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Devotional Text: Luke 1:18-23
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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 9, 2017, and you’re listening to Day 7 of my series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to Jethro Tull again, this song, “A Christmas Song,” comes from a 1968 single. It’s included on their 1972 compilation album, Living in the Past. Today’s scripture is Luke 1:18-23, which I will read now.
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
Many of you will remember that this time last year, Billy Bush, a rising star at NBC News, was fired by his network. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can google his name. If you know me, you know I have no interest in the political questions pertaining to that scandal.
What I am interested in is a personal essay that Bush wrote this week for the New York Times—a year after his dismissal, a year of #metoo, and a year in which many Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and television news personalities—like NBC’s Matt Lauer—have been and are being held accountable for their past sexual sins.
In his essay, Bush did not deflect blame at all; he accepted full responsibility for his role in last year’s scandal; and he seemed genuinely sorry. Let me read the last two paragraphs from his essay:
On a personal note, this last year has been an odyssey, the likes of which I hope to never face again: anger, anxiety, betrayal, humiliation, many selfish but, I hope, understandable emotions. But these have given way to light, both spiritual and intellectual. It’s been fortifying.
I know that I don’t need the accouterments of fame to know God and be happy. After everything over the last year, I think I’m a better man and father to my three teenage daughters — far from perfect, but better.
As a fellow sinner saved by God’s grace alone, I can only say a hearty “Amen.” What I hear in Bush’s words, first, is an acknowledgment of the destructive, insidious power of sin—but in the same breath the grace of repentance and the mercy of God’s discipline.
That’s right… I said “mercy.” God’s discipline of Billy Bush was merciful.
How else would you describe it? As he said, “After everything over the last year, I think I’m a better man and father to my three teenage daughters — far from perfect, but better.”
If you are a Christian, please know that God will discipline you—often. The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs when he writes,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
The author goes on to say that God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
And of course, in today’s scripture from Luke chapter 1, God disciplines Zechariah for doubting him. For the nine months of his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God takes away Zechariah’s ability to speak and—we can infer from verse 62—also to hear.
When we consider the difficulty that we sinful human beings usually have believing and abiding by God’s Word, we may wonder if God’s discipline of Zechariah wasn’t overly severe, harsh—perhaps even unfair. But that’s because we often think the purpose of life in this world is to be happy, to be comfortable, and to glorify ourselves, rather than to live for God’s glory alone.
Regardless, Zechariah didn’t believe God was treating him unfairly. Like Billy Bush, Zechariah could look back over his season of God’s discipline and be thankful because, as with Bush, God used this experience to make him a better man, a more faithful man, a more trusting man—and not to mention a better father to his son, John.
When God disciplines us—and he will—he will show us that same kind of mercy. Thank God!
1. Billy Bush, “Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That,” New York Times, 3 December 2017.
2. Hebrews 12:5-8; 10-11 ESV