I am aware that most people are very familiar with the story of and the events leading to the birth of Christ. In fact, I believe sometimes we are too familiar with it.
Too familiar to see certain details.
Too familiar to let the story effect us as it should.
Last year, I spent some time reading and rereading the first 2 chapters of Luke, and I asked the Lord to help me to really see it. I didn’t want to miss something important because of familiarity.
As He always does, He answered my prayer and showed me some things that I had overlooked in the past.
In Luke chapter 1, we find a man named Zacharias ministering in the temple. This may not seem odd or unusual, but there is significance here.
See, it had been roughly 400 years since the people had heard any word from heaven.
400 years since God breathed on a man and sent a word to His people.
400 years of silence.
You know as well as I that more often than not, we need constant reminding to do what we know to be right. That’s why we’re told to make sure we hang around the right people, and why some have such a hard time when they move away from family or go to college.
Peer pressure is real and we can fall prey to it much more easily than we would care to think.
These people had nothing but the Old Testament Scriptures and writings of the prophets who were long dead. There had been no new word, nothing new to go on, for 400 years.
Surely there had been those who had given up hope that the promised Messiah would come and had turned their backs from following the God of their fathers. After all, He had forgotten about them…right? He hadn’t spoken in a long time. Did He really expect them to just wait?
And that’s exactly what Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth, had done.
They remained faithful in spite of 400 years of silence.
He faithfully went to the temple and ministered to his generation.
We’re sometimes quick to criticize Zacharias for his doubts when the angel appeared and told him he and his long barren wife would have a son, and not just any son, but his son who was to be named “John” would be the forerunner of the Promised One. The Messiah was finally coming, and his child would have a part in pointing people to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Looking at the entire situation, I can understand his hesitancy.
Would any of us really have responded any differently?
After a lifetime of only reading about heavenly visitations and messages from God, one suddenly appeared to him and he received the first communication from God in 400 years.
Not only that, but the message itself was unbelievable! He and his wife would have a son. The Bible tells us that Elisabeth was barren and they were well stricken with age. After years and years and years of wanting children, their son was on his way.
I can say with confidence that I’m sure by this point, they had resigned themselves to the fact that they would never be parents. It just wasn’t going to happen for them.
No wonder there was doubt in his mind and heart about the authenticity of this message from the angel! He was telling him that the impossible was about to happen.
If an angel appeared and gave me a similar message, more than likely my response would be one of unbelief as well.
Whatever your feelings toward Zacharias, don’t judge him too harshly. He was found in the temple, being faithful, despite the silence of God. He was doing right, no matter what others were doing.
He and Elisabeth believed that the Messiah would come, even if they never saw it happen.
They believed that the words spoken by the prophets were true, even if they never heard from heaven in their lifetime.
They clung to the last thing God had said and remained faithful, disregarding the silence and the darkness of the day.
Yes, Zacharias had a moment of weakness, and he paid for his unbelief with months of being unable to speak until John was born….but when John was born, he not only spoke, but he glorified and magnified the Lord.
Their faith in God had not been misplaced. He was sending His Son to redeem mankind, and was using Elisabeth’s cousin to do it.
Imagine the months of worship that went on around their home!
When the angel appeared to Mary with the word that she would bear the Son of God, she came to tell Elisabeth. When she arrived with her news, the Bible says the babe leaped in her womb and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they worshipped.
Both Zacharias and Elisabeth and Mary and Joseph were insignificant couples as far as the world was concerned….but before the world began, God knew He would use Mary to deliver His Son, and He would be held and brought up by the hands of a simple, hard-working carpenter. He would also work a miracle and use Mary’s barren cousin and her faithful husband to bring into the world the one who would unashamedly point people to Christ.
Where do you think John the Baptist got his boldness? I feel sure that the story of what God had done for his family….and who his family was…was a staple in their home. Countless times that story must have been told of how God broke His silence and his father and his Aunt Mary and Uncle Joseph were all visited by an angel with a word that would not only change their lives, but all of mankind, forever.
Whatever can be said about Zacharias and Elisabeth, one thing is true: they were faithful.
Faithfulness is not something to scoff at. It wasn’t then, and it still isn’t today. Those who will just do right in spite of everything, who just keep plugging along, who serve God with a smile on their face, who constantly tell others about Jesus, who worship the God who gives and takes away… Those people? Watch them. Learn from them.
There are always lessons to be learned from the faithful.