Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 1 Message Outlines
Luke 1:5-25 (2)
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 2 September 7, 2003 Lincolnton, N.C.
Thesis:Believers can have many faulty views of prayer, but one thing that stands out about prayer is that it has a place of primary importance in the accomplishment of what God seeks (not the details of experience, but the experience of life in the details).
Introduction:In our study last week we considered the question of how two godly people dealt with the outer appearances of divine failure in both their personal and national life. It is clear from the text that they did not use God's so-called "failure" as a reason to depart from personal loyalty as so many people do. They pursued a life of active righteousness. It is also clear from the text that, though they did not completely escape the pressure, they did not succumb to the outward appearance of things. Everything they saw was a testament to the failure of God to fulfill His Word, but they did not operate by what they saw. Some call this "blind loyalty to an impotent deity", but that is the narrow, time-restricted foolishness of selfish people. Every relationship that is worth anything at all has a loyalty factor built into it and where there is no loyalty, there is no relationship. And, loyalty does not fail just because of a temporal appearance of failure on the part of one of the participants in the relationship. This morning we are going to continue our study of Luke's words to Theophilus as we dip into the Truth that sponsored the record of Zacharias' offering of incense to the Lord.
I. What Was Really Going On?
A. The record loses a big part of its impact if it is seen to be normal.
1. There were a host of indicators of what the norm was:
a. The opening verb is exactly the same as in verse 5.
1) This word typically indicates the passage of time so that
a) There is a time of building up to the event in view.
b) There is a point of time realization of the event.
2) The general theology of the Bible is that, as time passes, the setting for mankind is degenerative (things generally and incrementally get worse).
a) The blind and careless generally have this backwards as they typically think in terms of progress instead of regress.
b) The wise generally find the "it came abouts" to be an incremental building of pressure that only finds release through prayer.
3) The comparison of "in the days of Herod, a priest came about" and "while Zacharias was executing his priestly function, a lot came about that put him in the position of offering incense during the hour of incense" shows that, on the one hand, as things were spiraling down morally, there was, on the other hand, a divine dominance that meant that something was going to be done to answer the downward spiral.
a) Paul calls this "...when the fulness of the time was come..." in Galatians 4:4.
b) Luke puts this in the setting of "the whole multitude of people were in prayer".
4) So, the norm was the incremental degeneration of man's experience and the people of God feeling the pressure.
b. The description of Zacharias' behavior is typical of the norm.
1) It was the routine for some priest to
a) Do the routine activities of service to the Lord.
b) Be chosen by lot out of the normal flow of the courses.
c) Serve as the one who would burn the incense at the normal hour of incense.
d) Lead the multitude in the particular aspect of service to the Lord that had to do with prayer.
2) It was typical for the routine to lose its punch over time.
a) In Malachi 1:11-13 we have a record that indicates that 450 years before Luke's record the routine was already killing the significance of the priestly function.
b) There is no reason to expect that things had improved in the 450 years that had intervened (especially since Herod was the king in Judea).
c) Though Zacharias was a general exception to the routine, there is some indication that even he was somewhat dulled by the degenerative passage of time.
i. He was not really looking for the fulfillment of the meaning of the burning of incense himself.
i) Revelation 8:3-4 indicates that the incense symbolizes two things:
a) the petitions of the people of God, and
b) the granting of those petitions by God.
ii) The problem was the wearing down of the "it came abouts..." as the promise of God fades into the background.
iii) He was surprised at the angelic announcement that the time of the promise had come.
ii. Instead of anticipation in the face of the angelic appearance, he was afraid.
c. It was typical for the people to assemble for prayer at the hour of incense.
1) The New Testament shows, however, how badly the practice of prayer had suffered under the degenerative processes of time-wearing.
a) The disciples (most spiritually sensitive of that generation) asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
b) Jesus had to warn people not to turn prayer into endless words of meaningless repetition.
c) Jesus denounced the use of prayer as a means to the end of self glorification (when you pray, enter into your closet).
2) There is no indication that this group was unique in their generation.
a) They were as likely as not to be praying about the lesser important stuff rather than the more important stuff.
b) There were some who were seriously interacting with God, but the norm were probably in tune with the degeneration of their times.
B. God Was About to Intervene to Shock the Norm to Slow the Degeneration.
1. What is God's purpose in setting up "prayer"?
a. Never does God set up means as ends.
b. Never does God set up means to false ends.
c. Prayer only has one end: to deepen man's experience of God as Life.
2. What happens when God intervenes with a significant answer?
a. He shocks the system of degeneration.
b. He refocuses the believer and snaps him out of his participation in the norm.