But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years (Luke 1:7 ESV).
Life does not usually conform to our expectations. We usually assume this is a bad happening, though occasionally we might say, “I’m glad that events went differently from what I wanted, because if they had, I’d be in bigger problems.” However, our typical pattern is to feel disappointed (or frustrated or hurt or bitter or envious or angry – you pick where you are on this spectrum). Let’s face it. We want God to give us what we want, when we want it, because we’re sure that we know what is best for us. In an affluent society, we can’t imagine anything but the full, immediate satisfaction of our desires to be God’s agenda for us.
We must beware of psychologizing our text. The Holy Spirit through Luke does not disclose the feelings of Zechariah and Elizabeth to us. He simply states the life situation they were in before God stepped into their lives with his kingdom agenda. You see, God has his plans for us, and he does not ask us to approve his plans before he puts them in motion.
Luke, as the careful student of history, tells us the historical setting of the beginning of the gospel events. They began in the time of King Herod, who ruled from 37-4 BC. Near the end of his reign, God acted in the lives of two of his people. Zechariah was a priest, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. (A thousand years before, David had divided the priests into twenty-four divisions.) Notice what the Holy Spirit lets us know about Zechariah and Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord (Luke 1:6 CSB). They served the Lord, yet they were denied the blessing of children up to this point in their lives. They were nearly fifty (the age when priests retired from temple ministry), and though they had prayed for a child (Luke 1:13), God had not blessed them in that way… yet. God can answer our prayers “yes”, “no”, or “wait”, and they received the third trying answer. One of the lessons of their trial of faith involved waiting until God’s time arrived. This made it seem like God had abandoned them. I suppose God could have given them other children before John, but the Lord often calls his children to wait while he waits for his time. This is a “sharing of waiting” with God. It develops our faith in him.
Then one day, Zechariah’s number came up in the lottery (1:9). He was selected to go into the temple to offer incense, as required by the law covenant. Those who have studied this subject say that this was probably the only time in his life that Zechariah had this privilege. He had to wait to do what priests do for many years. But God had not abandoned him. God has many servants that he tells to wait for years before their hour comes. God wants us to live with him in his presence, serving him faithfully, while we think we are only waiting to serve. Don’t miss the small actions of your life, in which you serve the Lord, because you or your family or your friends or others don’t think they are significant. God had a special reason to delay Zechariah’s service in the temple. God only knows the reasons for apparent delays and seeming abandonments in your life. Keep on walking by faith!
Had God abandoned his dearly loved children Zechariah and Elizabeth? No, in fact, he was about to do much more than they could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God had formed their lives for a significant purpose: to be the parents of the forerunner of Jesus their Messiah. Joy was about to enter their lives!
Grace and peace, David