Zechariah: God’s timing and answered prayer

“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 righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John… Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”  (Luke 1: 5-13, 18, NIV; italics added).

Zechariah’s question was based on unbelief. He had prayed for a son but, perhaps with the passage of time, had stopped believing that God would answer his prayer.  Hear again his response to the angel Gabriel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Had he forgotten Abraham and Sarah?).  It seems that he had lost hope and was, in modern day vernacular, saying to Gabriel, “You are kidding. I will not get my hopes up again only to be disappointed.”

For the first time in reading this familiar account, I see God’s timing in answering Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayers for a child.  Their child’s purpose was to be the forerunner of Jesus, so he could only be born when it was time for the Messiah to come into the world.  In the Faithful Abundant True Bible study, Priscilla Shirer, instructs that the Kingdom purpose of God extends beyond our personal plans and desires. As such His answers to our prayers occur within that eternal context.

Be encouraged, fellow pilgrim. As Hebrews 10:35-38 encourages, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’” (NKJV; italics added).

Originally posted on ChristanBlog, December 2010.

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