After a long journey through the Old Testament, finally I have made it to the New Testament. Now don’t get me wrong, there is some real good stuff in the Old Testament and I have grown a lot as I have read it. But, it is with great joy that my eyes are now dwelling on the days of our Savior and His grand entry into the world.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. BUT they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren and they were both well along in years.” Luke 1:5-7
Every time I come to this passage God speaks to my heart. For so often I fall into the trap that somehow my doing good and living a good life will lead to God’s blessings and joys. It’s hard not to fall into this trap when so many churches preach the health, wealth and prosperity gospel. Which frankly is no gospel at all. For the true Gospel is one of grace!
Nevertheless, I fall into this trap. Thinking that somehow if I live right, do good, serve others and God. Then life should and will be good. Then, when the storms come and hard times fall upon me, I wonder where is God and want to have a pity party about how life isn’t fair. (Does this sound familiar to you as well or is it just me 🙂 )
Thus, the reason this passage always speaks to my heart.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were not just some ordinary people. Zechariah was a priest, who yearly went to the temple to make offering to the Lord for the sins of the people. He was a religious, good, devout man of God. In fact according to the verse, they were both upright in the sight of God, observing ALL of the Lord’s commandments. They were in fact blameless.
And I think to myself, yea, I’m probably not all that righteous.
Yet, despite how good they were, despite that they were blameless and devout in their worship of God…. they had spent years disgraced in the sight of man. For Elizabeth was barren and in that day, this was a very big deal. It was a shame. People would point and think she must not be right with God or she would surely have children. Year after year she had lived with this shame. And year after year, Zechariah had prayed.
Thus doing good and being a good Christian does not mean life will be rosy. In fact, it will often mean difficulties and struggles.
Some days I struggle with this. I think God, we have left everything to come around the world to serve you. Why then does everything have to be so hard? And God says, so what, you are just being obedient to me, which is your duty and privilege. Yea, I get put in my place quick :-).
But Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story doesn’t end there. For we know that the angel of the Lord comes to Zechariah when he is in the temple praying. (Another lesson, no matter how long you pray, never give up). And the angel says, “Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. (Luke 1:13).”
For years, they have endured shame, for years they have prayed and not given up. And finally, God has heard and answered. How often do we feel God isn’t hearing our prayers. We pray and pray and it seems we get no where. When in fact, lots of times the answer isn’t no like we assume, it is wait.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have prayed for something and then given up. And I wonder what if I had just continued to pray. Not that my prayer changes the mind of God, but God certainly uses my prayers to change me.
We can learn a lot from the saints of old. For they were consistent in their prayer. I don’t know about you, but this was a challenge for me. To do as Jesus said and “pray and not give up.”
The Bible tells us that after Zechariah completed his time of service, he returned home to his wife and she became pregnant. And she said, “The Lord has done this for me, In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people (Luke 1:25).”
All of her married life, she has endured disgrace and shame. She knew she had lived a life pleasing to God, but everyone else was quick to whisper and pity her. Yet, she had remained faithful to the Lord. Praying and not giving up. Until the Lord indeed has heard and answered her prayer. Thus she has gone from disgraced to blessed of the Lord. For this would not be just any ordinary child, but the one chosen of God to prepare the way for the Lord. And He had done it in a way where He would receive all the glory. For Elizabeth’s childbearing days were surely a thing of the past, yet God has done the impossible!
For some of you, you are in a time of waiting. And believe me I know all about waiting and how hard it can be. Our family waited two years while we lived with our family to be sent out to the mission field. It wasn’t easy or fun. But God was and is faithful and just as He heard our prayers and answered in His perfect time. He will hear and answer your prayers, as you wait upon Him.
For some of you, you are in a place that seems impossible. I understand this as well. For when we had all but given up and were in a place that seemed impossible, it was only then that God opened the door for us to go to the field. Remember no situation is too much for God, He can do what no man can, and impossibilities are only a grand opportunity for God to show His glory.
And for some of you, God has you in a season of blessing. I encourage you to praise Him for this, but also realize that storms will come. And storms do not always mean you are not right with the Lord (though they certainly can), but sometimes storms will come even in the midst of our service to the Lord. This isn’t a punishment, but is only a time of testing so that we may grow in our faith.
Waiting is hard and living in disgrace, miserable. But don’t give up…. for God is at work and your time of blessing will come.