Matthew R. Perry

It’s a Question of Unbelief, Part I: Knowing God’s Promises Does Not Equal Believing Them

In Sermons on November 12, 2007 at 12:48 pm

zechariah-psalter-711287.jpgIn Luke 1:5-7, we read:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the divisionn of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. [7] But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

As we get to know Zechariah and Elizabeth, we will find what special and God-honoring people they are! First, you notice their family background. The division of Abijah: one of the 24 divisions of the priesthood which served the Temple and provided its needs for a week at a time, twice per year. Yet during the religious festivals, all the divisions served.

Zechariah had a wife named Elizabeth, descended from the daughters of Aaron. Aaron was Moses’ brother and a priest, so both Zechariah and Elizabeth come from priestly lineage. Yet, they did not simply count on their lineage to score points with God. . They loved God and did all that God commanded to the best of their ability. When they sinned, they offered the proper sacrifices so their guilt would be lifted. According to the law, they were blameless.

All was well and blessed in their home, except for one thing — Elizabeth was barren. She was not able to have a child. In our culture, we know how difficult this issue is for those who cannot conceive. In fact, for many with this issue, Mother’s Day is the most difficult day on the calendar and skip it all together. Add to all of this that she was “advanced in years.” She was past the age of childbearing. Yet, in the Hebrew culture, this was a disgrace and for many it was seen as proof of disobedience in their spiritual life. In fact, since we’ve read through this passage and know the end of the story, notice how Elizabeth reflected on this: “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:25, ESV). She was in a long line of barren women whom God looked upon: Sarah, Leah, and Hannah.

I mention all of this to hopefully paint a picture. Zechariah and Elizabeth come from a long lineage of people whose sole purpose was to protect the faith and administer the Word of God. They not only knew the Word of God, they lived that Word out. But throughout their marriage, I see how they just seemed to have come to terms with the fact that they would never have children.

Do you have areas in your life where you have just given up? I would say that this is clearly the case with even the most obedient and faithful of believers. You love the Bible and believe what’s written — you just don’t think that what God did in them, he can do in you. You know they knew backwards and forwards the story of the reproach of Sarah who could not conceive and how she was mocked by her handmaiden who well could (Genesis 18) — and yet God allowed Sarah at a ripe old age to have a child of a promise. Hannah was another who could not bear children — and in 1 Samuel 1:6-7 we read:

And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

These are two great examples, especially Sarah, who showed herself to be the mother of a child of a great promise — a role that Elizabeth would soon find out she is filling. Yet, knowing the Scriptures does not equate believing them — and what is believing them? Trusting that God can do now what he did then.

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