Such a short phrase and yet so all consuming at times in our lives or the lives of those we love. In the opening lines of Luke’s gospel (Luke chapter 1) we are introduced to a married couple (Zechariah & Elizabeth) who are now ‘well advanced’ in years and yet sadly do not have any children…
Why? Although Nadine and I never faced this particular challenge ourselves, we know a number of couples who wanted children and yet had to wait month after month, year after painful year… Why?
Luke, wants us to know that this experience of theirs was not as a result of consequences of some action on their part. In fact they are described in glowing terms as having married according to God’s instructions and they were also diligently serving God and living in such a way that would have been pleasing to God.
Luke points out two medical reasons for their being childless – ‘Elizabeth was barren’ and ‘both were advanced in years’. However, the unmentioned reason is the true reason for this situation in their lives – God was going to work a miracle through them that was going to usher in the miraculous birth of the Messiah to come!
Makes me think of Romans 8:28 and how as Michael Eaton says that passage means that when things are going badly, somehow for the believer they’re going right in a funny sort of way that we just might not fully understand right now!
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s pain and sadness must have been real and crushing at times, it must have caused them to question themselves, to even question God… But all the while, God was sovereignly working out all things, personal things and national and cosmic things all in accordance with a His plan and purposes (Ephesians 1:11).
We know Zechariah had prayed because the angel Gabriel in vs13 says to Zechariah; “your prayer has been heard”. I would not be surprised if Zechariah had gone through periods of doubt regarding his faith, regarding the goodness of God or whether his prayer’s were being heard… But in this moment, the angel confirms, your prayer has been heard!
Are you like Zechariah and Elizabeth?
Have you been diligently following God, seeking to live in ways you know please Him, serving God in the church in some way and yet there is something that you feel God has not heard you on?
What an encouragement this seemingly ordinary couple are!
They served God, obeyed God loved to please God in spite of their own struggle and disappointment at seemingly unheard and unanswered prayers and seemingly did so for years and years. Their faith wasn’t dependent on God doing what they wanted when they wanted it! They weren’t consumer’s but worshipers of Almighty God.
If they had conceived as a married young couple, no one would have noticed, it would not have caused all who knew them or all those in the hill country of Judea and all around who heard say; “What then will this child be?” (vs66)
God was working in the delay, God wasn’t late but on time as He always is according to His timescale not ours. What is there in your life that feels like delay, or unheard or unanswered prayer? Can you believe God’s sovereign will and His perfect timing? I am not saying you’ll get what you’ve been praying for necessarily, but I am saying that as with this couple, God has your life and it’s circumstances in His loving control and your life like that of this couples’ is interwoven with God’s divine purposes in the whole earth!
This story is a good news story, with a wonderful conclusion far beyond what they had ever prayed for no doubt, angelic visitations, in filling by the Holy Spirit, prophesy, and the honour of a son who usher’s in the Messiah…
Someone said to me the other day, when things in our lives seem unfulfilled, out of control even, under pressure – what we can say with assurance is ‘that we haven’t reached the end of the story yet‘, there is more to come, God’s not done. We know from Hebrews 11:39 that for some of us God won’t have even written the final chapter of our lives when we have passed on to eternity as our lives can still have impact after our death and history of this earth won’t be wrapped up until Jesus comes back…
Maybe you’re in a tough spot right now, maybe your faith is being challenged, maybe it feels like God has abandoned you or is not answering your prayers…
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story encourages us to remain faithful, diligent in loving God, serving God’s purposes and while we wait to see what God will do and we too with them one day cry out “blessed be the Lord God”.