Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 6
Thesis: The methodological difference between life and death is the attitude one takes toward the "personal" word of God.
Introduction: In our study last week, we saw that Luke was attempting to get Theophilus to consider the answer to a most basic question: Have I any value to God? We saw that, behind the statements regarding the hill country of Judaea, there exists a dominant theme: Yahweh is going to arise from the hill country in order to "help" those whom He values very highly. At the end of that study we noted that the chief difference for men is not whether they are valuable to God -- all men have enormous value to God -- but whether they are going to embrace the fact of their value by "faith" -- the kind of conviction that dominates their emotional lives. Our current text concerns a man who did not embrace that fact early on and, as a consequence, was growing into a cynical old man. Consider what Zacharias' life would have been like, and what his contribution to his family and neighbors would have been, had he known and believed the content of Luke 1. My claim this morning is that if he had believed the early words of God, he would have known -- maybe not the specific details, but at least the general outline. Every record in the Old Testament of a "barren" woman who believed and practiced the covenant was a record of an extraordinary child to come...Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Samuel. This morning we are going to see that Luke actually determined to focus on this issue with his next words regarding Zacharias. There is one great issue before man: it is not whether he is important to God or not; it is whether he believes the fact that he is important to God.
August 22, 2004
- I. Luke's Pattern of Words in 1:67-68.
- A. He introduces a prophecy of a speaker with an obvious "apparent" redundancy that has this pattern: the personal identity tag plus a specific relational characterization.
- 1. The speaker of the prophecy is "apparently" unnecessarily identified as "Zacharias"...a simple third person form of "prophesied" was all that was needed for the reader to know who was talking.
- 2. Then, Luke goes even further to tell us that this "Zacharias" was the new born's "father"...such an obvious apparent redundancy that we cannot miss it...no one reading the material would have thought otherwise.
- B. Then, in the opening statement of the prophecy, the speaker repeats the pattern: the personal identity tag plus a specific relational characterization.
- 1. The "Lord" is "YWHW" -- everyone in Israel and outside of Israel knows this. [the Hebrew combination of Yahweh and Elohim is found over a thousand times in the Hebrew Old Testament]
- 2. Then "Yahweh" is relationally characterized as "the God of Israel"...again, a no-brainer.
- II. The Significance of the Words in This Pattern.
- A. In relation to the speaker of the prophecy.
- 1. Zacharias means "Yahweh remembers" and the story unfolds as a record of a man who has forgotten the significance of his own name.
- a. Since "Yahweh" never "forgets", the name simply means that Yahweh never lets His words fall to the ground unfulfilled (a thesis that is pointedly stated in 1:37).
- b. Since Zacharias was a loyal son of the covenant, which contained the words of Deuteronomy 7:14, there was no possibility that he would die childless.
- c. But, the very fact that Yahweh has to be cast into the mold of One Who needs to "remember" is a signal of significance: that Yahweh's words must be understood as having a specific time for fulfillment in order to accomplish the divine plan of incomparable wisdom.
- d. Thus, the name "Zacharias" insists that men deal with the claims that God's words never fall to the ground and that God's words are always fulfilled in order to fulfill His incomparably wise plan. [If He asks a man to wait for fulfillment it is only because He has chosen that man to be a special instrument in His hands.]
- 2. The "father" also has a significance as a choice made by Luke.
- a. The first reference by Luke to a "father" is in the prophecy regarding John's impact as one who functions in the spirit and power of Elijah (1:17).
- 1) In that reference, the "fathers" are both "disobedient" [the word so translated means "unpersuaded"] and not living in the "wisdom of the just".
- 2) It is no accident that Zacharias, who has forgotten the significance of his own name, is one of the "unpersuaded" who has abandoned the wisdom of the just and is the first "father" who is turned to his child and returned to persuasion and wisdom by the impact of John's presence in the hands of Yahweh.
- b. The on-going references by Luke to "fathers" also walk a tightrope between the pride of descent ("Abraham is our father" is an excuse to refuse repentance -- 3:8) and the despair of descent (6:23 -- the fathers set the pattern for the children).
- c. The point is this: Luke's re-characterization of Zacharias as the father of the newborn is simply a double-emphasis upon just how absolutely crucial it is for men to embrace Yahweh's words as inviolable and critically dependable.
- B. In relation to the One spoken of in the prophecy.
- 1. "Yahweh" means "The Self-Existing One", but it is used particularly in reference to His willingness to "visit" with salvation (Exodus 3:13-16). Thus, the name means "The Self-Existing One Saves".
- a. This is the name that underwrites our hope of eternal life.
- b. This is the name that underwrites our daily joy.
- 2. "God of Israel" means "the Executor of Power for him who seeks blessing".
- a. In Genesis 32:24 and following, Yahweh gives Jacob a new name because he refuses to release Him until He blesses him.
- b. It is no accident that Zacharias' first word of prophecy is "blessed"... the one being blessed responds with a blessing upon the One Blessing.
- c. When the Executor of Power uses power to bless, joy and gratitude are the results.
- III. The Conclusions We Draw.
- A. In the opening words of the pattern, Luke unveils the critical principle that man has no greater need than to embrace the integrity of God's words as the way His incomparably wise plan is going to unfold.
- B. Then, in the next statement of the pattern, Luke focuses upon why man can embrace that integrity: Yahweh always visits those who believe Him with power in blessing.
- 1. There will often be a time of "waiting", but it does not have to be a time of disbelieving despair or arrogant rejection.
- 2. There is an enormous difference of experience for those whose minds are stayed upon Yahweh and those whose minds are not so stayed...even if the specific details of experience are exactly the same.