When Has He Ever Failed Us?

But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. – Luke 1:22

God would show at the very outset, even before John the Baptist was born, that unbelief could not be tolerated nor should it go unchastened. Therefore, His servant, Zacharias, must, as soon as he had asked for a sign, have such a sign as would make him suffer for months to come and constrain him to be sorry that he had ever dared to proffer the request. Oh! beloved, is our faith still so weak, and our experience still so contracted, that we cannot yet trust our God? Twenty years have we known Him. Has He been a wilderness to us? Have His mercy and truth ever failed us in time of need? Shall all His tender dealings with us count for nothing? Do ye think so lightly of the gift of His Son, the gift of the Holy Ghost, of the dally providence which has guarded you, and of the hourly benediction which has been vouchsafed to you, that ye would fain put aside these unfailing benefits from your grateful remembrance, while you indulge in some paltry whim, and tempt the Lord your God by your mistrust? That be far from any of us! We would rather take up the position of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who, when arraigned before Nebuchadnezzar, and adjudged to be thrown into the furnace of fire, said, “Our God is able to deliver us; but,” they added, “if not (though He should do nothing of the kind), nevertheless be it known unto thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is the spirit in which we ought to walk before God. ~ C.H. Spurgeon



Willful and Wicked Conduct

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years…” “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” – Luke 1:18, 20

His fault was that he looked at the difficulty. “I am an old man,” said he, “and my wife is well stricken in years.” And while he looked at the difficulty he would fain suggest a remedy; he wanted a sign. “Whereby shall I know this?” It was not enough for him that God had said so; he wanted some collateral evidence to guarantee the truth of the word of the Lord. This is a very common fault among really good people. They look for a sign. I have often trembled in my own soul when I have felt an inclination thus to tempt the Lord by looking for some minute circumstance to verify a magnificent promise. When I have thought, “Hereby shall I know whether He does hear prayer or not,” a cold shiver has passed over me, the shudder has gone through my soul that ever I should think of challenging the truth of God’s word, when the fact is so certain. To us who have full often cried unto the Lord in our distresses and been delivered out of our troubles, to raise such a question is indeed ungrateful. For a child of God who habitually prays to his Father in heaven to look upon His faithfulness as a matter of uncertainty is to degrade himself, and to dishonour his Lord. Yet there is no denying the tendency and disposition among us to want a sign. As we read a prophecy of the future, we crave a token in the present. If the Lord were pleased to give us a sign, or if he told us to ask for a sign, we should be quite right in attaching a high importance thereto, but for us to doubt a plain promise, and, therefore, ask a sign, is to sin against the Lord. Sometimes we have wanted signs in spiritual things. Meet and proper is it for us to rejoice in the true delights of fellowship with Christ, but it ill becomes us to make our feelings a kind of test of our acceptance, or to say, “I will not believe God if He does not indulge me with certain manifestations of grace; unless He gives me the sweetmeats I crave, I will be sulky and sullen, and refuse to eat the children’s bread.” Why, such conduct is willful and wicked; it is weak, and utterly inexcusable. Yet how many of us have been guilty of this folly? Now, as Zacharias stood upon the threshold of the gospel dispensation, and he was the first among those who heard the glad tidings to express unbelief, it was necessary that he should be made an example of.~ C.H. Spurgeon


Our Secret Unbelief

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. – Luke 1:13

“Thy prayer is heard.” I marvel at his faith that he should persevere in prayer for a boon which seemed, at his own and his wife’s age, to have been out of the course of nature, and beyond the domain of hope, but I marvel a great deal more that, when the answer came to that very prayer, Zacharias could not believe it. So full often is it with us; nothing would surprise some of us more than to receive an answer to some of our prayers. Though we believe in the efficacy of prayer, at times we believe so feebly that when the answer comes, as come it does, we are astounded and filled with amazement. We can scarcely think of it as a purpose of God, it seems rather to us like a happy coincidence. Surely this adds greatly to the sin of unbelief. If we have been asking for mercy without expecting it, and pleading promises while harbouring mistrust, every prayer we have offered has been only a repetition of our secret unbelief; and it is God’s faithfulness that brings our inconsistency to light.

I may be addressing some poor woman here who, in the depth of affliction, bodily suffering, and poverty, nevertheless rejoices in God with all her heart. But without a doubt, I am now speaking to many a man who is vexed with trifling cares, murmurs bitterly because of petty annoyances, and distrusts his God when clouds come over the sky so that he sees not his way. Shame on our unbelief. Think shame of yourselves because of it, I pray you. Never does it disgrace us more than when the weaklings of the Lord’s family put us to the blush by the simplicity and sincerity of their faith.  ~ C.H. Spurgeon



Confidence in His Divine Favour

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. – Luke 1:11

How peculiarly favoured Zacharias was! An angel of the Lord appeared unto him. Not to any of the other priests, when they were offering incense, did such a heavenly visitor come. And what welcome tidings he brought! It was a wonderful message that he was to be the father of a child great in the sight of the Lord, one who should minister in the spirit and power of Elias, and become the forerunner of the Messiah. This surely was a signal instance of Divine favour. And mark this, beloved, our God is very jealous of those whom He highly favours. You cannot have privileged communications from the Lord, or be admitted into close communion with Him, without finding that He is a jealous God. The nearer we draw to Him, the more hallowed our sense of His presence will be. But to doubt His Word, or question the fulfillment of His promise when He speaks kindly to us, must incur His censure. I speak after the manner of men; we do not expect from a stranger the esteem which we ought to merit from our servants. But our friends, who know us better than servants, ought to trust us more implicitly. And yet beyond common friendship in the near relation and tender attachment of a wife to her husband, the most unqualified confidence should be reposed. Even so, my brethren, if you and I have ever been permitted to lean our heads on Jesus’ bosom; if we have sat down at His banquets, and His banner over us has been love; if we have been separated from the world by peculiar fellowship with Christ, and have had choice promises given us, we cannot, like Zacharias, ask, “Whereby shall I know” without grieving the Holy Spirit of God, and bringing upon ourselves some sad chastisement as the result.~ C.H. Spurgeon


Costly Doubt

Thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. – Luke 1:20

Zacharias is a striking example of the ills a good man may have to suffer as the result of his unbelief. He was undoubtedly a believer. He is said, in the sixth verse, to have been righteous before God. No man ever obtained such a reputation except by faith. “The just shall live by faith.” No other righteousness than that which is faith is of any esteem in God’s account. Such was the righteousness of Abraham, and such was the righteousness of all the saints before the advent of our Redeemer. Such, too, has been the standard ever since. Zacharias evidently was a real believer. Yet for all that, when the angel appeared to him, and God gave him the promise of a son, he was amazed, bewildered, incredulous, and could not credit, but only question the announcement. “How shall I know that these things shall be?”

That he was well instructed in the Word of God is undeniable. He could not otherwise have discharged his duty, for the priest’s lips must keep knowledge, and he must teach men. Being proficient in the one, and competent for the other, ignorance offered him no excuse. Moreover, as a man of years, he was probably to be classed among the experienced saints of his time. He had borne the burden and heat of the day, and received proof upon proof of the abundant mercy of God. Now mark this. For any of us to doubt, who have been justified by faith is a shameful delinquency. For those to doubt who have, in addition to their first convictions, a thousand confirmations of the truth they have embraced, who are acquainted with the covenant and its rich inventory of promises, who are deeply taught in the things of God, for such to doubt involves a higher degree of guilt.

I pray God that your conscience may be tenderly sensitive, and that you may be aroused to a sense of the dishonour you bring to Him by your faithlessness.~ C.H. Spurgeon




This is Heaven Indeed

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. – Revelation 21:3

Mark, that in all Christ has, a believer has a share. This seems to me to be the sum total, and the crowning of it all- to reign with Christ, to ride in His triumphal chariot, and have a portion of His joy; to be honored with Him, to be accepted in Him, to be glorified with Him. This is heaven, this is heaven indeed.

Well said Chrysostom, “The pains of hell are not the greatest part of hell; the loss of heaven is the weightiest woe of hell;” to lose the sight of Christ, the company of Christ, to lose the beholding of His glories, this must be the greatest part of the damnation of the lost. Oh, you that have not this bright hope, how is it that you can live? You are going through a dark world, to a darker eternity. I beseech you stop and pause. Consider for a moment whether it is worth while to lose heaven for this poor earth. What! pawn eternal glories for the pitiful pence of a few moments of the world’s enjoyments? No, stop I beseech you; weigh the bargain ere you accept it. What shall it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul, and lose such a heaven as this?

But as for you who have a hope, I beseech you hold it fast, live on it, rejoice in it-

“A hope so much divine,
May trials well endure,
May purge your soul from sense and sin,
As Christ the Lord is pure.”

~ C.H. Spurgeon