- Elizabeth was advanced in years (1:7) - not only was she barren, but she was getting up there in age. Now, we have the story of Sarai and her pregnancy at 89 years old, so perhaps we just assume that when a story starts out with barrenness, that God is going to step in. But was that at the forefront of Elizabeth and Zacharais' minds? I think there comes a time when you accept the obvious - Elizabeth not only was barren, but most likely she was beyond the bearing years - that's why the scripture tells us she was advanced in age...advanced beyond what? Beyond the childbearing years...
- Zacharias was a priest whose service would be called upon for two weeks each year in Jerusalem. The privilege of lighting the incense within the Temple would be a once in a lifetime calling - chosen by lot, which is another way of saying chosen by God. So, if you are given the once in a lifetime opportunity to light the incense inside the Temple and offer a prayer before the presence of the Lord, don't you think that this would be a sobering responsibility? Do you think this would be an appropriate time to bring a personal request, or was Zacharias speaking on behalf of the children of Israel?
- So what would be an appropriate request on the behalf of the children of Israel? Well, at that time Israel was being occupied by Rome, who was making their lives miserable. Time and time again in the history of God's relationship with Israel, rebellious Israel would find itself in captivity. They would repent and cry out for salvation, and God would provide a savior in the form of a judge. But for nearly 400 years God had been silent - no judges, no prophets, nothing. I believe Zacharias was crying out for salvation. I think he was petitioning for a savior. The prophets had told of a coming Messiah, and I think the prayers of all the priests on behalf of the children of Israel were strikingly similar - I think they cried out for salvation.
- The real evidence of what Zacharias was asking for comes in the response of the angel. He says that God has heard his petition and Elizabeth would bear a child. "There," you say, "that proves he was praying for a son!" Not so fast. It goes on to say that this child will be great in the sight of the Lord and that he will turn many hearts back to their God. Then in verse 17, the angel says that this baby will be a forerunner before HIM, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to make the people ready for the Lord. I believe that in that one simple word, we find evidence of Zacharias' true request. "Him." Who? Well, we know it is Jesus Christ - John the Baptist is the forerunner for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. If Zacharias' request was simply for a son, then the angel would have explained the fact that the baby would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. But, if Zacharias had asked for a messiah, the angel could refer to the answered petition with the pronoun "Him," as in, "Your son will prepare the way for Him."
Monday, December 14, 2009
Your Petition has been Heard
"But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13-17
As a child, I was taught that when Zacharias drew the lot to burn the incense before the Lord, that he brought his life long petition before the Lord in prayer - the request of a child. But ladies, I am not sure that's exactly what he was asking for as he prayed that day in the Temple. Let's take a closer look:
So, what's the big deal, Kristen? Though we know that at one time in Elizabeth and Zacharais' lives the desire for a child was great, I believe that the petition that was answered that day by the angel was the request for a Savior. 400 years of silence was broken and the answer was "yes." In essence, in the fulness of time, God was finally ready to answer the cries of not only His people, but of all creation and announce the beginning of His plan, starting with this barren, aged woman's only son as the bearer of the good news, that the time of the Messiah had come.
Yes, this baby would be an answer to an old request of this elderly priest, kind of a bonus thrown in. But more importantly, and more appropriately, this baby was the start of the answer for a Messiah, for salvation for all of mankind. Zacharias' prayer was heard that day - it was God's time to save the world.