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:
  • 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."
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.


  1. Thanks for posting! I was hoping you would! Kept trying to get mine up yesterday before small group and kept getting interrupted, and was gone all day today. I'll have to see if I can finish it tomorrow. Carrying a child is an amazing thing under normal circumstances...can you imagine how wondrous it must have been for Elizabeth?

  2. Her age and barrenness add so much to the story - as women, we can try to slip into her sandals and imagine what must have been happening to her body!

    I was hoping you'd have another post soon...did Grant bring home your surprise?

  3. That is an interesting perspective Kristen. Gabriel does say, "and your wife will bear you a son"...not, "your wife will bear you a son." If Zacharias had been asking the Lord for a son, it would seem that Gabriel would leave out the word "and." It does almost appear as if John is a "bonus." His disbelief is in regards to what Gabriel said about Elizabeth bearing him a son. If he had been petitioning for a Savior, he certainly wouldn't have been surprised regarding that I would think.

    Looking forward to your next post, Beth!

  4. ...the wheels have been spinning a bit now. From the perspective you give, if Zacharias had been praying for a son, you would think the natural response of Gabriel telling him his petition had been granted would be joy, not disbelief. It really does make sense that he was asking for the Savior. John was all just part of the miraculous and wonderful plan of God regarding the Savior... Think of the conversations Mary and Elizabeth must have enjoyed together!

  5. I love when I can get your wheels spinning! Yes, it is fun to think about it and what a kind gesture for God to use an aunt and her niece, rather than complete strangers. I am sure they had years of support that only the two of them could possibly comprehend...

  6. *Why*, when you give so much thought to such an important honor and petition the Lord would you not believe what he gives you for an answer? I'm assuming here that the word petition means a lenghty request - so is it possible that he brought up Elizabeth being barren along with a long list of other things?

  7. Here's how I picture it (remember this is not inspired, this is just a "theory"): I think that Zacharias asked the Lord for salvation for Israel, that he cried out for relief from the oppression of the Romans and requested the Messiah to come and save them. Then the angel appeared and said that God had heard his request and here's the answer: God is sending the Messiah but to prepare the way, you are going to have a baby and he is going to be mighty before the Lord...and he goes on from there. I believe that having a baby was so far off the radar of Zacharais' imagination, that his disbelief was an honest response, like, "What, a baby? Elizabeth is way past that!" I don't think his disbelief was in the coming Messiah, though if this was a normal request, perhaps Israel was beyond thinking it would be answered. His disbelief was in the mention of his and Elizabeth's contribution to this answer - a baby from a barren, old couple.

    Now, it is possible that he requested a baby, but I see it in a different light...the good news is, someday we'll get to as Zacharias just exactly what it was he was asking for!

  8. After all my wheels stopped spinning...that is how I end up seeing it as well. After the disbelief was over, I can only imagine the wonderment and joy Zacharias had!

    Do you see John the Baptist as a fulfillment of Malachi 4:5,6?

  9. Why do you always ask the hard questions (yes, I know - 100% word)?

    Ummm...well, at face value, when you compare Malachi 4 with Matthew 17:11 and 12 it sure seems like Jesus saw John the Baptist as the fulfillment of that prophecy, except for the part of changing the people's hearts so that God wouldn't smite the land, because we all know how the story ended in Jesus' time and how it will end with the Day of the Lord.

    So...was it a partial fulfillment...or a near/far fulfillment? I don't believe that John was a re-incarnated Elijah, but rather had the role or the spirit of Elijah. it possible that God will send the actual Elijah still before the great and terrible day of the Lord? I think so and this time he will restore the hearts of the people...

    How's that for a wishy-washy answer? Bottom line, I think this prophecy has a near/far fulfillment - John was the near fulfillment but was rejected. There will be a far fulfillment where it will actually come to pass. This may make Elijah a candidate for one of the two witnesses.

    But that's just my thoughts...wish dad was around...

  10. Just keeping you on your toes...and your mind sharp, so you can still win at cards in your 70s...(Oh, I hope we are gone before then!) I do look forward to meeting your dad...

    I don't see how it could be a complete fulfillment since most of Israel rejected the Messiah, so a near/far does sound more plausible...

    Off to take my husband out to Red Lobster. We are celebrating a day early...looking forward to those cheese biscuits...

  11. The serious reason I ask you questions is because I like to try to figure the hard things out and I can always expect an answer that makes sense from you! (100% word...)

    (I just hope I am as sharp as my mom when I reach her honored age. She still consistently beats me at Scrabble!)