Personal Destiny and Big Picture Purposes
God’s Word is a reliable platform supporting the weight of our faith. But sometimes when God speaks, we still have difficulty believing.
When we read (Luke 1:5-25) God's announcement that two older people who lived righteously before God were going to have a son who would become very famous (John the Baptist), we learn something about the Lord:
God plays chess on two levels simultaneously: our personal destinies are intertwined with his redemptive purposes.
Thus, the redemptive purpose God is unfolding through history and our personal destiny meet in Christ. There are many observations to be made about Zechariah and Elizabeth from this text; here are a few:
They were blameless barren (Luke 1:5-7)
Luke goes out of his way to point out their faithfulness, their obedience, their righteousness. This is to explain that the degree of their fruitfulness - or lack of it - was not an indicator of their righteousness. Thus, we can say that faithfulness does not mean fruitfulness; the righteous are not immune from the effects of the fallen world.
2. Zechariah was faithful but fearful: (Luke 1:8-12).
As we noted, Zechariah was a faithful priest who did his duty and lived well before God. But when God showed up in a significant way, he wasn't ready. We can observat that Faithfulness does not prepare us for power encounters with God. There are times God shows up in dramatic and surprising ways.
God's promise comes with the high price of commitment (Luke 1:13-17)
Not only did God promise Zechariah and Elizabeth a son, but He made some amazing promises: John would great, he would be filled with the Spirit from the womb, he would used by God to turn a nation back to God and prepare people for God's coming. BIG STUFF! But to do all that, he had to pay the price of consecration and live separated unto God's purpose. Yes, God can do great things, but to participate in God's agenda, we have to say 'yes' to the right stuff and 'no' to everything else.
Zechariah had questions and ended up quiet: Luke 1:18-23
When Zechariah heard the news, he didn't say, 'That's awesome! Praise the Lord!'. Actually, he said, 'How shall I know …?'. And because of his doubt about the spoken word, God gave him a sign, the inability to speak any words until John was born.
Here's what we can learn. God’s word to Zechariah was insufficient; he wanted empirical evidence. The theologian Augustine said Crede ut intelligas. Believe that you may understand. Faith precedes understanding; True understanding proceeds from genuine faith. Because God has spoken, receiving, believing, and acting on his word is reasonable.
Elizabeth was both pregnant and praising (Luke 1:24-25)
Perhaps there is no greater news for someone unable to have children than the discovery, 'I'm pregnant!'. It is unsurprising that Elizabeth interpretred God's intervention personally: she felt blessed she was going to have a baby. And so she praised God!
But God was doing much more than meeting her personal needs and fulfilling her family dreams: God was putting his people in place for his purpose; God was accomplishing his corporate, big-picture plans.
Observations, Lessons and Actions
Finally, this text leads us to make some observations, learn a lesson, and agree to action steps.
- Observation: God is putting people in place for his purpose. When God draws you to himself and puts you in certain church - it is simultaneously to fulfil his destiny for your life, but it is also about his big picture purposes.
- Lesson: Faith in God and his Word is rational. Because God exists, it it is rational to believe in him. Because God has spoken, it is rational to believe his word. And we can flip that around: because God exists, it is irrational to not believe in him. And because he has spoken, it is irrational to not believe his word.
- Action: Say ‘YES!’ to God’s promise … even when delayed! Sometimes, we interpret the delays of God as the 'no' of God. It was not that way for Elizabeth and Zechariah. God will accomplish his plan. So say, 'Yes!'.
- Action: Get ready for God: Turn! The ministry of John the Baptist was all about turning. Turning to God - or repenting - is not just how we come to Christ, it's how we live the Christian life. God is always calling us to himself, and we are often finding ourselves out of step with him. One of the turns we need to make is to God's purpose. That is, we need to turn - not only to the Lord, but to his purpose, his destiny, his calling.
Remember: God is playing chess on two levels: simultaneously: our personal destinies are intertwined with his redemptive purposes. So say 'Yes!' to God in following Christ personally and in fulfilling his purpose for this time and this place with this people.