Zach and the Waiting: Part I
Anticipation. That’s what Christmas is all about. Advent means arrival. At my house we are alive with expectation. Nobody loves an advent calendar like my kids…well, maybe their mamma. We have several kinds of advent count downs going down over here…I think I'm counting down in my sleep.
The Jews know all about waiting. They had been waiting for a Messiah for generations. By the time a certain priest named Zachariah was selected to serve in burning the incense of prayer, Israel had been waiting without a vision, a message, or a sign from God for four hundred years. Zachariah had been praying for a redemption of his own.
You may remember that he and his wife Elizabeth had been hoping and praying for a child, but none had come. There was a whole lot of waiting going on. Zachariah entered the temple and the angel Gabriel appeared with pretty much the best news ever.
He told Zachariah that not only had God heard his prayers, but he was going to answer them by giving him a son, and not just any son, this son “will be a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord… 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 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” (Luke 1:14-17). Not only will you have a son, your son will usher in the Messiah, he will make ready the people. God has heard all of your prayers for a baby and a Messiah, and both are coming!!!! Best news ever!
And to this Zachariah replies, “How can I be sure of this?” (v.18). Are you kidding me!!??? That’s his response to this news. If I were Gabriel, I am pretty sure I would have looked to heaven and told God that this people isn’t ready, they need another 400 years or so. Gabriel responds, and I can just hear his tone as I read between the lines, “I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God.” What do you mean how can you be sure????
Before I completely write Zachariah off, I am reminded of my own heart, and the times I have questioned God and stood in unbelief. I am reminded of the times that waiting has made me forgetful.
Time can chisel away at hope. There are days that it has toppled mine.
Forgetting does a number on us.
Waiting can be long and when the anticipation wears off, we are simply left with the silence.
Zachariah chose to fill that silence with his circumstance instead of his belief.
The important part of this story is found in Gabriel’s next words in verse 20: “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.”
Zachariah’s lack of belief did nothing to stop the promise of God.
Gabriel said his words would come true at their appointed time because God’s promises do not depend on our belief. Aren’t you glad.
What God appoints does not depend one iota on my belief.
If it did, we would be in so much trouble. At the same time, Zachariah missed a portion of blessing because of his doubt. He had some long silent months to contemplate that. My heart always misses blessing in my unbelief, for sure the blessing of peace, the blessing of faith, and the blessing of growth. But there is not one promise of God that it ever hinders.
He is faithful…always.
Believing prayers bless the heart of God, but unbelief never hinders Him, it only hinders us.
Zachariah may have been down, but he wasn’t out. The most beautiful part of this story isn’t even in the text. We have to dig a little to find it. Do you know what Zachariah’s name means? It means, “the Lord remembers”.
In the waiting spaces where we grow forgetful, just like Zachariah, the Lord remembers.
And what’s more, John, Zachariah’s promised son, means “God is gracious”, and Jesus means, “God is salvation”.
If you are in a waiting place and you’ve grown forgetful, the Lord remembers, God is gracious, and Salvation is coming. Jesus is coming for us. He won’t forget.
Stay tuned for a post exploring the life of one of the patriarchs who waited really well,
and how we can find purpose in our waiting too.
If you can't wait...head to my home page and listen to this message in it's entirety.