Monday, August 27, 2018

Two Impossible Messages

“For nothing is impossible with God.”
- Luke 1:17

About a year after our first daughter was born, my wife took a pregnancy test and shared the good news: Our second baby was on the way. We were pretty excited. She set up an appointment with her ob-gyn, and he scheduled her for an ultrasound. It was incredible seeing the images of the tiny little baby inside my wife’s womb.

Several weeks passed and when we went in for a follow-up ultrasound, something looked a bit odd. It looked like the baby hadn’t grown since the last ultrasound. The doctor called us into his office and broke the news: The baby wasn’t alive. We were devastated, and we prayed for a miracle. But over the next week as further tests were run, the results were the same: The baby hadn’t made it. And I remember thinking: I wonder if we’ll ever be able to have another baby. At the time, I sure thought the answer was “No!”

Within the next six years, three more beautiful daughters came along, one by one, to prove me wrong. But at the time it sure felt like our baby bearing days were over. We were experiencing a small taste of what Zechariah and Elizabeth had been experiencing for many years … until Zechariah received some startling news in Luke 1.

Elizabeth, you may recall, was cousin to Mary, who would give birth to Jesus. But that comes later. At the beginning of Luke, all Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah knew was that they had prayed year after year to have a child, and year after year Elizabeth remained barren. We’re not told how old they were in Luke 1, but it’s likely that Zechariah and Elizabeth were in their 60s. Perhaps it had been 10 years since they had stopped praying for a child.

So, imagine Zechariah’s response when the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the temple and said, “Your prayer has been heard.” Gabriel told Zechariah that he would have a son who would be a source of joy for his family and for many people in Israel. He would lead many people back to God and pave the way for the Lord’s coming, turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to righteousness. What an amazing message to receive from one of God’s most famous angels!

But how did Zechariah respond? In verse 18, he said, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Or, to translate: “Gabriel, I’m not so sure I believe you. You’ll need to prove it to me. Otherwise, I’m not buying it.” Um … not such a great response. It was the most amazing day in Zechariah’s life: He was in the temple serving the Lord, he was having a conversation with one of God’s greatest angels, he was being told that the prayer he had prayed for decades was finally being answered—and he didn’t believe it. He doubted the goodness and power of God. And since Zechariah responded with unbelief, God chose to discipline him by temporarily taking away his ability to speak. 

Compare that to Mary’s reaction when she had a face-to-face meeting a few months later with that very same angel. In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God dispatched Gabriel to deliver another very important message, this time to a teenage girl in the hills of Nazareth: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32a).

Understandably, young Mary was blown away. And at first glance, her response to the angel seems very similar to Zechariah’s. She asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). But although Mary’s reply sounds similar, it was actually very different. Zechariah said, “How can I be sure of this?” In other words: “I don’t really believe you.”  But Mary said, “How will this be?” In other words, “I believe you. But could you explain to me how God is going to pull this off with me being a virgin and all?” Zechariah’s response was a response of unbelief. Mary’s response was a response of faith.

Remember: Faith is a DECISION, not a FEELING. I imagine that when Gabriel delivered his messages to Zechariah and Mary, they both FELT confused; they both FELT overwhelmed; they both FELT unprepared to handle what God had in store for them. But there was a big difference in how these two handled these feelings. Zechariah allowed his uncomfortable feelings to overrule his faith in God’s goodness and power. But inside Mary’s mind and heart, faith ruled. Mary clung to her faith in God’s goodness and power despite her swirling, confused feelings.

Two very different responses to God’s good news from two different servants of God. One allowed his feelings to rule his faith. The other made a decision that her faith would rule her feelings. When God brings you some good news, which will rule your response: your feelings or your faith? I hope that, like Mary, you will make a decision to trust in the Lord’s power and goodness.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

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