Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 21
Thesis: The record of John's growth is both a caution and an encouragement.
Introduction: In our studies of chapter one we have investigated a large number of the details that are involved in the uprooting of old, bad theology so that it can be replaced by new, good theology. We have seen, for example, that our fears actually define the boundaries of our faith. They tell us what we really believe as opposed to what we ought to believe. We have also seen that the root of all theology is our perception of the true nature of the God Who sits as sovereign over the details of the experiences of our lives. It is a great mistake to discount the sovereign oversight of God in the details of our lives; and, it is just as great a mistake to discount our reactions to those details -- for it is God Who knows our need for the exposure to what happens and it is our reaction that tells us what we really believe. There is another mistake that we can make: we can "understand" our experiences in the light of the theology of God as "Judge" instead of the theology of God as "Merciful Savior". If we do this, our "understanding" becomes complete "misunderstanding". This is the greatest danger of all of the dangers -- that our "understanding" should be "total misunderstanding" -- because both the quality of our experience in this world and the quality of our experience in the next is determined by our "understanding".
So, this morning we have come to the last verse in chapter one. If we give it a cursory reading, we will be inclined to move on into chapter two -- and completely miss the last "point" that Luke wanted to make. So, we shall not move on so quickly. Instead, we are going to look at Luke 1:80 for a few minutes so that we may be "arrested" in our tendency to "move on".
December 5, 2004
- I. The "Point" of the Verse.
- A. There is a point.
- 1. If we look over into chapter two, we can see in verse 40 an exact replication of the first six words of 1:80.
- a. By this we see that Luke clearly intended for us to see a deliberate parallel between the record of John's birth in chapter one and the record of Jesus' birth in chapter two.
- 1) He did this so that we would be compelled to ponder what we have studied.
- 2) He did this because the principle of true "understanding" is "pondering" the relationship between God's words and God's actions in our time-bound history -- seeking to discover the truth about God from what He says and what He does in relation to how we react to those two things.
- b. By this we also see a fundamental law that governs the way good theology unseats bad theology.
- 1) The necessity of this process of "the good unseating the bad" has been Luke's point all the way through chapter one.
- 2) The bottom line in this fundamental law is God's deliberate and timely interventions.
- a) Zacharias would have never moved from fear to joy on his own.
- b) It always takes the deliberate interventions of God to address the creation of a new heart that is overwritten by a new, good, theology.
- B. The "Point" is revealed by the stacking up of words in the verse that all "point" in the same direction.
- 1. The word translated "continued to grow" has a fundamental idea to it: the baby's body continued to develop.
- a. The sense of the word is that cell by cell, John continued to become the Preparer that God had designed him to be.
- b. But, hovering in the background of that sense is the undiluted, but often overlooked, implication that God's plans always develop bit by bit.
- 1) This means that the passing of time is involved.
- 2) This means that the passing of time must be properly understood, for this is one of the major points of attack by the adversary.
- a) Much is often made about how much time can go by without any hint whatsoever that the previously given words of God will be fulfilled (see 2 Peter 3:3-4).
- b) Most of the mistakes that are made by the uncommitted are made on the basis of the foolish notion that God must do as soon as He speaks.
- c) Many of the mistakes that are made by the committed are also rooted in the same fallacy. Consider Eve as she names Cain. Consider Abraham as he beds down with Hagar. Consider Moses as he determines at age 40 to "deliver" Israel. Consider the fact that enormous amounts of time are almost always involved (from the 25 years that Abram had to wait to become Abraham to the 4000 years humanity had to wait for the true "Cain" to arrive on the scene).
- 2. The word translated "to become strong" also has a fundamental idea to it: John was "not" strong in the beginning and was not able to "make himself strong" through the passing of time.
- a. The word is imperfect and passive -- making both of these points.
- b. But, hovering in the background of the "theology of developing strength" is the ever-present fact of God's method: the passing of time is required because the fulfillment of the Plan is bit by bit. It took 30 years for John to be "prepared" to be the "Preparer".
- 3. The word translated "child" has a double punch: Luke 18:16 says that the Kingdom is "of such"; but, at the same time, a "child" is seldom entrusted with the crucial tasks that are involved in building that Kingdom.
- a. God values children, but He uses "elders".
- b. There is no escape from that "hovering" issue: time must "drag along" as the bits and pieces are brought together.
- 4. The word translated "lived" is an imperfect of the verb "to be": John was, for quite a long time, in the deserts.
- 5. The word translated "deserts" means isolated places: John was not permitted to grow up under the influence of the ungodly culture of his day.
- a. The point here is that development of "spirit" in respect to The Spirit requires an isolation from the frog in the heating water syndrome.
- b. And, there is no escape from that "hovering" implication: time passes, and it often passes exceedingly slowly for the "isolated", so that even "deserts" gives a sense of the heaviness of the passing of time.
- 6. The word translated "until" is a deliberate statement that God's Plan has its "moments of fulfillment".
- C. So, the "Point" is this: sin has so corrupted creation that it takes a great deal of effort through a great deal of time for God to bring all of the bits and pieces together so that the result is what He desires.
- II. The Lessons We Can Learn.
- A. There are always two issues involved in the experiences of our existence as human beings.
- 1. The first is the true nature of Reality, which we discover by divine revelation.
- 2. The second is the relationship we have to our own true nature, which we discover by our reactions to divine revelation.
- B. There is always this to be considered: Divine revelation consists of two parts; what He says and what He does (what He does being interpreted by what He says).
- C. And, finally, there is a question that needs to be answered: What do you expect?
- 1. Expectation is what makes life "life" and death "death" (this is why life is by faith).
- 2. Expectation is supposed to come from what God says, not from what He does.
- 3. Expectation is supposed to develop from the process of pondering both what He says and what He does in the context of the reactions we experience along the way.
- 4. Expectation is most fully developed as God would have it when we find it in ourselves to give thanks in the very midst of the things that try us the most -- the fact that we are "tried" means two things: we are not yet perfect, but we are entrusted by God with His evaluation of our progress. Our trials are both a revelation of where we need further development and a statement of God's confidence in the strength He has built into us.