Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 3
Thesis: "Identity" is absolutely crucial, and determining "identity" properly is also absolutely crucial.
Introduction: If I were to ask you this morning, "Who are you and how did you come to be who you are?", how would you answer me? There are two major blunders in which men engage that thwart their ability to live well by making good decisions. The first is that they do not give sufficient credence to the "glory" of God (by answering well the question: What is God like?); and the second is that they do not understand how much their perception of that "glory" impacts their perception of their own "glory" (answering the question "What am I like?). There are two issues that govern man's quality of existence: the first is how he perceives God; the second is how he perceives himself. "Identity" is absolutely crucial and determining "identity" properly is just a small notch below it in importance. These things would govern your answers to my question if I were to ask it of you this morning.
So, as we look into Luke's record of the birth of John, we are going to see how he emphasized these two facts...that it is crucial how a man views God and how, then, he views himself.
August 1, 2004
- I. The Anomalies of Luke's Record that Summon Our Attention.
- A. First, the conflict over the naming of the child that is reported should have never happened; it is unreasonable for "them" to think that Elizabeth cannot name her own son [Genesis 29:31 and following].
- 1. That it happened is unreasonable.
- 2. That God would preserve the record of it for us in the light of all of the things He has not told us should make us sit up and take notice.
- B. Second, the fact that Luke tells us that they "all" marveled when Zacharias settled the conflict by backing up Elizabeth is something that catches our attention because it, too, is not what we would call "reasonable".
- 1. Marveling is something we would expect in the record after Zacharias' tongue is loosed.
- 2. Marveling is something one does when his expectations are thwarted.
- 3. Expectations have a basis in experience and attitude.
- 4. That they "all marveled" means that something was so entrenched in their experience and expectations that they were caught completely off guard.
- C. The point: Luke injects "anomalies" so that his readers will ponder the significance of his words.
- II. The Details of Luke's Record that Instruct Us in the Way of Life.
- A. Luke wrote his record to direct Theophilus into the life of God.
- B. What would work for Theophilus will also work for us if we want to experience life indeed.
- C. What Luke wrote is this...
- 1. In a context of a severe distortion of the glory of God, certain unnamed people came together to circumcise and name Elizabeth's son.
- a. The distortion was so severe that a former major proponent of it called it "blasphemy" [see 1 Timothy 1:13].
- b. The distortion was so embraced that those involved were caught completely off guard when their natural arrogance was thwarted by two people who were determined to obey the words of Yahweh their God.
- 2. When the arrogant ones attempted to preempt Elizabeth's natural right, she firmly blocked their attempt.
- a. The record of Genesis 29:31 and following clearly reveals a mother's prerogative.
- b. Elizabeth's words were emphatic, "...NO, BUT..." (ouchi alla -- both the strongest forms of their 'genus').
- 3. When the arrogant ones were blocked, they appealed to two "over-riders"...
- a. First, they attempted to force their will on the basis of a traditional blasphemy.
- 1) The words "force their will" are not too strong.
- 2) The nature of what I have called a "traditional blasphemy".
- a) It seems obvious from the text that "they" were following an entrenched practice.
- i. Their appeal to "none of your kinsmen are called by that name" implies that it was pretty much standard practice to name children out of the pool of names that were in the loop of kinsmen.
- ii. This "entrenched tradition" had significant roots in their blasphemy.
- b) It also seems obvious that they expected Elizabeth to permit them to have their way.
- c) What, then, was "their way"?
- i. It was the way of creating "identity" on the basis of human relationships.
- ii. This way was a central core of their "identity theology"..."I am who I am because of my 'connections' to my 'fathers'" [this resulted in the arrogance of assuming the identity as the people of God on the basis of descent from Abraham: John 8:33 in context].
- d) What was wrong with "their way"?
- i. Note how Luke puts "identity" on the front burner: he takes all personal names out of the record except Zacharias and John...the "they" are unidentified, the woman is no longer "Elizabeth" but "his mother", and the man is no longer "Zacharias" but "his father" [this is emphasized by 1:67].
- ii. Note what the difference is between the contestants regarding imparting an "identity" to the baby: "they" are following an entrenched and arrogant "way" rooted in false tradition, while the "mother" and the "father" are following the instruction of the words of God.
- iii. Note what happens if an observer follows the alternative "ways": if the observer follows the false tradition, the theology that underpins that "way" is more deeply entrenched; but, if the observer picks up on the practice of "faith unto obedience" in the words of God, a totally different kind of life opens up.
- iv. Note what "grace" has accomplished: the languishing of legalism is turned, by fulfillment of desire, into a firm commitment to the nature and words of Yahweh as He is revealed to be by the accomplishment...the "mother" stands her ground (as all "mothers" do if they are functioning as mothers).
- b. Second, they attempted to force their will on the basis of male dominion.
- 1) Being frustrated by the "mother", "they" turn to the "father".
- 2) They "sign" to him (who was not deaf) to get into this and set his wife straight.
- 3) Their error was not in appealing to the headship of the man; it was in the arrogance of assuming that the headship would allow their blasphemy to triumph.
- a) The "father" was the head by divine appointment for reason (it is not emotional empathy that needs a counter-balance, but distanced rationality).
- b) The "father" does not "yield" to his wife's obstinacy; he validates it: the refusal to dishonor the glory of God is always right and no "headship" can make it wrong.
- III. The Conclusions We Draw.
- A. Luke wanted all who read his record to come to one conclusion: human beings are to draw their sense of who they are from the words of God, not the entrenched blasphemies of men and/or angels.
- B. We are always wrong to seek to establish our identities in contradiction to the words of God and we are always right when faith in God's words is the root of our actions.