Have you ever had a major disappointment in life? Have you ever asked God to intervene, only to feel like heaven was shut up and silent? In the next section we will read, we’ll be introduced to a couple who went through that very thing. We’ll be looking at Luke 1:5-25 this Sunday. By the way, you can listen to this passage read HERE.
How did you feel when your prayer didn’t seem to be answered? Did you feel like you did something wrong. In our passage, we have an old couple who are described as people who are committed, observant followers of God…yet who suffered what was often considered a sign of God’s curse on their lives. They were childless. Not only that, they were advanced in years, meaning, they were past the age of doing anything about being childless. You wonder how they felt, yet it appears it didn’t cause them to give up their trust in God.
What’s really interesting is that these people are the starting point for Luke’s account. He frames it in the time of Herod the Great…but then shifts the focus from that impressive, historical leader to these two backwoods people who are the equivalent of an old country pastor and his wife. People who should be considered insignificant, who can’t even get a prayer answered by God. It’s with these folks that Luke starts the story of Jesus. God is just cool like that.
When the angel appears to Zechariah, how does he respond? Does it change the outcome of what the angel says? What DOES it change? Do you relate to Zechariah at all? What does this passage say to you?
3 thoughts on “Backstory; Birth of John the Baptist”
Reading Zechariah’s story, I feel like I can relate to his reaction. This mystical angel creature tells him he’s going to have a child, and almost like a knee-jerk reaction he says: “Wha? How?” And then the angel says: “Do not doubt me. Now you’re mute.” I imagine Zechariah’s first instinct would be: “I’m not doubting you; I just don’t know how it can be done.”
In other words, doubt (not just in Zechariah’s case) can take an unexpected form. Sometimes I don’t even realize when I’m doubting God. Sometimes I don’t even consider it a lack of faith — it’s just me, you know, wondering how on earth things could ever work out.
It’s like a child, looking at some gooey cake batter, trying to touch it when his mother isn’t looking. “Are you sure that’s going to be a cake? It doesn’t look like a cake.” And then mom sends him to his room because his lack of faith just put a dirty child-finger into the batter.
Interesting that a personal prayer was answered while he was performing a service for the public. The angel didn’t appear while he was praying quietly in his own house.
I didn’t take his response as just, “Wow, really?” but rather, “Yeah, right. Prove it.” Which is an oddly bold thing to say to a terrifying figure that suddenly appears out of nowhere.
If you were suddenly struck mute in the middle of work, would you keep going until 5:00, or would you punch out early and take a sick day?
Also interesting that Elizabeth hid herself for 5 months. I wonder why she did that, and why it’s important enough to mention in scripture.
Kris McAlister wrote this (but the comments page rebuffed her):
This story immediately reminded me of the lyrics to a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately.
My steps never felt so hard
The end never looked so far
But if you won’t take me out then please take me through this
Stay with me
So I wont leave
And make me see
That this is not forever
Cause all I need is your love
With you here I know
I don’t go alone
I am yours and so
Through the fire I go….
Back then you were looked upon as cursed by God if you didn’t have children. Only He has the power to open and close a womb so if you had no children He must have cursed you for some reason. Maybe Zechariah had gotten so used to reproach from the community, wondering why, and praying something like the lyrics above for so long that he started to doubt himself and his own worthiness. Maybe he felt like, “Who, ME? How can HE do this for ME? Seriously???” It’s kind of hard to doubt a bright shinning angel right there in your face, (or at least I think it would be). It’s easy to doubt your own worthiness of blessing from God though. I feel like he went from thinking he was cursed to having blessings heaped upon him and it must have been hard to take it all in. He was going to have a child when it wasn’t humanly possible, this child wasn’t going to be just ANY child, AND an angel was sent personally by The One True God as his messenger. I mean, WOW! I don’t know anyone who would feel worthy of that!
Also, I think maybe Elizabeth’s actions were out of thanksgiving. She could have easily ran outside and shouted from the rooftops the amazing thing God had just done and it would have stopped the reproach from the community right away. Instead she remained silent until she was showing and it was no longer possible to keep quiet. I think maybe it went something like this. “Lord how do I thank you? You are God Almighty and I’m just me! You didn’t have to do this and because of that I will stay silent. I don’t need my community’s approval. Just the knowledge of Your sweet love, mercy and You with me is enough. So, through the fire I go. I will let Your actions speak rather than my words.” To me that is SO powerful. Elizabeth shows wisdom, faithfulness, thanksgiving, love, hope, and on and on and on. AND… it’s only one or two sentences in the bible!