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Faithful Failures?

Luke 1:5-7

If God is on your side, why is life littered by unwanted challenges and broken dreams? Luke is introducing us to Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth - a godly, devout, faithful couple who obeyed the Jewish rules. They were both descended from Aaron so Zechariah was a priest who served in the temple, and any male children would, automatically, have become priests. But there was not even one child. This was also a personal spiritual problem because, in the Old Testament, fertility was a mark of God's blessing. No child, and in some way, God must be displeased.

The Fear Of Dutiful Faith

Luke 1:8-12

Religious people have faith, but in what? Zechariah obeyed God's commandments in his private life, and fulfilled the requirements for priests when he was working in the temple. He certainly believed in God and was faithful to the rules, but there was something missing: he did not expect God to communicate with him.

Beyond Our Dreams

Luke 1:13-16

Some people say that if you have great faith, then God will answer: and there are Scriptures to support that. But God is also far greater than the limits of our faith. In this narrative, Zechariah the priest had prayed for a child, but did not believe it was possible (Luke 1:18-20). Nevertheless, his faithless prayer would be answered!

Back To The Covenant

Luke 1:17

John the Baptist did not choose his career. God appointed him as the 'last of the Old Testament prophets' (even though his story is at the beginning of the New Testament). They all had the same task - to draw people back to God's covenant, and to look forward to the day when Jesus would institute a new covenant. After 400 years of prophetic silence since Malachi who predicted John's ministry (Malachi 3:1), his task was to finish the prophetic relay race by personally identifying Jesus (John 1:29-34).

Nothing To Say

Luke 1:18-25

The angel had announced that a baby boy would be born to a geriatric couple. At first sight, Zechariah's question seems very reasonable. He and his wife knew that their biological power of reproduction had gone. But that was not just a function of their old age; they had never produced any children. Yet the angel rebuked Zechariah's unbelief and struck him dumb for nine months.

Accepting The Favour

Luke 1:26-33

The old, childless couple had a baby on the way, because God said it would happen. Elizabeth was 3 months away from delivering John when a teenage unmarried relative, Mary, encounters the same angel who spoke to Zechariah in the temple. Gabriel surprises her by saying that God had chosen her so that He might pour out His grace on her. As with Zechariah, the angel commands Mary not to fear and then announced that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Way God Works

Luke 1:34-38

Mary was a teenager who accepted the angel's message as truth from God: she accepted that her baby would become the Messiah King (Luke 1:31-33). Most would have thought that the idea was incredible, but Mary believed (Luke 1:45). However, her faith did not close off her enquiring mind; true faith never does. She did not doubt what God would do, but she was curious as to how God would do it, and what part she might need to play.

Blessing Comes Through Faith

Luke 1:39-45

Mary, in the early stages of pregnancy, went to stay with her relative Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John. These women were separated by many years: Elizabeth was way past the menopause and Mary was a virgin teenager, yet God had done a miracle in each of them. Aged Elizabeth was carrying her old husband's baby: it was God's idea, even though Zechariah did not believe (and was struck dumb for his faithlessness). Yet, that punishment was a sign of God's power and so he did sleep with his wife, who miraculously conceived (Luke 1:11-25).

Preparation Time

Luke 1:56

Wise people schedule time to prepare. Although most busy people have to multi-task (ask any mother of small children), any special new challenge needs dedicated time to rest, reflect, refresh and get ready. God knew that Mary needed to get ready for her unique role as the mother of God's Son. But there were other pressures too. A pregnant betrothed girl should have been stoned to death under Jewish law (Deuteronomy 22:23-27), and if her husband-to-be was responsible, then he should also die.

A True Story

Luke 2:1-5

One of the most important questions to ask of any faith or belief-system is, "Is it true?" Luke had no interest in writing fiction; he wanted to present an accurate account of the character, life and mission of Jesus, based on first-hand, eye witness evidence (Luke 1:1-4). All the events surrounding the birth of Jesus must have been so etched in Mary's memory that she could give a very detailed and personal description.