Sunday, 1 January 2017

Luke 1

I have recently plugged into the resources on YouVersion. It's a Bible app that allows you to do a number of things. One of these resources is a wide array of reading plans. Some of them cover years, others are for two or three days. I'm starting with a middle ground: twenty-four days. I'm doing the Deeper Into Scripture: Luke plan. The idea is that you read one chapter a day, but you read it four times. (I'm generally splitting it up, rather than doing all four readings at once.) Each time you read it, it is with a different purpose and intent.

I'm currently enjoying it and feel like I'm gaining a lot from this process. I'll see how it goes when I'm not on holiday (or on holiday with my parents). It's good that you can download the app onto your phone so it's readily available and easily accessible whenever and wherever.

So, he are my reflections on the first chapter. I'll try an put them in some coherent order, but I'm already noticing how themes and ideas are woven throughout the book, and so it may mean that my thoughts seem to jump around a bit.

Luke 1

Confidence and certainty

In the first couple of verses, Luke sets out the purpose for his writing: to bring about an orderly account that brings certainty. So, straight off the bat, we are reminded of the confidence we can have in Luke's gospel. This is a great starting point, because it also gives me a sense that I'm reading something significant, special and true. So, that's great.

Luke also says that these teachings were passed down to them by eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Just as Theophilus and Luke received this fantastic inheritance, so have I! How amazing it is to share in the process of having these teachings passed down by servants of the word. May I continue this long tradition.

Later in the chapter, when Gabriel visits Mary, the theme crops up again. In verse 37, we hear, "For no word from God will ever fail."

What an amazing truth! [1]

We also see a contrast between the confidence of Zechariah and the two women in this chapter: Elizabeth and Mary. First, I was a bit confused as to why Zechariah was dealt with harshly and Mary wasn't, even though both responded with questions. However, I read the two responses again. Zechariah asks "how can I be sure?" while Mary simply asks for Gabriel to explain the way his prophecy will be fulfilled. I also love Gabriel's response to Zechariah, it's as if he's saying, "you've just had an angelic visitation. You know, an angel that lives in the eternal presence of God has come and told you these things. An angel. A real angel. Has come and spoken to you. And you want more confirmation? Really?"

Elizabeth is also confident in what happens and comments on Mary's faith as well, saying, "Blessed is she who believed...!"

Later, however, Zechariah's confidence in the Lord has grown massively. When he can finally speak again, he sings a song of praise about what God has done. John Piper, in his advent devotional Good News of Great Joy writes [2]:
First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child. Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense.
Zechariah also reassures us that God's promises come to fruition, reminding us of the prophecies surrounding the coming Messiah.

Their characters

We're introduced to five people in this chapter: (in order of appearance) Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and John the Baptist. What strikes me is the way in which they are described. Other than Joseph, because he doesn't really get much of a mention, they are all defined in terms of their character. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both described as righteous in the Lord's sight, blameless and obedient. This is despite the pain and shame that they had from being childless (which is evident from v 25). Mary is said to have found favour in God's sight. We even know about the character of John from Gabriel's words. He'll bring joy to his father and to others.

This all made me consider what I want to be known for. Wouldn't it be great if I was known for my righteous character and blameless obedience to the Lord? I'd love it to be so noticeable that that is what is said about me.

Another thing that is evident about Mary and Elizabeth is their humility. Mary calls herself a servant and Elizabeth asks, "But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" I love the question, "But why am I so favoured?" I love Elizabeth's awe and incredulity at the privilege she receives. I know I constantly forget to live in awe at the privilege that I am redeemed and live as a son of God, a coheir of Christ. Why am I am I so favoured?

The Holy Spirit

The modern church has a bizarre relationship with the Holy Spirit. We never seem to sure of what he's up to and what he's for. We often forget he's there at all. But here he is in Luke's gospel, very prominent and extremely active. Without the Holy Spirit we would not even have the nativity. Here is what he does:

  • fills John even before he is born;
  • causes Mary to conceive in her virginity;
  • fills Elizabeth and causes her to praise God;
  • fills Zechariah and cause him to prophesy. 
The Holy Spirit is definitely very much involved in what is happening.

The prophecies and songs

There are two extended songs, two angelic prophecies and Elizabeth too gives a speech. These are all so interesting and a whole post (or book) could be written just on these. It's amazing what they tell us about Jesus:
  • he'll be great
  • he's the Son of the Most High
  • he'll be given the throne of David
  • he will reign over Jacob's descendants
  • his reign will never end.
Then there's Mary's song in response to everything she has gone to. It's just great to read how faithful, mighty and good God is in this passage.

Zechariah, after nine months of being mute, breaks out into song as well. We can read of God's plan of salvation and redemption for his people, and of God's mercy.

Quick questions

  • What Bible resources do you use? Why have you found them so helpful?
  • What have you read recently that has made an impact?
  • If you've had a chance to read Luke 1, what struck you the most?

[1] This image was created using the YouVersion app. It lets you save, bookmark and make notes about verses and passages in a number of ways.
[2] This devotional, along with many other resources, is freely available from the Desiring God website. Click here for a PDF version of this book.

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