Praying Hands reading: Luke 1:11-13, 16-20
We come to the story of the birth of John the Baptist. He had a job to do from his birth. And he was an answer to his parent’s prayers.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous people before the Lord. They followed His laws and statutes. Zechariah was of the tribe of Levi and he served the Lord in the Temple. He was not the high priest but was one who was chosen to enter into the Holy Place and care for the items within it. It was in the course of his duties that he encountered the angel Gabriel.
I don’t blame him for being skeptical of Gabriel’s message. He and Elizabeth were old; probably beyond the years of childbirth. They had no doubt asked God for a child many times during the years of expected fertility. And He had not answered their prayer. Now that all physical possibilities have been exhausted, God answers.
Does this story remind you of another couple? Abraham and Sarah perhaps? Both couples were advanced in age. I doubt Zachariah and Elizabeth were as old as Abraham and Sarah but they were in the same position of ‘beyond mortal means’ of conception. Another similarity is that the husbands were given the promise that their wife would conceive. Sarah overheard the promise but Elizabeth knew nothing about her promise. I wonder if Zachariah shared his experience with her somehow. Still another similarity is that both sons had a purpose from before their birth.
Isaac would be the child of promise and the one who would carry on Abraham’s lineage. John would prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah.
I was thinking about both these men and both of them came just before the blossoming of the promise. Isaac was the father of Jacob, who would have his name changed to Israel. From Israel the nation grew and a people were established. John pointed the people to Jesus through whom the whole world would receive adoption into the family of God. Both pointed to the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Looking back to Gabriel’s interaction with Zachariah, I wonder about his doubt. Yes, this feat was impossible through human means but the fact that Gabriel was in the Holy Place and NOT struck dead should have meant something to Zachariah. God took care of His Temple. True, Israel hadn’t had a visitation from the Lord in over 500 years but neither had the people been allowed to do as they pleased in His house. Death awaited those who violated God’s Temple. If Gabriel wasn’t from God he wouldn’t have been standing in the Temple. It’s possible Zachariah wasn’t thinking of this though at the time of his interaction.
Zachariah’s doubt didn’t stop God’s plan any more than Sarah’s did. God dealt with both of them in His own way. God also answered BOTH of their prayers from earlier in their lives. IN HIS TIME. God’s plans won’t be rushed. At just the right time He sends exactly what is needed to those for whom it was prepared.
God still answers prayers today! His answers also come in HIS time. And sometimes His answer is “No.” That was the answer Zachariah and Elizabeth thought they had received and they STILL obeyed and loved Him in spite of their unanswered prayers.
They could have become bitter but they chose to be better instead. These are the parents God chose for the one who would herald His Son’s ministry. The one who would stand in the face of Satan’s works and call the people of God back to Him.
Father God, thank You that You DO answer prayer. I know You don’t always give the answer I want or even in the same time frame that I want. But You are faithful and listen to my pleas. You know what is best and when that ‘best’ needs to come. Just thinking back to the ‘housing miracle’ in my own life I remember Your faithful timing. I can trust You with my life because You hold my tomorrows.
You held Israel’s tomorrows. And You held Your promises until just the RIGHT time. No matter how much man tried to rush Your hand. You are faithful! And You are LOVING. Thank You for loving us enough to get our attention. Point my eyes to Your promise today too. Towards the Promise You have already sent and the ones still to come.