God compelled Luke to write down a thorough account of the life of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. Like an investigative journalist who compiles stories from eyewitnesses on the field, Luke was present on many of Paul’s journeys and heard firsthand accounts of Jesus’ life from the Apostles. We can have great confidence in the veracity of the Word of God.
Luke begins by introducing us to John the Baptist. Before we get to meet John however, we meet his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. In their story, we should notice that God has his own timing and this is well beyond our understanding. Rarely will we understand in our present moments, the ways and working of God.
When prayer seems to go unanswered, let’s not be too quick to assume that God is NOT working. To be clear, he is ALWAYS active and very loving towards his children. With the help of the lens of Scripture we can trust God with what we cannot see.
Second, we notice that the blessing of children is a mystery kept in the heart of God. This couple was faithful; they were both righteous and served God. Yet, well into old age their prayers went unanswered. They were childless.
Infertility is a common theme in the Bible. We read of godly women who failed to conceive; women like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Ruth and Hannah. In his mercy, God opened the wombs of these previously barren women. We don’t always understand God’s way or timing, but we do trust his heart and know he is always good, powerful and faithful.
Here’s what we know about the “delay” in John’s arrival: He had to be born at a specific time because he was a forerunner of Jesus, who according to Galatians 4:4, had to be born at God’s exact and perfect timing. We read,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law… (Galatians 4:4 ESV)
In other words, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s long anticipated son had a calling on his life far greater than simply being their pride and joy. He was part of God’s much grander storyline as one who would make the way for the coming of Jesus.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard… (Luke 1:13 ESV)
I am encouraged by verse 13. I am encouraged to know that prayers are effective. God hears them and knows our heart’s cry. He receives our requests and in his wisdom, he answers them in a way that is good, and wise. We can rest in that!
As exciting as all this is, it is not the main storyline. These are simply supporting actors in the main narrative of the coming of God incarnate. The Old Testament and the lives of an old priest and his wife set the stage for the grand arrival of the promised Son of God.
All of heaven watches as God chooses a virgin named Mary to be the mother of His Son Jesus. This young servant of the Lord yields her life and womb to the purposes of God.
Do the old priestly couple or the young betrothed couple understand the cosmic, eternal scope of what God is up to? They didn’t, but we do. Two babies will be born: a prophet who will welcome the Messiah and a Saviour who will save the world! Thanks be to God.
Father, good always and faithful to the end, Your name be praised. In all the details, in all things, and at all times You are working out Your sovereign and eternal plans. Teach us to pray and not give up. Teach us to trust when Your answer is “no”, or “not yet”. Help us to see Your purposes are far higher than we can grasp. We are caught up in the story of salvation, Your Son come for us, and for the world. We are glad to serve You and Your will in our days. Your kingdom come and Your will be done. For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.