In April of 2017, I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater, Palm Beach Atlantic University. As part of the Founder’s Day/Week festivities, the music school alumni could join the Concert Choir and sing Mozart’s Requiem. I had not sung this piece of music in over twenty years. While the choir as a whole sang the majority of the pieces, one piece stands out to me. A piece that employed four soloists, one from each part. The song was Tuba mirum from Mozart’s Requiem. The bass would come in, then the tenor, then the alto, then the soprano. It was a haunting tune speaking of how the last trumpet will sound to summon all of the dead to the throne of God for judgment. Each sang their particular solo, then would all come together for a beautiful four-part harmony.
In Luke, we have three solos and a choir singing: Mary’s in praise for the coming Christ (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah’s for his child (John the Baptist) who would prepare the way for the Christ (Luke 1:67-80), the angels who were praising God for the culmination of God’s redemptive work and the keeping of His promise (Luke 2:14), and Simeon who praised God that he could depart in piece because he saw the Christ (Luke 2:29-32). They are all singing different solos but they, in essence, harmonize with each other communicating the same praise of God’s redemptive work.
The ‘solo’ we hear this morning is from Zechariah the priest, who went from skeptic to Spirit-filled shouting for God’s great gift. God can take any of us from our skepticism and doubt and valley and questioning to praise and thanksgiving! The lessons the Spirit seeks to show us this morning are a tune that should play in our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
First, know the difference between a condition and a consequence (Luke 1:5-25).
Just because some is in a bad condition does not mean it’s due to a consequence of sin. All through history, God’s people have come to the conclusion that a problem or a difficult condition is due to a consequence of sin rather than a condition that God can and will use to glorify Himself and bring joy to His people. We read about this in John 9 when Jesus and His disciples encountered the man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3). A problem condition is not a consequence of sin but an opportunity for God to display His glory and bring us hope and joy.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were faithful. In verse 6, Luke tells us, “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (Luke 1:6-7). Elizabeth was old, both were past child-bearing years. I believe the Spirit put them back to back.
What about Zechariah? He was a priest. He was chosen to enter into the Temple to burn incense to intercede for the sins of the people of Israel and also to remind them of the promise of hope in the coming Christ. Gabriel appears to Zechariah, leading with this:” Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13-14). His role as John the Baptist will be to prepare the people for the Messiah!
Zechariah’s response? After preaching about the coming Messiah and the one who would pave the way? After praying for years and years for God to provide a child? After being in the Temple to burn incense for the sake of people’s sins? “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). Gabriel gave Zechariah a condition that was the result of a consequence for doubting. “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” (Luke 1:20). Yes, his loss of speech was not mere condition but a consequence of doubting the good news and the God whom he served year in and year out.
So Zechariah’s condition was a consequence of sin, which we see does happen (see Paul’s description of the Lord’s Supper and what happens when we approach His table wrongly–1 Corinthians 11:27-34). What do we do?
We spend time seeking Christ in His Word so the Spirit will let us know. Either way, we all need to pursue Christ and His will. Let us make sure that we do not take a snapshot of someone’s condition and put together an improper narrative.