AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 16, 2011
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
accord with the thrust of the Constitution of 1901
of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
THE DUMB PRIEST IN LUKE,
AND THE CASE IN PARALLEL DOMAINS,
WHEN MAN MEETS GOD
1) THE AFFLICTION OF DUMBNESS
THE CASE OF ZECHARIAS
The loss of power or desire to speak can be the result of a vast experience, impact or development. In looking at this, to find edification from the Bible, we look first at the earthly father of John the Baptist. You may indeed ask, What's in a name! and comment with Shakespeare, that after all, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Yet names are by no means insignificant. In fact, significant is precisely what they may be.
The NAME of the Lord means all His nature and character and power and presence, and refers indirectly to His promises and procedures. It is all that concerns Him, but set in such a way as to become a matter of practice, not just talk. A Lord without a name, as Moses insisted, can be unrecognised (Exodus 3:13-14); just as Jesus was made virtually unrecognisable physically (Isaiah 52:12-15), though and indeed this was BECAUSE He had a name, the Lord of glory, which the State of Israel at that time, conjoined to the priestly party, did not wish to accept. God took exception to this reception and thus, much followed.
You CANNOT reserve judgment on Christ, and expect things to drift. If you are not attached, then when the floods come, you drift at your peril. Christ met them full face, and rose from the dead, full body, in testimony that with God, nothing shall be called impossible. This is the God whom we serve, and whom those who knew Him in the past, through millenia in the Old and New Covenants, also served. He is the God of power and resource, though this generation, as predicted, loves to forget this and to trust in something else (II Timothy 3:4-7).
The name of the Lord is what was in view in the Jewish worship, the I AM as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 and 6; and when Jesus claimed to be He (John 8:58), and nothing less, sent from His source, as the Son of Man and Son of God jointly, this being the case (Luke 1:35), through incarnation as foretold (Isaiah 48:15ff., 50,53, 7:1ff., 9:1ff., Hosea 13:14, Matthew 1:21-23): what followed ? Therefore, the reviling of Christ was identical with the reviling of God Himself (John 5:20-23) and had the expected result! (John 8:24): disbelieving, they would die in their sins!
The Father, having sent the Son from heaven in the format given, wishes that ALL MEN honour the Son just as they honour the Father (John 5:19ff.). Another belief is in another god, and as there is but One God whose testimony reeks in the very air of earth, through the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ, this means a godless reliance on mere fiction. The Bible does not resile from such clear assertion. The results are as to be expected when dreams replace reality (John 3:36, Jeremiah 23). This sort of confusion, Jeremiah predicted, would be rife as the end of the Age drew near (23:20), the very epitome of false prophecy or revelation.
From this, the living God, came a vast experience on the part of Zacharias the priest, father of John the Baptist. As he was going through his appointed priestly duties, in the burning of incense in the Lord's temple, the name of the Lord came to life in the power and presence of an angel who announced that profound news had come. To Zacharias and his wife there was given a mighty, famous and valorous son, one who would not drink alcoholic beverages, but who would be consecrated to the Lord, and filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Indeed, this, their coming son, would act in the spirit of Elijah, that confrontational, challenging, incisive, decisive prophet of the Lord, whose works to awaken Israel had been vast and dramatic. Now this John, this son to Zacharias, would even prepare the way for the incarnate God to be received.
This news apparently overwhelmed Zacharias. It is important thus to realise that as you LIVE your time for Christ, if you are a Christian, that you should be ready for any eventuality in service, any opportunity, any duty, any test or challenge, lest when it comes, you should be caught napping. Sentries sometimes do this because so little seems to be happening; but this is precisely the time when the enemy may judiciously act, or when the commander may need those readily called, to carry out a sudden plan.
Accordingly, when Zacharias heard the astonishing news that not only would they, an older couple, have a son, but this would be his extraordinary and remarkable work, then the priest replied: "How shall I know this? for I am an old man and my wife is well advanced in years." They might have said, senior citizens.
In fact, old as they were, a child had not been given to them before! The answer to the priest's HOW! of course is that he should have recognised the authority of the speaker, and based on that, done something better than bring up epistemological questions, or even rank secularity, as if God were in some way embarrassed by doing the unusual! On the contrary, He alone does great wonders (beyond manipulation and deceit - as in Psalm 77:14 and 136:4). Indeed, with the Messiah, it was a case of the sublimely unique, and infinitely glorious. Now in that case, MARY enquired as to the mode of action for the incarnation; but Zacharias in his, asked how he could KNOW it (Luke 1:18).
How could anyone know the Lord and His testimony ? It is by faith in accord with all the evidence. God does not make it too difficult, but does search the hearts! (I John 5:3, I Cor. 10:13). If he had asked just how some aspect would be achieved, that is one thing. To ask, in the very face of the one giving the revelation, how he should KNOW it, however, this is simply to withhold trust. There WAS to be such a messenger to prepare the ways of the Lord, as forecast some 7 centuries earlier (Isaiah 40:3), and this was declared most prominently. Why should it not be his own son! It had to be someone's son! Never imagine that God may not use you!
The result in this case, of drawing near to the Lord, therefore included a disciplinary aspect, though one tenderly enough drawn. The priest, having spoken amiss, would lose the very power of speech UNTIL that self-same, predicted son, whose name was to be John, would be born. Thus when he came out of the temple, although the prophecy concerning John would come true while the coming son's priestly father was still alive (as the dreams of Joseph had fulfilment while Jacob was still very much alive), the case was notable. He had gone in intact, "but when he came out, he could not speak to them," Luke 1:22. That is our text this morning, and it is applied to several categories of experience and divine action.
Here, then, one becomes literally DUMB because of speaking amiss. Deep as were the blessings given to Zecharias, he fumbled and had a salutary lesson taught, about vigilance, and being continually spiritually fit and ready before the Lord, who is never a ceremonial back-seat driver, but present in conjunction with appointed symbols, personally, available, intimately present, even indeed within you who believe truly in Him (Colossians 1:27, Romans 8:9). Nor are the symbols the power, but an index to Him who is.
2) THE AFFLICTION OF KING UZZIAH (II CHRONICLES 26:16-21)
We come to our second example this morning. King Uzziah, also known as Azariah, sought God in earlier days, and made kingly conquests, "but when he was strong his heart was lifted up." That is never a good idea. If you are, where you are placed, humble, meek and contrite in the Lord (Isaiah 66:-12. Matthew 5:3) , strong and courageous in faith, well; but if you are so 'successful' in meeting some of your aims, even just ones, that you begin to have self-belief, a concern about yourself as a source for monolith of me, then readily may you be taught the reality of a far deeper failure, both swift and momentous. IF NEED BE, says Peter (I Peter 1:6), "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations," or trials. Even an aircraft has trials at its outset and onset!
In the case of Uzziah, not only did his father, King Amaziah, foolishly force the issue with the depraved kingdom of Israel to the North, which was to be almost obliterated in due course (cf. I Kings 17), by confronting it at the military level, so that his strong forces which might have been useful, were needlessly smitten by that same Israel to the North. He had had gracious warning, as the son of Amaziah, with his father's fault before him; yet he went right on to commit a parallel error. Uzziah's had a heart problem, for although in form he was orthodox, it seems, in fact his was not "a loyal heart" ( II Chronicles 25:2). This counted!
From the one given much, much is expected. Alas for Uzziah, when it came to be his turn for living as king, he also misused his office. He strode into the Temple, where the most ornate and special arrangements were made for priests as appointed, to perform their own sacrifices, partaking of their own symbols. Thus they were to attest the truth in the divinely appointed way, the faith which God grants. God did not choose to make kings priests or priests kings; and in fact, the one who combines both offices is the Messiah Himself, in whom all the fulness of the deity resides (Colossians 2:9, Zechariah 6:12-13).
Amaziah, by contrast, not being appointed to offer incense, nevertheless elected to do this. saucily swinging his censer. After him, in went Azariah the priest with 80 valiant priests of the Lord. IT IS NOT FOR YOU to do this! the King was told. Unlike David, when confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he did not confess and repent: in fact, David was given to write that pearl of repentance, Psalm 51. Not so was the case for King Uzziah. Indeed, He even became furious!
There may be heavy results when you enter into holy things, act amid holy realities and take part as an gate-crasher by rash presumption. This was an intrusive, invasive and unseemly part which the King took; and fury was NOT the required result, but repentance in the fear of God. Thus he quickly countered his first over-reaching with an outburst!
ONE of the enemies of the Christian, potentially, is his or her own flesh, which vaunts itself, or may seek to act untremulously, proudly, arrogantly, disdainfully (Romans 7). Alas for Uzziah, with his censer in his hand, and anger with the priests in his kingly heart; for he gained in body a result for what his uplifted spirit would not receive. Leprosy, an inner bodily revolt, broke out on his very forehead, where his incensed rebellion had just then been burning. He stayed that way, with the sanctions in force for leprosy, to his detriment for life. TRUST in the Lord and fear God, that is, have that delightful awe at Him which makes that which as a small child you may have had towards a Headmaster. This is an infinitely greater matter, and being mature, you have more for which to answer!
3) THE BLESSINGS OF DANIEL (DANIEL 8-10): FIRST THE SOURCE
It is not without relief that we now find the case of the extraordinary life of the prophet Daniel, who as a young man was sorely tried, being captured and taken in one of the raids of Babylon, before its final brutal assault on Jerusalem. He became a cadet in the realms of wisdom, on which Babylon, in theory, was strong; though like Australia now, its pagan practices made the very use of the term, at the national level, almost a mockery in itself. Naturalism (as in schools and many colleges) and anti-supernaturalism, and with that, a special departure from the acts of God which are not only conceived as in the supernatural realm, but found in the natural at His own action: these follies had killed the nation. Isolation from reality had become a cultural icon. Dependence on false gods, social desires, rotted ideologies had become, if not the flag, at least the popular flap.
God is not mocked, and mannerless talk, outside even logic, is scarcely a contribution to wisdom for any people. Reliance on the resources of a godless nation merely exacerbates the follies, and this too, as in Israel in military hopes from abroad, has become an Australian breach in its financial borrowings from an atheist nation abroad, and the tumultuous applications of them. Righteousness always exalts a nation and sin is always a reproach to any people, whether one founded by a Protestant nation, as in our own case, or one founded through the work of patriarchs and prophets, as in that of Israel.
Daniel had none of this. He kept so near to God that when even a relatively small-seeming matter of diet came up, he made a point of finding a way to avoid the rich and possibly intoxicating provisions for such elite fellows as those, with him, chosen for special work with the State. When the breed of 'wise men' was in danger of extermination in Babylon (their double talk vexing the monarch), it was Daniel who in his godly grace, was able to find out the threat, and seeking God with his companions, meet the extraordinary request of the King, even telling him the MEANING of a dream, without being told its CONTENT! The wily monarch in this way was going to test the reality of all this wisdom: would it work ?
Did they REALLY have evidence in their favour, or just a lot of talk, with faded ideologies, as some are crying (apart from much money spent in often dubious ways), is the case, even from among aborigines themselves. Similarly potted-'science', which may descend even with apparent religious overtones at times (as with the strange confession of Professor Lewontin of Harvard), despite the generic warning of Nobel Prize winner, astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, is often prematurely and even recklessly made an assumed fact. Indeed, it may be used to attack religious, ethical and research presentations of different kinds, as if the temporary were the eternal, the current the final or the estimate found, unreviewable. Indeed contrary evidence may be simply ignored.
Babylon had the same problems, and of course, with pretentious preferences, in due course fell, with but feeble resistance. In the meantime, to the enquiring monarch of that nation, Daniel told both the dream and the meaning; and from that time on was a marked man. HIS God could act, solve riddles, bring light to darkness, had power, and was there for action. That is what many in Britain once believed, even in high places, so calling for national days of prayer; it is doubtful if such a national approach would apply now; and hence whether any such result could thus be achieved. God knows both how to bless entreaty in sincerity and weakness to His power and promises, and to debunk false faith in false gods and cultural systems, and bury them with their ruin. This applies whether in much or little, as in divine creation, whether of the universe, or of new hearts (Hebrews 11:1ff., Titus 3:3-7).
Thus Daniel then was able, by knowledge FROM GOD, when threatened with the others with death or else deliverance of the royal dream's meaning, to meet the challenge and show that God is indeed a God of power and wisdom. This was different; it was not cultural mumbo-jumbo, with everything correct because cultural, and that in the end, as if you were ruled by nostrums and statistics, as if it were right because people do it. Daniel instead presented a kingly attestation of the God who speaks and acts, whom Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar would later come to acknowledge in His majesty and grandeur (Daniel 4:28-37)..
Daniel's way of speech in this affair, when telling the King the answer from God to his question, was beautiful, apt, careful, just. In Daniel 2:30, just before answering the King's challenge, he spoke in this way:
"But as for me, this secret has not been revealed
Nebuchadnezzar's frank amazement at the answer through Daniel from God, later led to his exclamation:
"Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings,
This is the response that all of the servants of God would like to see when God works through them. Whether it be in Biblical Christian Apologetics, help to the poor, peace amid civil strife, the reality is the same: if GOD acts through faith in Him as He is, there is no limit to His results.
SECOND: MANY CASES OF DIVINE REVELATION FOR DANIEL
Having cherished closeness to God, confrontational or revelatory of His greatness and desire, this could bring various personal results in such a one as Daniel. Thus there is vast and deep praise, with the answer provided by God to the monarch's challenge about his dream (Daniel 2:20-23), and Lord willing we will hope to see more of his reactions and responses to the amazing deliverances of coming events in divinely dynamised prophecies from the Eternal God, and see something of their scope.
For now, what is found ? It is a great thing when great challenge is made and one is abiding in the Lord (John 15:7), and the power of God sanctifies the suffering or the smarting which one suffers; and it is faith, reliance, trust in the Lord and not in oneself, self-belief or the like, or in something else which matters, but in God Himself.
"Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart;
do not lean to your own understanding.
IN ALL YOUR WAYS acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths," (cap. phrase added).
Do not forget, in the midst of travail, what those who triumphed in the Lord were willing to suffer; or the Cross of Christ, without which there would BE NO ACCESS to God (Ephesians 2:17-18, 1:10, John 14:6).