed to continue living life as it is best lived. His lack of hearing and inability to speak are a dulling of the senses which certainly represent a failure to live life as God intends life to be.
I wonder, though, if being stricken deaf and dumb was less a punishment and more a fundamental truth. When we refuse to accept God’s promises for us, when we fail to put our trust in him, when our most resolute convictions are grounded in earthly logic and intellect, it is impossible for us to experience true and abundant life. I’m just not sure Gabriel’s intention was to penalize Zechariah for having little faith. Rather, Zechariah’s condition was consistent with putting one’s confidence in human reason. It was a form of discipline for sure, in that it pointed to an offense and encouraged correction. But perhaps no more so than the effects of putting our trust in money, or giving all of our love to a spouse.
Zechariah’s affliction was lifted not at the moment he believed Gabriel’s words, for surely that moment was when Elizabeth first started experiencing morning sickness, or when Zechariah saw the positive sign on a urine-soaked stick, or when Elizabeth’s tummy finally started to pudge. I’m convinced belief came early in the pregnancy, and most certainly before John was circumcised at eight days old. But Zechariah’s afflictions weren’t removed when he believed; no, he regained his voice and hearing only when his belief acted out in obedience.
I’m convinced we’ve done Christianity a great disservice by attempting to separate belief and obedience. We want to say we’re saved by grace through faith, and faith alone. And we equate faith with belief. We say works are a sign of true faith; I say they are a part of true faith. I will be judged by my position in Christ and my deeds in the body. The two cannot be separated. There is no such thing as possessing a saving faith in God that does not manifest itself in obedience. Obedience to Christ is not merely a product of faith; it is a crucial element of it.
I’m afraid there are a whole lot of us (Christians) who are:
- living impaired lives, strictly because we lack faith in God. We fail to trust in God, and so, we forfeit the good and abundant life. Our senses are dulled, and we experience life in black and white, or without sound.
- relying on a belief in the existence of God, the fact that Jesus is the son of God, or (even worse) a specific set of church doctrines to save us. We reject obedience, because we’re unable to save ourselves and don’t want a works-based salvation. But what we have, then, is an acknowledgment that God is God with no buy-in — as if assenting to the existence of God is equal to giving him my life and seeking to become more like him.
- Zechariah and Elizabeth were “upright” and observed God’s commandments “blamelessly.” Yet Zechariah lacked a certain trust in God. It may be possible to follow a set of rules without placing my life in God’s hands… for a time. But eventually my incomplete faith will surface.
- Zechariah had been praying for a child, even though he was old and his wife was barren. We should pray with expectation and not be surprised by the answers God grants.
- John’s task on earth was to prepare his people for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. He was to do this by pointing them to repentance and obedience. Might there be an equivalent “preparation” today? I would suggest the Holy Spirit (by whom John was filled from his birth) plays that role today. Perhaps in evangelism we should focus on those who have been rightly prepared by the Spirit?
- Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit somehow in connection with John leaping for joy (in her womb) at Jesus’ presence. Is the Holy Spirit, or at least his working, contagious? Can I pass him on to those nearby, or are they more likely to be prompted by him if spending time with me?
- Zechariah and Elizabeth were obedient to God in naming their son John, despite the objections of their family. I should set my heart and desires on what God requires of me, and not be distracted or discouraged by those around me.
- The proper response to God’s healing in my life, or even to the very ability to enjoy life, is praise. And a thankful heart is prompted by the Spirit of God in me.