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.He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home.
After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Reflection by Onleilove
“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” – Luke 1:20
Like Zechariah most of us struggle with believing God’s words and promises. For many of us our unbelief is fueled by the media, news reports and the “common sense” of our day. During our holiday season we sing “joy to the world” while struggling with depression. We marvel at manger scenes with Three Kings of diverse races coming together to worship baby Jesus and yet struggle to believe diversity can exist in our churches. We praise Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” while living in a country that spends more on war than on education for children.
Though we know the promises of God, we falter in our faith. From today’s passage we see that even the zealous Zechariah struggled with believing. We can’t condemn Zechariah’s actions because it is difficult to wait years for a situation to change. Emotions, criticism and doubt will cause even the most faithful to murmur. This passage has a great deal to teach us about God’s appointed timing versus our timing. God’s appointed timing is based on eternity and our timing is based on finality.
Elizabeth and Zechariah were chosen as the parents for John the Baptist. God had to delay John’s birth so that he would be on time to lead the way for his cousin – Jesus. Looking back, we can see that John’s birth was right on-time and by delaying the birth of John, God was not punishing Zechariah and Elizabeth but was actually choosing this couple to assist in preparing the way for the Christ.
At times, what appears to be a delay or denial from God may actually be divine timing that will lead to the birth of a new ministry, business or relationship that will impact our world in a powerful way. Though we may be tempted to murmur about our current circumstances let us remember that God can see the entire picture and is working situations out for a divine purpose and appointed time. When the world provides negative reports and you are tempted to murmur, remember the words from this gospel song: “Whose report will you believe? I shall believe the report of the Lord!”
God, when we are discouraged by the reality we see, give us new eyes to see your reality. When we are tempted to murmur, give us the faith to know that you are working for our good and the good of humanity. In our times of doubt, comfort us and remind us of your love. Amen.