LUKE’S CHRISTMAS GOSPEL OF JESUS: A 30-Day Christmas-Time Devotional.
A Crisis of Belief.
Luke 1: 13-18 (MsgB)
 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John.  You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth.  He’ll achieve great stature with God. “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb.  He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God.  He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”  Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
A crisis of belief. Ever had one?
Obviously Zachariah is in the midst of one right here in the Temple of God.
A crisis of belief is when life, or God, (or both!) pushes us into one very tight, uncomfortable corner. A crisis of belief tends to have very sharp edges and those edges can cut rather deep, at times, into our lives, exposing our inner wounds, hurts, and dysfunctions.
Henry Blackaby, author of the excellent book Experiencing God says it well. A crisis of belief has very little wiggle room. There appears to be no easy escape. And when (not if) you and I are hit by a crisis of belief, God has it all pre-planned that this moment of tension will expose the true depths of our hearts. Blackaby concludes his analysis by stating: “The very next thing we do in response to our crisis of belief will reveal to us what we really believe about God.”
So, let’s look a bit closer at Zachariah’s crisis of belief, as Luke describes it here for us in his letter to Theophilus.
As we discussed yesterday, here’s Zach, in the midst of his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the Holy of Holies. He’s been given the great responsibility to burn incense in the presence of God. It’s a job given to a man only after he has proven himself fully capable of such a responsibility. Because of this honor, Zachariah has prepared and practiced for this holy moment for months. Now, the moment is here, and bang, right in the midst of this sacred ritual, God shows up in ways that are totally off Zachariah’s charts!
An angel appears and begins prophesying to Zach about his life-long desire to have a son. The promise that this angel speaks of is amazing when you stop to look at it. But keep in mind, Zachariah doesn’t have the luxury that you and I have in sitting down and thinking through this blessing that just popped into his life. In fact, if we view this story from Zachariah’s perspective, this angelic visitation catches him totally off-guard, interrupting his pre-scripted religious activity! Didn’t God know not to interrupt this holy moment in the Temple? Why would the Lord choose this important slice of time to pop in unexpected, just as I’m about to light the holy incense? Couldn’t He wait until I was back home, where I could give my full attention to this ‘word’ about a son?
You see, God surprised Zachariah this day in the temple. And in that surprise, a promise of amazing magnitude is dropped into Zach’s lap. A bomb, quite actually. A crisis of belief bomb.
And what did this crisis of belief stir inside Zach?
As Blackaby states, our deepest belief about God is often revealed when God shoves us into a crisis of belief. And in this case, Zach’s true belief about God comes out through his first response back to the angel:
“Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
Now what kind of comment is that for Zach to say to a holy angel sent from God? Not too courteous, is it? Do you suppose his tone of voice was as edgy as I’m imagining it right now?
What was Zach thinking? Was he even thinking at all?
My guess is no. Zach wasn’t thinking. He was feeling.
Keep in mind that it’s always a risky endeavor when you try to get a man to ‘feel.’ This is especially true when you interrupt a man, pulling him off task from his ‘to do’ list. And pity the poor fool that interrupts a grumpy old fart like Zachariah, just when he’s in the midst of performing one of the most important tasks he’s been planning for months! Keep in mind; this angel is also meddling in a specific arena of Zach’s life, bringing a promise of hope to a place in Zach’s heart where he has been holding a bunch of bitterness regarding his years of barrenness. In a society where family is everything, here’s Zach doing his religious duty for God, but deep inside there’s a gaping wound that has developed because he and his wife are now so old, there’s no way in high heaven he’ll ever be blessed with a son.
Now some of you might be saying that I’m over-analyzing this thing, but I sense that Zach’s short and snappy response to this angel really shows how hurt and wounded Zachariah is deep inside. Years of unanswered prayers for a son have accumulated in his heart, making for one pretty disappointed and disheartened old man. A man who’s always wanted a son, but never has been blessed by God to have one. A man who believes in God, but in all honesty, has very little hope inside that this same God would ever answer his deepest prayers.
So there it is, folks. True confessions of a godly man who has run out of patience waiting for God to answer his prayers.
Ever been there?
Isn’t it great that the Christmas story begins by showing us how our loving God knows our deepest wounds, and comes, many times, in a pre-planned crisis of belief to remind us that Jesus is here to heal those wounds, restore life to our lifeless bodies, and give us a new hope of promise which can overcome all of our past wounds and disappointments?
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
My prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the reminder that when Jesus comes, our old wounds, hurts, disappointments, and dysfunctions are not only identified, but also dealt with. Jesus, in my crisis of belief, please have access to my heart, and like Zachariah, may You go deep in order to free me from my long-standing unbelief and woundedness. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What wounds, dysfunctions, and disappointments are showing in my life? Like Zachariah, when I’m pushed into a crisis of belief, what actions or words reveal the truest things I really believe about God? How can I invite the Holy Spirit into these wounds and past betrayals, allowing Jesus to heal and restore me, bringing life where there has been death; hope instead of pain?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?
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