Study # 13
Thesis: The manifestation of grace in the presence of OOPS!
Introduction: At the beginning of our study last week we considered these questions: 1) why didn't God just surprise Zacharias and Elizabeth with an unexpected pregnancy and the fulfillment of a long-held, attitude-dominating desire? and 2) 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? The answers are: 1) a surprise fulfillment would not have done what needed doing; and 2) no, their joy would not have been nearly as great. Why not? This morning we are going to look further into Zacharias' question of disbelief. We shall see that the real issue of his fearful joylessness was not Elizabeth's apparent barrenness and we shall see how grace addresses the failure of unbelief.
November 23, 2003
- I. Zacharias' Misguided Belief Regarding Joy.
- A. Premise One: no one obsesses over any particular desire unless they believe that the fulfillment of that desire will bring what they really want.
- B. Premise Two: few people genuinely grasp the linkage that exists between the ultimate longing and the multitude of servant-longings that are employed in the pursuit.
- C. Premise Three: there is a real pattern in Luke 1 that reflects both the ultimate longing and some of the servant-longings that were employed by Gabriel and Zacharias.
- 1. In the first place, Zacharias thought a "son" would be the "be-all, end-all".
- a. What I want is joy.
- b. A son will bring that to me.
- 1) A son will raise our status in the eyes of our social set.
- 2) A son will make life at home a lot easier because the wife will be happier.
- 2. But, Gabriel, as God's representative on the scene, knew far better that the real issue was a legitimate settling on the Theology of God as Gracious.
- a. There is nothing that takes joy away faster than fear.
- b. There is nothing that establishes fear faster than "evidence" that God is angry with you.
- c. There is nothing that can keep the angry-God syndrome before your face better than legal (God is Holy) theology.
- d. The only solution for this entire scenario is iron-clad evidence that God's disposition toward you is gracious, not judgmental.
- 3. Therefore, Gabriel acts in two ways to "fix" Zacharias' failing theology.
- a. Note that he doesn't deny the God-is-holy theology, so the "fix" is supplemental, not detracting.
- b. Then note: he gives him an inescapably rational proof that God's words are believable as words of grace (short-term prophetic confirmation).
- 1) First, there is the creation of the "OOPS syndrome" -- Zacharias needs to sense failure on his part so that grace must enter the picture -- without the OOPS, there will only continue the frustration of trying to figure out why God is angry.
- a) "I am Gabriel" (a mighty warrior of the Executor of Power).
- b) "I typically occupy an exalted position in the very presence of the Executor of Power"
- c) "I was commissioned as an apostle to bring you 'good news'"
- d) "Do you think unbelief is a suitable response to these realities?" [Note 1 John 5:10 -- he that does not believe God makes Him a liar!]
- 2) Second, there is the imposition of a divine word tied to experience that makes two things happen simultaneously:
- a) First, the disbelieved divine words (starting with Exodus and Deuteronomy) are brought into an abbreviated real-life experience of prophecy fulfilled.
- i. There is no greater argument for veracity than experience of prophecy fulfilled [remember Jesus' loud words on Calvary from Psalm 22].
- ii. This is the biblical apologetic for the identification of the Truth.
- b) Second, the divine words ignore the insult of the OOPS -- meaning that God is gracious.
- c. Second, he gives him an inescapable experience of how God feels when He is treated as an empty talker.
- 1) In order for "lessons" to "settle" so that they are life-impacting, there is a real need for exposure over time with focus.
- 2) He is subjected to "silence" because he needs to have a long-term reminder of what being 'relegated to a speaker of worthless words' actually means so that he ceases to treat the Gracious God in that manner.
- a) He is going to be treated as one whose words are so worthless that they are not to even be spoken.
- b) Sooner or later it will "settle" on him that this is an enormously destructive method of relationship that ought to be abandoned. [Gabriel, in effect, told Zacharias, "You need to understand what it does to relationships to have words rejected as unworthy of utterance. Thus, I am going to make the vast majority of what you think is worthy of utterance unworthy of utterance so that you can experience the kind of unworthiness you have just imposed upon me. When you have something worth saying, you will be able, once again, to speak."]
- 4. But, the fix is not an overpoweringly negative one: the long-anticipated son, and the proof of God's gracious disposition, are far and away more experience-dominating than the inability to speak.
- a. Every time Zacharias wanted to say something to someone and could not, he was reminded that the reason he couldn't is that he has a gracious God Who is going to give him a son.
- b. The twin realization -- that God is gracious, and that he was going to receive from His hand the fulfillment of his deepest known longing -- combined to fill his soul with the joy of hope.
- c. The fulness of the joy of hope made the inability to speak a less intense experience (judgment tempered by mercy).