Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Luke 1:5-7, 17-25, 42-45

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.
Luke 1:5-7

17 And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”
Luke 1:17-25

42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!”
Luke 1:42-45

The Original Intent

1) Why would it have been easy for Zechariah and Elizabeth to have lost faith? (Luke 1:5-7) 

Zechariah and Elizabeth were both descendants of Aaron, which was a requirement to be a priest in the temple. The most coveted place to serve as a priest would be near or in the Holy of Holies as it was the only access point to God’s presence. (Leviticus 16:2) Many priests would never have the opportunity to serve in the Holy of Holies, which only happened once a year on the Day of Atonement.

These positions were assigned by the God-ordained decision process of “casting lots”. Imagine waiting day after day, hoping to be selected, but never chosen. Perhaps sometimes, Zechariah’s number would be so close as the lots were cast, but not exact. After a while, one could give up hope of ever being selected as a high priest. Perhaps never realizing this dream over time eroded his faith in God.
 

When Zechariah and Elizabeth married, they, like any Jewish Levite couple, would have had dreams of having a son who would also become a priest in the temple. After years and years of hoping and waiting for a child, Elizabeth remained barren. Another dream, impossibly gone. Culturally, the people viewed barrenness as great shame. The common understanding was that you had sinned and barrenness was your punishment. It caused great sadness for Elizabeth and Zechariah, even though they were both righteous people. 

At their age, hope in their dreams disappeared. Thankfully, hope in an elusive dream is different than faith in an unchanging, faithful God. They still had faith that God would one day send the Messiah. They couldn’t have imagined they would be an integral part of the plan. John Maxwell wrote in his Life Lessons from Luke, “No matter how much we doubt it, our God is capable of doing incredible things!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The Everyday Application

1) Why would it have been easy for Zechariah and Elizabeth to have lost faith? (Luke 1:5-7) 

Have you lost hope in a dream you’ve long ached for or faith that God would bless you in a particular area of your life? When I was a child, my greatest desire was to be a wife and mother. While in college, I received a definitive word from God that I would marry a widower with children; the years went by, and I wondered if I heard Him at all.

I compromised by dating other good Christian boys and even a divorcee with children, but I knew this was a compromise and not really God’s plan. I gave up on hope and accepted the idea that Jesus was my husband and “my children” were those in the children’s department at church. 

Waiting rarely looks like we imagine. Often, when we come to the point of surrender to the Lord, we are positioned to receive what He has been waiting to give! In the process of waiting, we must learn to trust the goodness of the God who faithfully loves us despite our circumstances. (Isaiah 40:31)

The Original Intent

2) How did the angel encourage the faith of Zechariah and Elizabeth? (Luke 1:17-25) 

In the minds of first-century citizens, it was incomprehensible that God would see a woman as righteous but not have blessed her with a child. Everyone knew that, up to this point, Zechariah had never been chosen to serve in the Holy of Holies and Elizabeth was barren.

The community would have assumed that, though Zechariah and Elizabeth “appeared” to be righteous, they must have offended God in some way. Oh, the undeserved shame this would have brought on them. 

But one day, in his old age, Zechariah was chosen! Oh, what a day!

Zechariah likely wanted to rush home and tell Elizabeth the news. But God had even better news for him. Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies, and there in that quiet, holy place, the angel appeared and told Zechariah the news of his coming child, a son!

Even more significant, this son would be the prophet to “prepare the way” for the Messiah! (“Zechariah and Elizabeth: Persistent Faith in a Faithful God” by Doug Greenwold) 

The Everyday Application

2) How did the angel encourage the faith of Zechariah and Elizabeth? (Luke 1:17-25) 

Do you have predetermined ideas of how and when God is supposed to do things for you? Have you ever experienced “waiting on the Lord”? Have you waited so long you felt you were waiting in vain? 

I thought marriage would come early in my 20s. I went to college, but I didn’t expect to graduate. I went for what we called our “MRS Degree”, to meet a good Christian man and get married. Every year that passed after my graduation caused me to feel I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. Single and childless with a career.

I felt men would see me as a career woman, not as someone whose greatest desire was to be a wife and a mother. 

Until the day that Charlotte, my pastor’s wife, shared about another pastoral family who had been in a car accident. The wife and daughter didn’t survive. Not long after this, Charlotte insisted I needed to meet this grieving pastor and his two sons. I was reluctant at first, and when I finally agreed to meet him, it was only to get Charlotte to stop bugging me.

It turned out to be love-at-first sight; we were married a short four months later. That promise from God in my early 20s was confirmation to move forward and marry Michael. People questioned my actions, but I knew I was doing the right thing.  

Hope had been restored and, while I waited, I had learned to have faith in the goodness of God. (Psalm 27:13-14) The hope of marriage and motherhood had been fulfilled in the perfect timing of the God who is unchanging and steadfast in love. (Lamentations 3:22-24)

The Original Intent

3) How did Elizabeth’s faith encourage Mary? (Luke 1:42-52) 

John the Baptist had not been born yet when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s door. When she walked into Elizabeth’s home, unborn baby John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. It was confirmation that what both Mary and Elizabeth had been told was indeed true.

God was finally putting His plan into action and the two women played big roles in what was about to happen!

Elizabeth recognized that Mary’s faith played an important part in receiving the promise. She encouraged Mary’s faith when she said, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what He has spoken to her!” (verse 45) Elizabeth didn’t remain silent in the confirmation she received; she passed it on to Mary. (David Guzik, Enduring Word

The Everyday Application

3) How did Elizabeth’s faith encourage Mary? (Luke 1:42-52) 

Elizabeth encouraged Mary in her faith because she knew the pivotal importance of trusting what God has said. Her mute husband would have been a daily reminder to take the Lord at His Word! Elizabeth took the opportunity to cultivate and nourish Mary’s faith because of her own experience.

Do you have a faith encourager in your life?
Are you an encourager to someone? 

For me, Charlotte was that encourager of faith. She had been told by God that I was to marry Michael and be a mother to his children. Charlotte stepped out in faith and drove me to Georgia to meet him. She then mentored me to be a pastor’s wife and encouraged me in my faith and ministry throughout the rest of her life.

Charlotte was like a second mother to me. She was my mentor and prayer warrior. She drew from her own walk with the Lord as she poured into me, much like Elizabeth did with Mary.

I have mentored young women through my ministry and I have tried to continue to be an encourager to them even though we live in different places. Social media has made this a simple task along with the ease of texting. What resources do you have available that you could begin using as tools of encouragement to cultivate another’s faith?

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