Doubting God’s Promise

KEY VERSE: “The angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” —Luke 1:13

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:5-13, 18-20, 24, 25

FOR a Jewish couple to remain childless was often construed as a sign of God’s disfavor. However Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth, now aging and still childless, “were both righteous before God.” (Luke 1:6) He was a priest and very devoted to his responsibilities in the Temple. And the fact that Elisabeth was barren was a matter of concern and prayer to them for many years.

It was while he was going about his priestly duties, burning incense upon the altar, that he suddenly saw an angel standing there. Naturally, Zacharias was afraid, but the angel bore good news, announcing that Elisabeth was to bear a son, and they should call his name John. Even though this was told by an angel from God, the physical impediment of their advanced years made these words seem unbelievable. Zacharias asked for some sign that this, their fondest hope, could be realized. He probably expected some evidence of a return to the virility of youth, but instead he was struck dumb, and could not speak.

God is not pleased with a lack of belief in his Word, even if by human abilities it might seem incredulous. That is why Abraham and Sarah, who were faced with a very similar circumstance, are heralded in the Scriptures as examples of faith to follow. When God promised Abraham that he would have a seed, his wife was also barren, and Abraham did not know how this promise could be fulfilled. However, his lack of knowledge did not weaken his faith. He believed God, and so he started out on a life of faith ever believing that the time would come when the seed of promise would be born.

In Abraham’s case it was not just a few weeks before the physical evidence of the fulfillment of God’s words were apparent. It was a long wait of twenty-five years. Even this great prophet’s lack of knowledge of God’s unique abilities to perform put a strain on his credulity. When God made it clear that no other mother for the seed would be considered except Sarah, Abraham laughed. (Gen. 17:17) Years had passed and now Sarah was not only still barren, but past the age of childbearing. Because he did not know how God could possibly fulfill this promise, his faith momentarily wavered, but soon he realized that all he needed to know was that God had promised, and this was a sufficient foundation for his faith.

The Apostle Paul’s analysis of Abraham’s great test was that he “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith … and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised he was able to perform.”—Rom. 4:20,21

There are striking parallels to this in the Christian life today. By faith we enter into the narrow way having little knowledge of where we are going. The Apostle John wrote, “We are God’s children, what we shall be has not yet been disclosed, but when it is disclosed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2, New English Bible) We accept our future by faith, and lay hold upon this promise, yet not knowing its full meaning.

God also tests our faith by permitting us to wait for the fulfillment of his promises. This principle of God’s dealings with his people is referred to by the prophet where he says, “Though it [the vision] tarry [seem long in coming], wait for it.” (Hab. 2:3) Jesus illustrated it by the parable of the ten virgins. And surely the Lord’s people at this end of the age have had their faith severely tested by the seemingly long wait for the fruition of their hopes.

The signs of the times today should be a great stimulus to a dwindling faith. Surely the vision of truth is speaking eloquently and convincingly today. It is saying, “Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [deliverance] draweth nigh.”—Luke 21:28

To Zacharias and Elisabeth, God’s Word was mightily, fulfilled. The words of Gabriel, “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord,” aptly expressed the life of John the Baptist. About him Jesus said, “There hash not risen a greater than John the Baptist.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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