Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up hope. They had prayed for a child for years and never heard an answer to their prayers. They watched their nieces, nephews, and friends’ children grow up, marry, and have children of their own. And yet they were still alone, still longing. Their home remained silent, void of any laughter or patter of children’s feet. They grieved, and grieved some more, and finally moved on. God had not chosen to grant their request.
Or so they thought…
But God had other plans, bigger plans, for their life. He had not forgotten them. He knew they grieved in their barrenness but He had such a blessing waiting for them.
One day while Zechariah was serving in the temple the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Luke 1:13-14 records the reason for his arrival. “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been 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.” Gabriel told Zechariah his prayer had been heard. Isn’t that a comforting reminder? God hears our prayers. Even when we wait for an answer we can be comforted in knowing that God has heard us. He knows the cares, hurts, and longings of our hearts. There is no better place to lay our burdens down than at the feet of Jesus.
Luke 1:18 records Zechariah’s response to Gabriel’s appearance and announcement. “ And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
“Really? Seriously? Elizabeth and I are too old to have a child.” Zechariah was incredulous. Gabriel had just told him that God was granting him and Elizabeth their prayer in a way, and for a greater purpose, than they could ever have imagined but Zechariah was not convinced. Instead of embracing the gift they were going to be given, he questioned God’s ability to grant it, basing God’s ability on their own human frailty.
God’s answers to our prayers come at unexpected times and in unexpected places, sometimes after years of waiting. Often the answer is not exactly what we thought we needed when we first sent our petitions heavenward, but God knows the plans He has for our lives and His plans are often very different from our own. Are we ready to wait for God’s answer, to embrace His plans for us or, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, have we given up? God knows what we need, and when we need it.
Psalm 30:5b says “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Don’t you think the years of grief faded for Zechariah and Elizabeth as they held their baby boy for the first time? Yes, we will grieve in this life, our hearts will ache more than we think we can ever bear, but it will pass and God will answer our prayers. The answer may not be what we want to hear, it may not even make sense to us, but it will surely be filled with unexpected blessings.
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