The Advent season is a time of anticipation, waiting, and preparation. During the month of December, Time With God will break from its regular format to explore selected passages and characters connected with the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us.
Nestled curiously in the Christmas narrative is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Not only is it a great story, it’s also interestingly identifiable with our own lives. In it, we find a couple living day-to-day with interjected heartbreak and disappointment.
READ THE WORD: LUKE 1:5-25 (ESV)
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And 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. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
RESPOND TO GOD
Zechariah was a good man, a “good ol’ boy.” He was a man of integrity, faithful to his wife, who had a good job and a good pedigree. But life hadn’t always treated him well. Not only was he a stranger in his own land—remember, Israel was occupied by Rome—but he and his wife were also childless, a mark that essentially was a curse in the culture of the time.
Even in his life’s disappointment, Zechariah still served faithfully. Then, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and gave him a message that he initially missed: “…your prayer has been heard.” What better message would you want to hear from God than this? This wasn’t some magical, random, “rub the genie bottle” wish that had been granted. It was a loving response from a sovereign and holy God who had chosen to use two hurting people to further his plan for the world. They were righteous and lived faithful lives. They understood the Word and walked blamelessly in their understanding of God’s revelation. Even though Zechariah initially doubted his place in God’s plan, he got there eventually. And God used both he and Elizabeth to continue his plan for the ages. During this Christmas season, take heart, my friend, and know that as you walk through life seeking and serving God, he hears your prayers. No matter what you have gone through, or in whatever pain you are currently experiencing, God hears you! When our hearts are tuned to him and we seek his desires, we can be assured that his timing and ways—and even his discipline—are best.