There’s a funny story in the book of Luke.
Oh, I doubt it was funny at the time, but in retrospect it seems to characterize how people work. They overgeneralize. They take a specific and apply it to the general, when it just ain’t so.
Zacharias had been praying for a child. One day when he was selected to go into the Holy of Holies, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said that he and his wife Elizabeth were going to have a child (this would be John the Baptist). Poor Zach. Instead of thanking the angel or blessing God, he questions Gabe. And pays for it.
Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”
Notice the punishment – he can’t talk. The Bible says nothing about him not hearing. Verse 22 describes Zacharias coming out of the temple:
But 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.
Zach made signs because he couldn’t talk. I find nowhere in scripture that he couldn’t hear.
Fast forward to after the child’s birth. All the relatives and neighbors wanted to name the baby Zacharias, after daddy. (And since when did they have input on this? But I digress.) Elizabeth said, in effect, “Nope, his name will be John”. Neighbors: “But John isn’t a family name!”.
Back to the story. The neighbors and relatives, in Luke 1:62, revert to form and make an assumption that Zacharias can’t hear:
And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.
Zacharias has to write out his answer on a tablet: His name is John. And God, unsurprisingly, came through for him. Verse 64 says
And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.
Nothing about restoring his hearing or opening his ears. This was all about his mouth, his voice.
Now don’t be blaming the neighbors and relatives. They have good tradition behind their expansion of facts. Eve, the mother of us all, stretched what was told to her. God told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or he would die. (God did not tell Eve this – she had not yet been created.) I’m sure that Adam imparted this to her – he wanted to keep her around. And yet, when she was dallying with temptation, she told the serpent that the instruction from God was to not eat or touch the fruit. Now, I’m sure that touching it brings you a step closer to eating it, but that’s still not what God said. She enlarged the instructions. She went outside of the lines that God had drawn.
And not to put too fine a point on it, God don’t like that. From the last chapter of the book of Revelation, which describes the end of the world as we know it (whether or not you feel fine is determined by your own actions):
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
(That’s Revelation 22:18-19). Seems like God is a stickler for accuracy. Yes, there is room for grace (so necessary among human people), but are you needing grace while trying to stay close to Him, or are you counting on grace while running away from Him?
When you answer, please be specific.