Study # 12
Thesis: The fundamental standard of knowledge is the revealed word of God.
Introduction: In the words of Luke 1:18 and following, Luke introduces a crucial issue of life. He couches it in the question that Zacharias addressed to the angel that had prophesied that a son was to be born to Elizabeth. [Never lose sight of the fact that the inspired records are not just a testimony of what transpired. Rather, they are a testimony of what transpired as a foundation for the greater understanding of the reader so that he may make progress into the greater experience of Life.] The question that Zacharias asked the angel is this: "According to what standard shall I know that what you say is true so that I may enter now into the joy of hope?" As we launch into our study this morning, I want you to ask yourself this: why didn't God just surprise Zacharias and Elizabeth with an unexpected pregnancy and the fulfillment of a long-held, attitude-dominating, desire? Wouldn't their joy have been as great at the birth of a son if it had been a surprise as it would be with an announcement that came about ten months before the time?
November 16, 2003
- I. Why the Announcement Ten Months Previous to the Fulfillment?
- A. In the larger scheme of things, what is ten months?
- 1. What, after all, is ten months, especially in light of the passing of so many years?
- 2. If God is, for whatever reasons, willing to permit a man and woman to languish for the vast majority of their lives in unfulfilled desire, what difference does ten months make?
- B. In the larger scheme of things, what is the most critical issue?
- 1. For human beings, the most critical issue is whether they are prepared to enter into the joy of their Lord when the time comes for them to exit this world.
- a. There are only two options for humanity: joy inexpressible or indescribable grief.
- b. It really doesn't matter what else has been important in one's experience; this only is ultimately important.
- 2. Therefore, the most critical issues have primarily to do with human beings being brought to the point where entrance into joy is possible.
- a. It should go without saying that, for the vast majority of humanity, joy is impossible.
- 1) Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
- 2) The Spirit only generates His fruit in certain of the children of God.
- 3) The vast majority of humanity never become the children of God, nor ever have His fruit generated within them.
- b. What makes it impossible?
- 1) Joy is not a commodity that can be dumped into one's lap regardless of other factors.
- 2) Joy is a consequence of values held and beliefs executed.
- a) Proper values wedded to proper beliefs lead to joy inexpressible and full of glory.
- b) A breakdown at either end of the wedding automatically leads to frustration and the absence of joy.
- 3) Bringing human beings to both proper values and proper beliefs in union is such an enormous task that it is a wonder that it ever happens.
- a) Romans 10:13-21 sketches out the larger boundaries of this task.
- b) To see the enormity of it, all we have to do is fill in the details of the larger sketch -- and not ignore the reality of Israel's demonstration that hearing is not all that is involved.
- c) And then, if we add in the ingredient of human depravity and enmity toward God, the case is made for the impossiblitity of joy for the majority of humanity.
- C. Enter the announcement ten months prior to fulfillment.
- 1. What is the point of the ten months?
- a. Part of the point is 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11 -- Zacharias and Elizabeth were treated the way they were for the sake of those coming after, like Theophilus, and us.
- b. Part of the point is the breakdown of the values/beliefs marriage.
- 1) There was nothing wrong with the values part of this equation as far as we can tell.
- 2) There was a huge breakdown in the beliefs part of this equation as we can see fairly easily.
- a) The couple had Exodus 23:26 and Deuteronomy 7:14 at their disposal.
- b) They both had jettisoned both texts as is clear from Gabriel's statement in Luke 1:20.
- i. Clearly, Zacharias did not just not believe Gabriel.
- ii. Clearly, Zacharias had rejected the words of the covenant as applying to him.
- c) Consider: this couple could have lived their entire married life in joy, but they got sidetracked into a frustration that cost them the majority of their adult lives.
- c. The ten months was a correction of a whole life of misguided unbelief.
- 2. What went wrong?
- a. The answer is in the answer to Zacharias' own question as he reveals the depth of unbelief to which he has fallen.
- 1) How could Zacharias fall to such a point that he was willing to reject the words of God's covenant?
- 2) How could Zacharias fall to such a point that even the appearance of Gabriel at the altar of incense with a terrific announcement was met with automatic disbelief?
- b. The answer is unveiled as we consider the answer to Zacharias' question.
- 1) What is the standard by which we know?
- 2) What are the options?
- a) Option one: the standard by which Zacharias thinks he knows what will be.
- i. This is the standard of past personal experience imposed upon the future.
- ii. This is an easily demonstrated failure as a standard because the past is never a guarantee of the future once the testimony of God is rejected.
- b) Option two: the standard by which all believers are supposed to know what will be.
- i. This is the standard of the revealed intention of God.
- ii. This standard is most easily established by the ten months as they bring the words of the covenant, given 1500 years before and unproductive for the majority of the man's life into a close enough proximity to break the gradual hardening of disbelief.
- c. There was no gradual slide into unbelief; the false standard had never been demolished in Zacharias' case.
- 1) Zacharias was a man who had put his trust in Yahweh so that he was justified by Yahweh.
- 2) But he was also a very pragmatic man who didn't let trust in Yahweh become the guiding light of his life.