Responding to God in Faith
Luke 1:5-20 NKJV: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Here, we have an account of how God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias to give him the good news of the birth of his Son John the Baptist.
Zacharias response was self-centered and one of unbelief: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
This is very surprising as Zacharias was a priest: one expected to know God and his ways and so should have responded in faith.
Furthermore, the scripture says of him and his wife Elizabeth that: ‘And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.’
On the surface this scripture seems contradictory to:
Exodus 23:25-26 NKJV: So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. 26 No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfil the number of your days.
However, when we see that Zacharias’ response was in doubt not in faith we can understand the apparent contradiction.
Zacharias, like many good Christians today, was keeping the moral and ceremonial laws of God by nature and not by faith and so was either ignorant or negligent of the spiritual law of faith. So this created a spiritual loophole through which Satan was able to enforce barrenness in the womb of Elizabeth.
Romans 2:14-15 NKJV: for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
Romans 3:27 NKJV: Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Remember that ignorance or negligence of spiritual law can lead to destruction:
Hosea 4:6 NKJV: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
However, God in His mercy and sovereignty chose to use Zacharias and Elizabeth to bring into the world the prophetic fore runner of the Lord Jesus, because their keeping of moral and ceremonial law by nature showed a heart inclination to please God. This is just like Cornelius whose prayers and alms, though done by a Gentile who did not have a covenant with God (Eph. 2.11-12), had God respond to him and sent Peter to him to show him the way of salvation through Jesus Christ (Ac. 10. 1-6).
This is instructive to us today: there are things God may do for us by His mercy and sovereignty, in spite of our unbelief. However, this is not an excuse to continue in unbelief; rather we are to correct our ignorance or negligence of spiritual law.
This was the problem with Zacharias: ignorance and negligence of spiritual law. So God had to shut him up supernaturally until John was born so he would not use his mouth to speak words of doubt that would have counteracted the supernatural work God was doing in his and Elizabeth’s bodies to enable them conceive and give birth to John the Baptist.
It is also instructive to observe that this same attitude of unbelief was passed down to John the Baptist who later began to doubt if Jesus was the Christ and the Lord Jesus had to warn him not to become offended:
Luke 7:18-23 NKJV: And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
This shows us that the attitude and action of negligence of spiritual law can affect our children by being passed across to them.
In our article next week, we will learn from the example of the Virgin Mary how to respond to God in faith by keeping spiritual laws by the Spirit and not just the moral and ceremonial laws of God by nature, which Zacharias did, but which could not help him overcome the problem of barrenness