Spending Time With Jesus: #2 Doubting our Doubts – Luke 1:18-25

17 Sep

The following statements were taken from official documents, newspapers, or magazines widely read in their day:

  • 1840: Anyone traveling at the speed of 30 mph would surely suffocate
  • 1878: electric lights are unworthy of serious attention
  • 1901: No possible combination can be united into a practical machine by which men shall fly
  • No doubt we have all thought in recent years that we would never have believed we could send large documents “in the air” via email, etc.

These were men and women who had doubt, expressed it, and later had to “eat their words.”

When we think of ‘doubt’ in connection with the Bible, we nearly always think of it as negative…there are warnings which ought to raise ‘red flags:’

Romans 14:23: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”

James 1:5-8: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {6} But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. {7} For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, {8} being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I heard this statement several years ago that has stayed with me: “He who has never really doubted has never really believed.”

Doubt causes us to ask questions and get answers…it helps us analyze possible error…it is the capacity to question a proposition as long as we think that more “light on the subject” can be shed.

No faith is perfect. Because of the nature of belief, there can be no absolute certainty. This is troubling to some. This can cause us to question their standing with God:

  • “Am I really a Christian?”
  • “Am I saved, are all my sins forgiven?”
  • “Does the Lord really love me?”
  • “Can I count on Him to provide?”

Doubt can be like fear. Because of our humanity and the nature of faith, we cannot eliminate it from our lives. What we can do is make our faith greater than our doubt. We must accept doubt’s presence and live despite it.

Zacharias was there that day in the temple when Gabriel, the angel who stands in God’s very presence, appeared to him and promised to give Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, a son. He should have been ecstatic with joy. Every day for years this devout couple had prayed, “Lord, if it would be Your will, give us a son.”

But that had been years ago. Now it was just too-o-o-o late. They were both long past the time when even couples who had children were able to conceive. Zacharias had reconciled himself to reality—they were not going to have a son.

He had come to terms with God over the matter: “God is sovereign. He is free to bestow His blessings on whom He wishes. For some inscrutable reason, He has withheld that blessing from us.”

And now, Zacharias was not willing to open himself to the roller coaster of hopes and fears that he had long left behind. And so he doubted the word of the angel.

What can Zacharias teach us about the problem of doubt?

We all struggle with the problem of doubt.

A. Doubt is a problem, even for the righteous.

Zacharias was “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (1:6). Being righteous in the sight of the Lord means that his godliness was not an outward show, like the “righteousness” of the Pharisees, but a matter of the heart.

The man walked with God and he had done so for many years. The fact that such a godly man doubted shows us that none are exempt from the problem.

The son of Zacharias, John the Baptist, had a time of doubt. He was languishing in prison and he began to wonder, “If Jesus is truly the Messiah, why am I, His messenger, here in prison?” So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Then He gently rebuked John’s doubt by adding, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22, 23). Jesus went on to tell the crowd that among those born of women, there is no one greater than John. He was a godly man, but he had his time of doubt.

So doubt is a problem, even for those who are righteous in God’s sight. If godly men like Zacharias and John fell into doubt, we should be on guard, so that we do not fall.

B. Doubt does not stem from a lack of evidence, but from a lack of belief.

Have you ever talked to someone who said, “If I just saw a miracle or had a direct word from God, I would believe”? It doesn’t work that way. Here, Zacharias had an angel suddenly appear and speak a direct revelation from God, but he did not believe.

Later in Luke, the rich man in Hades pleaded with Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, so that they would not also come to that awful place of torment. Abraham replied that his brothers had Moses and the prophets. But the rich man said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” But Abraham replied, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31).

You may wonder, “How does Zacharias’ question differ from Mary’s question (Luke 1:34 (ESV) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”)” When the angel told her that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel did not confront her for doubting.

God, who sees the hidden secrets of each person’s heart, knew that Zacharias was different than Mary. Zacharias was limiting God by the normal course of human nature. He and Elizabeth were too old to have children. Case closed! But he should have acknowledged, as Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37).

So even if we’ve walked with God for years, we need to look to our hearts, which are prone to limit the Almighty by human possibilities. God has given us abundant evidence in Scripture that He is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

The biblical balance is not to waver in unbelief if God doesn’t do something the way we thought He should have. We allow God to be sovereign, but we believe that if He said He would do something, He will do it, even if it takes a different form than we had expected.

C. We know through His prophetic word that God does what He says.

Luke wants us to see that God is clearly at work in the births of these two men. He sovereignly broke into history and announced what He was about to do. Then He proceeded to do it.

This is emphasized in one other way that is a bit more obvious in the Greek text than in the English. In verse 18, Zacharias expresses the reason for his doubt by saying, “I am an old man.” It is an emphatic expression, ego eimi in Greek.

In verse 19, the angel responds by using the same emphatic expression, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you …”

It’s a deliberate contrast between the feebleness of man’s word and the power of God’s Word. It’s as if Gabriel said, “You may be an old man, unable to father a child, but I am no less than the angel who stands in God’s very presence and comes to speak His word at His command.” Thus, clearly, the word of God overcomes the word of man.

So the angel struck Zacharias dumb and, apparently, deaf (see 1:62). By doubting God’s ambassador, he was doubting God Himself. God took that seriously.

As a loving Father, He taught His erring child a lesson he would never forget. The angel specifically states Zacharias’ sin: “because you did not believe my words” (1:20).

Zacharias’ chastisement was appropriate for his sin. He shut his mouth in silence when he should have praised God, so he would be silent until the day when his lips were loosed to praise God in front of others (1:67).

Read John 20:24f

Thomas only asked for evidence to believe. He was no different than were the ten a week before.

A doubter is one who sees the evidence and still doubts. Thomas only asked for the evidence the others saw. He was of a nature that he would not be otherwise persuaded.

Jesus provided him the same evidence He gave the ten. Once again, the solution to living with doubt is to face the evidence.

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Posted by on September 17, 2020 in Luke


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