Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Faith Paradox

“’How can I know this?’ Zechariah asked the angel. ‘For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

It seems surprising that Zechariah would ask this question in these circumstances. For one thing, he was a priest, supposedly a man of faith. For another, he was in a very sacred place where an angel appeared to him. He did not know it, but this was no ordinary angel; this was Gabriel, one of only two archangels mentioned by name in the Bible (the other was Michael). Still, he knew this was an angel sent from God. It would seem that whatever the message, the circumstances alone would be convincing, but after decades of not having a baby and of all those prayers seemingly unanswered, Zechariah blundered through his response, “How can I know?”

Unbelief can be a stubborn mule, refusing to budge. Surprisingly, even where there is an essential faith, a measure of unbelief can persist.

It seems that there is something in us that just wants to know for certain. Maybe it’s related to a basic human insecurity. We tend to see knowledge as our security blanket and risk free, and faith as an insecurity and risky. This mind-set can be so strong that even in a more “knowing environment” like this one Zechariah faced, the move to faith can be resisted.

It’s sad to think about it, but it took ten months of being unable to speak for Zechariah to learn this level of faith. We might say that Zechariah came to know by faith. That is what is called a “paradox of faith.”

The reality is that if we want to know any truth, we can know it only by faith. Ultimately, we need to take action to express what we believe is true. It is only on the other side of faith that we can know.

Lord, You call us to faith. Help us to let go of our need for knowing, and just trust you. Amen.

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