"And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years."
1. He moves from the angelic prophecies about the coming son's impact on the nation to the clearly disbelieving immediate reaction of the father-to-be.
2. He introduces the reality of the impact of circumstances upon "faith".
a. Zacharias had lived a long time with a barren wife under the realities of Exodus 23:26 ("There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land...") and Deuteronomy 7:14 ("Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.")
1) In every sense of expectation, but one, this long-time exposure would automatically create the very sort of scepticism that Zacharias manifests.
2) That Zacharias was a victim of a vacillating grasp of Yahweh is simply a testament to the profound tendency in all men to abandon Truth for appearances.
b. Zacharias made one enormously flawed assumption: that what has been, and is, is prophetic about what shall be...if it has not happened yet, it will not happen!
3. He raises the issue of how a man is to "know".
a. The kind of knowledge that Zacharias seeks is not the kind that floats above the heart's true interests...he is not concerned with knowing something about which he is not concerned. What he wants to "know" is whether one of the deeper longings of his heart is actually going to come about.
b. Thus, there are two kinds of knowledge:
1) That which has little to no discernible impact upon the values of the heart.
2) That which governs the heart in light of its greater values.
c. Then, there is the question of why Zacharias wanted to know.
1) One of the involved issues here is why God saw fit to tell him ahead of time -- why not just let it be a huge surprise?
2) Another of the involved issues here is why Zacharias cared to knowfor sure.
Luke's Probable Theology:
1. What are the foundations of knowledge in general?
a. Knowledge regarding the impersonal past (that part of history which was outside of one's personal experience) is dependent upon:
1) Accurate records of what was.
2) Accurate interpretation of the records.
3) An accepting faith in the testimony of the records (without faith one can know nothing).
b. Knowledge regarding the personal past is dependent upon:
1) An accurate perception of one's experiences.
2) An accurate memory of those perceptions.
3) An accurate incorporation of those memories into one's overall grasp of reality.
4) An accepting faith that the incorporation is legitimate.
c. Knowledge regarding the future is dependent upon:
1) Accurate revelation, for without accurate revelation, no one knows from one minute to the next what is going to be.
2) Accurate interpretation of the revelation, for without understanding, no one can know what is going to be.
3) An accepting faith that the interpretation of the revelation is legitimate.
2. Interestingly, personal experience of the flow of history is never a legitimate foundation for any sure knowledge of that which is to come.
a. Without a Word from Omniscience, all personal experience fails to provide any sure grasp of what the future holds.
1) Interestingly, science (so-called) is essentially wrapped up in using experience to project into the future -- and it does a tolerable job of identifying the typical (the norms of experience).
2) The problem is that the atypical has never been ruled out and, consequently, all that is supposedly held in great confidence regarding the future is really only statistically probable, not sure.
b. When all is tenuous, there is no such thing as knowing; and when there is no such thing as knowing, there is no such thing as peace -- thus the Omniscient Word says "There is no peace saith my God to the wicked." (Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21).
1) There is an immeasurable amount of data "out there", and much of it can be tenuously held as though it reveals the truth about the future without creating any real sense of insecurity.
2) But, when it comes to the real values of the heart, if there is any question of whether the desired thing will come about, there is only a wringing of the hands and a constant bouncing from an optimistic wishfulness to a pessimistic despair, and the longer one lives with this reality in unfulfilled desire, the more sceptical one becomes, (i.e., the more pessimistic one becomes).
a) There is a real problem here: pessimists are pretty much hardened in dissatisfaction and that makes them hard to live with.
b) There is another problem here: optimists without real cause are pretty flighty and they also are pretty hard to live with because there is no stability in them.
Luke's Desire for Theophilus:
1. That he would come to grips with the issues of future-life as governed by the words of the gracious God.
2. That he would recognize the dangers of imposing experience upon the future with no regard for those words.