Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan
is Judges 11-12, Psalm 80, John 12
Today's scripture focus
is Luke 1:18-25
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision inthe temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Sometimes we just don't get it. We. Just. Don't. Get. It. Even when an angel (An ANGEL!) arrives with the most exciting and amazing news and an answer to our prayer we just don't get it. Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a child. They had been obedient and careful servants and waited on Him to answer their prayers. I'm sure it was often without some question as to why it had never happened for them but still the bible tells us that their lack of children did not interfere with their heart for obedience. And yet, as their prayer was being answered...there was doubt...the need for proof...and a question of unbelief.
How often do we pray for something and wait on God for something and yet when our prayers are answered (in His timing-not ours!) we still question and wonder how this could be. This has happened to me over the last few years in the circumstance of my job. I graduated in May 2009 and that Fall I was hired into my perfect job. The one I had hoped for, dreamed about, and prayed for. Unfortunately, soon after I started, I realized that my 1 year term position would be phased out for the next year. This was confirmed in February (you can read about it here
) and I was devastated. There was no possible way I would be able to stay in my position. It was hopeless....as hopeless as two seniors having a baby! Yet, nothing is impossible with God. A few weeks later there was a resignation and I began to question, just like Zechariah "How shall I know this?" because for God to hear and answer my little prayer was just so unbelievable. In His perfect timing ... even though I was told I would not be returning for the coming school year, I was offered a permanent track position just a few months later (you can read about it here
). It was unbelievable. Something only God could have done. Sometimes. We. Just. Don't. Get. How. Big. God. Is.
When God chooses, He can speak and act in massive ways. When He chooses, He can create the universe in six days. When He chooses, He can flood the entire globe, drowning the entire human race except for eight souls and do it in 40 days of rain. When God chooses, He can send a shower of fire and brimstone and bury the city of Sodom, the city of Gomorrah and the cities of the plain at the south end of the Dead Sea. When God chooses, He can part a sea so that two million people can walk through on dry land and a following army be instantaneously drown as the sea which was parted closes on them. When God chooses, He can with His own finger write His law in stone on a mountain that is shaking with fire and brimstone. When God chooses, He can feed an entire population of people with food that He creates on the spot as He did the Israelites in the wilderness. When God chooses, He can make water come pouring out of solid rock. When God chooses, He can cause the formidable walls of an ancient city named Jericho to fall flat to the ground. When God chooses, He can open the ground and swallow people up. God can do astonishing, powerful, massive things.
God can do astonishing, powerful, massive things. He can and He does. Not only does he do astonishing, powerful, massive things but He does these things with ordinary, common people.
He's the God who works with common people in ordinary ways in life. You would think that the story of salvation, the saga of the Redeemer, the Messiah having come would start with some fanfare, maybe some cataclysmic events. But the story of salvation, the saga of the arrival of the Messiah starts with a common couple named Zacharias and Elizabeth. He's so undistinguished that the only adjective used to describe him is that he was a certain priest, not even a notable one, not a brilliant one, not a famous one, just a certain one, of which there were about 18,000 at that time in the line of Aaron the priest who served as priests in Israel. So many that they were divided into twenty-four orders and they only were allowed to serve two weeks a year because there were so many of them. He was a common man. He married a woman named Elizabeth who came from a priestly line. She was the daughter of a priest and had been given the name Elizabeth in honor of the wife of Aaron, the first high priest whose wife had the same name. So, he married a girl who came out of a priestly background and, of course, he did, and so they shared a rich, religious heritage in Judaism. But they were just plain common people. Except for the two weeks that he served at the temple and the three main feasts of Israel when he was in Jerusalem, the rest of the time he just lived life in his village and helped people and counseled people and taught them Scripture.
The story begins with this very common couple. This isn't unusual for God. Abraham was a man who was a common wanderer, an old man. He and his wife had no children. He was nomadic. God picked him out of all of human kind and made him the father of the Jewish nation through which would come the Scripture and the Messiah, the Savior of the world. And there was Isaac after him and there was Jacob and there was Joseph, the patriarchs we call them, with all their foibles and all their sins and all their failures and all their weaknesses. Their lives, frankly, were void of the miraculous. Their lives were just filled with the common stuff, the common struggles of life in a sinful world and yet redemptive history worked its way through them.
Then there was Moses who was a cast-off baby floating down the river in a basket, rescued by an Egyptian princess. There was Moses, impulsive, impatient, stuttering, lacking confidence, proud, disobedient. Yet to him was given the privilege of being the recipient of the divine law of God, where God established His law forever, giving to mankind the righteous standard for all people of all times. Then there was David, a simple shepherd, a poet, a singer, a song writer. David who became a soldier, David who became a murderer, David who became an adulterer. David, a poor father who had a rebellious son. David who was both strong and weak, who was both confident and vacillating, who at times was proud and other times was humiliated by his sin. And there were the prophets, common men, simple men, herdsmen and farmers. God used them to speak His profound divine truth.
And then there were the Apostles. And the Apostles themselves were the commonest of men, farmers and fishermen and a despised tax collector. They were weak. They were doubting. They were ignorant. They were struggling with selfish greed and wrong motivation. They were uneducated. They came from Galilee which was considered the place of the uneducated. And yet they were the mighty force that God used to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and from them it went until its reached the world and including us. God is the God of the common man. God is the God of small beginnings. God uses not many noble, and not many mighty but God has chosen the simple and the humble and the base things through which to effect His glorious purposes.
God chooses and God uses. In His way. In His timing. For His purpose. We don't always understand but God is sovereign and He holds the plan. The plan that is far superior to anything we could imagine. When Zechariah heard that his prayers were going to be answered instead of being filled with excitement and joy, he immediately felt doubt and uncertainty. For this reason, Zechariah was punished:
"Verse 20, verse 20, and this is something, "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place because you did not believe my words which shall be fulfilled in their proper time." I mean, just on a human level, if you had never been able to have a child and you were in your 70's, let's say, taking mid-ground, and all of a sudden you were going to have a baby, you'd be wanting to talk about it. He couldn't. He wasn't even going to be able to tell the wonderful story that he was in...what a story, I mean, you go back to your little village and say, "Guys, guess what happened to me while I was down there. I went into the holy place and an angel came to me and an angel made this promise," and so forth. He can't tell the story. He can't even hear the questions that are asked because he's deaf.
He didn't believe the Word of God. That's serious. Serious to disbelieve the Word of God. And the angel's response is appropriate, "The angel answered and said to him, 'I am Gabriel.'" Who do you think you're talking to, buddy? I'm not just some guy who...I am Gabriel. "Who stands in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news." And by the way, the Greek on the phrase "I am Gabriel," is very emphatic. This is not just a common visitor. This is Gabriel.
...It's merciful in that it's temporary. It's severe in itself. If you're going to be so unbelieving as not to hear God's Word, then you're not going to be able to speak it. If you're so faithless as not to believe, you're going to be useless in the proclamation.
So God shut him up and that was an every day, every moment a reminder of his sin of unbelief. And when people said, "What happened to you?" He would have to write out, "I was made mute by an angel because I didn't believe when God spoke to me."
Wouldn't it be good if God did that to people who didn't believe His Word? Then we'd know who they were. The problem is, we would go in and out of being mute most of our lives, I'd think.
God shut him up. His normal duty was to teach the Old Testament and tell people about God and give them counsel and wisdom. That's what a priest did during the most of his year. He couldn't tell this wonderful story. He couldn't do anything but bear the shame of having been made deaf and dumb by an act of judgment from God.
We pray and we ask and then sometimes we are surprised by God's response....even if it is exactly what we are asking for. I think sometimes we honestly forget the magnitude of what is possible with God. How useful are we to spread God's news if we don't believe in what God can do. He can make the impossible-possible. He can do all things. He can and He does.
Four years later, and multiple changes in our school staffing situation and I am still teaching at my dream job. I prayed for it, I asked God for it and yet I have been filled with doubt and uncertainty as I waited on God to reveal His plan in His timing. I didn't think it was possible. I was wrong. I'm so thankful for God's mercy and grace as I struggle with believing that He can do the impossible.
Tomorrow's scripture focus
: Judges 13-14, Psalm 81, John 13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage
passage: Luke 1:26-31