The Gospel of Luke: Zechariah’s Unbelief and Elizabeth’s Faithfulness (Luke 1:18-25)

Today’s message summary of February 18, 2018 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Unbelief began in the Garden of Eden.  It began when Adam and Eve trusted the words of the serpent and ate from the tree of forbidden fruit.

God punished the people of Israel about not having any water to drink.  Instead of Moses following God’s instruction to speak to the rock and provide water, he struck the rock.  His punishment was in Numbers 20:12.

Numbers 20:12

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.

Unbelief is something hinders all of us as it is a demonstration of a lack of faith.  God challenges each of us to make sure that we do not linger in unbelief for very long, but to turn back to God and to be encouraged.

Hebrews 3:12-19

Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there wont be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sins deception. For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said:

Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

For who heard and rebelled? Wasnt it all who came out of Egypt under Moses? With whom was God angry for forty years? Wasnt it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Zechariah was accustomed to his duties as a priest.  He knew the Scriptures, including the hardship of the people of Israel and all about Moses.  He knew from his instruction, that prolonged unbelief was sinful.

He knew about the story of Abraham and Sarah and how Sarah was still barren until she gave birth to Isaac at a very old age.

Psalm 113:9

He gives the childless woman a household,

making her the joyful mother of children.

Hallelujah!

 

Hebrews 11:6

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

Romans 10:17

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

 

There is a difference in Zechariah’s question and Mary’s question about how she would give birth as a virgin.

Luke 1:34-38

Mary asked the angel, How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?

The angel replied to her: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabetheven she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.

 I am the Lords servant, said Mary. May it be done to me according to your word. Then the angel left her.

Mary wanted to know how it would take place, yet Zechariah doubted that this could happen.  His question was rooted in unbelief.

Luke 1:18-25

How can I know this? Zechariah asked the angel. For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.

The angel answered him, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was making signs to them and remained speechless. When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.

Why did Gabriel reference his name?  It was done in order to illustrate the importance of his message.

In the book of Daniel, Gabriel was actively delivering messages to the people for the purpose of redemption.  Zechariah would have been aware of this.  John the Baptist would be the person who would deliver messages to the people to prepare them for the Redeemer.

Zechariah, unwittingly, was rejecting the message that came directly from God, who was sent to him to give him good news about his prayers being answered.  This was no message from any ordinary angel.  He was sent by God after standing in His very presence.

The words “good news” should have helped Zechariah believe what was being said, but…

Luke 1:20

Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.

 

Zechariah was looking for a sign to believe in more than just the words spoken.  Abraham asked for something similar.  His response was to believe what God had told him…

 

Genesis 15:1-6

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield;

your reward will be very great. 

But Abram said, Lord God, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? Abram continued, Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.

Now the word of the Lord came to him: This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said, Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them. Then he said to him, Your offspring will be that numerous.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

The angel Gabriel gave Zechariah the sign that he was looking for, but it was because of his unbelief.

The people outside of the temple were waiting for Zechariah’s appearance.  It had taken longer than expected.  They were waiting for his appearance and his blessing.

Luke 1:21-22

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was making signs to them and remained speechless.

Once Zechariah’s service was completed, he went home.

Luke 1:23

When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

Zechariah had to remain mute, and likely was even deaf, for people had to make signs before him to gain understanding.  At this moment, after about nine months of his being silent, he was finally able to speak.

Luke 1:62-66

So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: His name is John. And they were all amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, What then will this child become? For, indeed, the Lords hand was with him.

Note that Elizabeth did not struggle with unbelief.  She cherished the opportunity to give birth and be of service to the Lord.  She remained in seclusion once she had conceived and gave praise to God.

Luke 1:25

The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.

Note that a barren or childless woman was looked upon by many as to be a curse.

God can instruct His saints to be able to weather storms and be encouraged even through difficult times.  He challenges us to believe even when we lack the ability to belief.

Mark 9:20-24

So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. How long has this been happening to him? Jesus asked his father.

From childhood, he said. And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can? Everything is possible for the one who believes.

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, I do believe; help my unbelief!

 

Consider that we are to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and believe the words that He has given directly to us.

 

 

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