Luke 1: 5-20, 24
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Phil shared how we enjoy epic stories of good and evil, of ultimate calling and purpose, mentoring. The Bible says “God has set eternity in our hearts”. We long for meaning purpose and permanence.
Luke 1:5-7 talks about in the times of King Herod of Judea and refers to Zechariah the priest.
It is important to note that like then, we now live in a specific time when God’s story includes both world leaders and ordinary people. We often feel insignificant in God’s scheme of things but we are not.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were described as good people, even blameless in some ways, although we know from other passages that tell us that all have sinned. The pain in their story is that they were childless in a culture that interpreted that as God’s judgement or displeasure.
Like s they would have had questions. Why us? Why can’t we..? intensely personal and painful questions.
Good news! God does some of His best work in impossible circumstances.
News Flash! He almost always requires waiting. If we could chose we would say answer our prayers NOW. In His working He almost always shows us things while we are waiting that we wouldn’t have seen without the wait..
Zechariah and Elizabeth had waited a long time to fid out that God had heard their prayers and was answering them in ways they could never have imagined.
God’s way are not our ways and His timing is rarely the same as ours
When the angel shows up to explain all this to Zechariah he is first afraid and then skeptical.
We see that even good people can doubt God’s promises
Zechariah had an opportunity to be quiet and watch work.
Underestimating God can be as dangerous as disobeying Him. Sometimes we feel very justified in our impatience and skepticism. We haven’t seen God work in a certain area for a long time so we think that means He hasn’t been working and won’t be working in that area. God’s promises He delivers in His timing.
Elizabeth received God’s blessing with joy. She took time off to be secluded perhaps to rest and enjoy what was happening in God’s provision. She believed that God had done this FOR her, not to her.
I Cor 2:9b Paul restates a passage from Isaiah that says, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.
· What parts of this story stand out to you? Why?
· Phil described the difference between waiting and waiting on the Lord. How would you explain that? When have you done either?
· In those times when you were merely waiting how would it have been different if you were waiting in hope, believing God is for you and seeks to do you good and that He heard your request?
Isaiah 40:31 says “ but those who wait/hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
· When has the way we waited/hoped resulted in that? Why or why not?
· What has to change in our thoughts, beliefs, or expectations for our strength to be renewed and for us to keep going without getting weary?
· What are some of the things that make us weary in our waiting and hoping?
· Phil said underestimating God can be as dangerous as disobeying Him. What do you think about that? Why would he say that?
· What can you remember that will help you to wait more patiently?
· Do you have to change something to receive what God gives as “for” you and not “to”? What difference does it make?
· What requests do you have for God that you know for sure He is in agreement with you on? When God says no to something what are the first thoughts that run through your mind? Is there something truer that would be better to think on?
· What God promises He does, in His timing, and His ways. What can you do to learn more about what He has promised?