Study # 14
Thesis: Being willing to wait for the fulfillment of the Promise, while entertaining curiosity and accepting divine revelation, is the solution to sinking into despair.
Introduction: This morning we have a text before us that is unusually suited for our time in history. We are situated in history in the Christmas season at the latter end of an enormously long period of hope-denied. The One Who first came at the original Christmas to bring us to life promised when He left that He would come again, but He has tarried for almost 2000 years. Many have taken this long period of denial to mean that the hope of life is bogus. Some have let that death of hope drive an anger that is raising up a dangerous time in the world as men jettison the Promise and seek to make life happen by their own devices. Others have let that death of hope drive a despair that makes its presence known by the annual increase of suicides committed after Christmas. It is quite ironic that the celebration of the coming of the Promise of Life is actually the catalyst of the death of many who insist on engaging in the chronic disbelief that actually characterized Zacharias. In our studies so far, we have seen how God used Gabriel to bring Zacharias back to the triumph of the joy of hope. This morning we are going to look into Luke's record of how the people at the temple that day reacted to the events that took place there and ask ourselves "So What?". What is it that is contained in Luke's record to Theophilus of the reaction of the people that day that means anything at all to us?
December 7, 2003
- I. Some Initial Observations.
- A. There is, in the Bible, a powerful umbrella thesis that is captured by the word "repent".
- 1. According to Matthew 3:2, the summary word of John's entire message to his generation was "repent".
- 2. According to Matthew 4:17, the summary word of Jesus' entire message to His generation was "repent".
- 3. According to Acts 17:30, the foremost summary of Paul's message to the nations was that "God has commanded all men everywhere to repent".
- 4. According to Acts 26:20, the apostle's own words were that his message to everyone was that "they should repent".
- B. There is, in our text this morning, a powerful echo of a certain type of meaning that has its roots in God's Promise of Life during His dealings with Abraham, the father of those who believe.
- 1. In Abraham's situation, there were these characteristics:
- a. The promise of life was given early in the form of a promise of a son.
- b. The fulfillment of that promise was restrained for many years until there was no human hope of fulfillment.
- c. The man who was given the promise was justified before God by his faith in that promise.
- d. The man who was given the promise did a tolerably good job of living before his God.
- e. The man who was given the promise had a barren wife.
- f. The man who was given the promise came to a point of disbelief in the promise as Promise and, as a consequence, took matters into his own hands.
- 2. In Zacharias' situation, there was an exact correspondence to Abraham's situation until we get to the bottom of the list. He did not take matters into his own hands; rather, he sank into the despair of hopelessness and turned God into a fearful Father that one was required to serve whether He kept His promise or not.
- C. Abraham and Zacharias are actually illustrations of the two-fold need for repentance.
- 1. When faced by the death of hope, some men take matters into their own hands to try to create life on their own.
- 2. When faced by the death of hope, other men simply sink into hopelessness and allow the death of hope to distort their Theology.
- 3. Abraham is the illustration of the former and Zacharias is the illustration of the latter.
- 4. Repentance is the only solution to both of these problems.
- II. Some Observations From Our Text.
- A. Luke's references to "the people" at the temple compose a set of "bookends" to his record of the restoration of hope in Zacharias as a part of a larger chiastic structure.
- B. Luke's record of the people's reaction to the events that day has a rather significant anomaly in it. The people are said to "marvel" because Zacharias did not come out of the Temple when they expected him to but we would expect the record to tell us that they "marvelled" when they discovered what had happened to him -- after all, which is the greater "marvel"?
- C. There is a double reference to the Temple in this second reference to the people when there is none in the first reference, indicating a deliberate focus on the House of God and the hour of incense.
- D. There is a 'Lukan pattern' of a seemingly innocuous mention of something that comes into play later like a ton of bricks -- waiting, expecting, perceiving.
- 1. The people are "waiting" on a man, who, unbeknownst to them, is a father who will bring forth a son who will establish them in a right relationship with God.
- 2. The people are "marvelling" at an unexpected delay in the things that are supposed to happen so they can go on with their lives.
- 3. The people "perceive" that a legitimate revelation has been given that will have a direct bearing on how they go on about their lives.
- III. The Point.
- A. The "people" at the front end of the bookends are doing what all men should do when the fulfillment of the promise is going begging -- as a contrast to Abraham's pride.
- B. The "people" at the back end of the bookends are doing what all men should do when the fulfillment of the promise is going begging -- as a contrast to Zacharias' despair.