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Bible Study – The Price of Unbelief (Luke 1:19-20)

Today’s Reading: Luke 1

Today’s Reflection: Luke 1:19-20

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.  And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

What is this text saying?

The angel Gabriel was sent to Zechariah to tell him that he and his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a very important child.  But Zechariah questioned whether what the angel had said could be true.  As a result God made him mute until the word was fulfilled and the child was born.

Why is it important?

The child in question would grow up to become John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus.  John was the man who would prepare the world to receive Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Zechariah, the man to whom this news was given was a priest, someone who had dedicated his life to God’s service.  Yet when the angel Gabriel appeared with this news Zechariah questioned whether the message brought from God could really be true.

As it turned out, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had never had children.  They had been barren for their entire marriage, and now both were past the age for childbearing.  Given these circumstances, wasn’t it reasonable for Zechariah to raise this as a concern?

Not when you consider this promise came from God, who had already performed miracles like this in the past when He allowed Abraham and Sarah, both very advanced in years, to have the child Isaac.  This was a story a priest like Zechariah would have been very familiar with.

From reading the bible, it is clearly common for God to allow something to be taken away from one of His servants when they questioned a word or a promise that their experience with God should have affirmed and given them confidence in.  And what God allowed to be taken away was never a small thing.  It was something significant enough to get that person’s attention and stop them in their tracks.

For doubting God’s ability to renew and use an aged womb Zechariah lost his voice, a key part of his ministry in the temple.  For doubting the seriousness of his Nazarene vow with God, Samson lost his strength, his key weapon against the Philistines.  For doubting the importance of total obedience despite Samuel’s warnings, King Saul lost his kingdom and eventually His life and the lives of his family.  For doubting that God’s commandments applied equally to him, David lost his first child with Bathsheba, a child who he may have intended to be his heir.  For doubting God’s sovereignty over his kingdom despite having witnessed miracle after miracle, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon lost his mind.  For doubting Jesus was the Messiah and continuing to persecute those who believed in him, Paul lost his sight, receiving a physical blindness to match his spiritual blindness.


How can I apply this?

One of the most important aspects of our walk with God is our ability to trust Him.  The choices we make in life determine the outcome of our lives, and these choices are heavily influenced by how much we trust God and believe in His promises.  The way we respond when God speaks to us will differ greatly if we are questioning and doubtful rather than fully trusting in Him.  There are three things we should keep in mind when we receive a word from God that may be challenging to us and difficult to believe.

1) Remember.  Remember how God has led you in the past and what He has brought you through.  Consider yourself to be a student in ‘You’ university.  God has prepared a specific individual curriculum for you to advance you to higher levels of understanding, trust in Him, and work on His behalf.  Just as a student goes through high school before graduating to university or college, you will find that God will test you with smaller things before testing you with greater things, so you can build more confidence in Him over time. Whatever he may be saying to you now is nothing more than a graduation of where He has already led you.

God did this with Moses, allowing him to be educated in Egypt’s palace, then to become experienced as a shepherd leading and guiding sheep.  When God called Moses to go to Egypt and participate in freeing Israel from slavery, it was a graduation from his lessons learned in the palace and the pasturelands, taking his past experience with God to a new and greater level of accomplishment.

2) Repent.  It is often our first impulse to reject God’s calling or His promises for our lives, just as Moses did, but as the example of Zechariah shows us the consequences of rejecting a message from God can be dire.  If God allows something to be taken from us because of our failure to believe, instead of getting angry with God or trying to negotiate with Him we need to repent of our faithlessness.  First and foremost, God is calling us to be in right relationship with Him, and He is more concerned with our character than our comfort, more concerned that we have all our hope in Him than that we have fleeting happiness.  Repentance opens the door both to us allowing God to work in our lives and to letting His vision replace our own.

3) Receive restoration.  After repenting of refusing to believe God, some form of restoration follows.  Zechariah received his speech again when he named the child as instructed by Gabriel.  Samson received his strength once again when he humbled himself, recognizing his power had been solely from God.  King David and Bathsheba had another child, Solomon, who would go on to be Israel’s next and wisest king.  King Nebuchadnezzar became sane once more and went on to praise God as the one true Lord and King of the earth.  When Paul recognized Jesus as the Messiah and allowed Christ’s followers to minister to him, he regained his eyesight.   Each of the bible characters mentioned earlier who lost something because of failing to heed God’s word received restoration.  All accept one: King Saul.

When Samuel told Saul the kingdom would be taken from him because of his disobedience, he didn’t use this as an opportunity to repent and rebuild his relationship with God.  Instead he rebelled even more, ultimately seeking out witchcraft and sorcery in a foolish effort to keep what God had already torn from him.  This folly led to Saul’s death and the deaths of his sons.

While the restoration promised isn’t always a complete return of everything taken, it is far better than the alternative.  David’s first child with Bathsheba was gone forever, Samson regained his strength but lost his life, Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom, but each of them received the most important restoration—a renewed relationship with God setting them on a path to His eternal kingdom.  King Saul, by contrast, lost his kingdom, his life, the lives of his sons.  Most tragically Saul lost his opportunity to make things right with God, both then and for all eternity.

We are so fortunate that God desires to do amazing things in and through us.  I pray that you remember this and believe completely when God speaks things into your life, even if they are things that seem too amazing to believe.  But if you allow doubt to take hold, know that you can repent of it and that God is ready to restore.

Mark 9:23-24 – Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”



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