Expect a great blessing! This could be the day!
“And it came to pass in those days…”. Luke 2:1a
Almost every kid that’s ever heard one is familiar with the way bedtime stories begin. The story usually begins with something like, “Once upon a time in a land far far away…”
In this case, the land is Jerusalem. Zacharias was a priest in the Temple serving in his order according to the appointment of Abijah. One of his responsibilities was to burn incense in the Holy Place and to offer up prayers to God for the people and for himself. While he was praying in his customary way, there suddenly appeared an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. This was no everyday occurrence. In fact, there had been no angelic appearances or prophetic words from the Lord since the last words of the prophet Malachi, 400 years earlier.
So to say that Zacharias was shocked and in great fear is to put it mildly. He was more likely terrified. Knowing this, the angel, Gabriel, said to him,
“Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth…” Luke 1:13
The angel continues to prophecy concerning John and his ministry to the people of Israel. And there is much that we could say about this first moment of restored communication between earth and heaven. For Zacharias to be privileged to burn incense in the Holy Place was a once in a lifetime experience. The prayers he had been praying for years in his heart, now he is offering up to God in the Holy Place of the temple, the place of God’s dwelling among His people. That in itself is worthy of deeper exploration. But there are three important principles that we can take away from this arresting moment.
1). When waiting to hear from God or to see the realization of something so long anticipated we can become desensitized and lose all expectation that anything will ever happen. We can, like Zacharias, reach a place where we just go through the motions not really expecting anything to change. When it does, we’re shocked, filled with fear. We can become troubled in our hearts and minds. Our first thoughts are, “What’s wrong?” “What did I do, now?” “Why is this happening to me?” “What am I going to do?”
But hear what the angel says, “DO NOT BE AFRAID, (insert your name), your prayer is heard and your petition is granted. You’re experiencing something wonderful! Go with it! Believe it! Receive it! A good thing is coming your way and it’s going to be a blessing to you and to those you love and even people you don’t know will be positively and joyfully affected by it.”
The answered prayer for Zacharias was that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son despite their advanced age. God was doing the miraculous in their lives. Their miracle would herald the restored communication between God and His covenant people, Israel. And not only Israel, but also the whole world was about to indirectly benefit from the gift to this one old man and his elderly wife.
2) God is faithful to His Word. Zacharias was faithful to pray even though it felt like he was only going through the motions. He was faithful to his calling. Even in his old age he kept praying for something that would have been simple in his youth but now… Why was he even bothering to ask? Because He believed God and he hoped beyond hope. He kept on doing what he knew was right to do and what he was called to do.
Perhaps, God has given you a gift, a calling, a talent, a skill, even a ministry. Whatever it is, do it faithfully. It may not seem like it’s making any difference and at times it may only seem routine and uninspired. But don’t let that move you from the faithful fulfillment of your calling. Do your work, do your job, exercise your gift. Pray and keep on praying. Love and keep on loving, give and keep on giving. Whatever you do, do it with a faithful expectation that someday there will appear the answer you have sought for so long. It could happen any moment.
Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, your prayers are being heard.
3) Finally, when the “hoped for” suddenly happens, God wants you to embrace it to take hold of it, enjoy it and share the joy with others, not run from it in fear.
There was no intent to burden Zacharias with this blessing, especially in his and Elizabeth’s old age. The Bible does not tell us how old Elizabeth and Zacharias were but by modern standards they may not have seemed so old. If priests were obliged to retire and age 50 then at most Zacharias was 49 or fifty when he was serving in the temple at the time of this angelic visitation.
Having a child at 49 or 50 years old can be a pretty frightening thing especially if you’ve never had children before. “Oh, the responsibility of it all!” “Will I live long enough to be of any value to him?” “Will he be a blessing or a rebellious child?” “Will I have enough money to send him to college?” “How will I keep up with the other parents at PTA meetings?” “What will I do when it’s my turn to chaperone the kids?” “Will I have the energy to teach him to play sports or ride a bike or…”
No. God intended for them to have great joy in this child and to raise him to become a man of God. And they did and he did. Jesus even called him the greatest prophet of all.
The blessing of the Lord is not burdensome. What God gives to us is for our good and for His pleasure. He is pleased with our joy and with our share in the abundant life.
“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Prov. 10:22
Expect a great blessing! This could be the day!