God loves climax. He loves doing things that make us sit back in our proverbial seats and shout, “I can’t believe that JUST happened”. The only problem is He unfolds stories over decades and generations, not hours like movies or minutes like sitcoms.
The married life of Zacharias and Elizabeth is a perfect example of this (from here on out they’ll be referred to as Zach and Liz). Luke describes them as being “advanced in years” and says that they lived their lives righteously before the Lord, keeping to His commandments. Both Zach and Liz spent decades devoted to loving and serving God. I can only imagine how many times over the years they both prayed to God asking Him to bless them with a child, with seemingly no response. Many of us were raised with the mentality that silence in response to a request was to be interpreted as a “NO”. I can’t imagine how Zach and Liz must have interpreted God’s silence over the many years they lived together trying to conceive.
Then, one day, something BIG happens. Zach goes to work in the Temple in Jerusalem to burn incense in the Holy of Holies (the residence of YHWH at that time). While he’s in there by himself an angel comes and tells him that his wife will conceive a son, a son who will be a great prophet and prepare the way for the Messiah-Israel’s Savior. Zacharias’s response was more or less, “Really? You do realize how old we both are right?” The angel kinda gets pissed at this response and makes Zacharias mute until the day his son is born.
Zacharias spent a long time in the Holy of Holies that day, too much time. The people waiting for him outside began to worry that he had been struck dead. Then he came out unable to speak and everyone began to understand that God was at work.
I like to think that God used the years of waiting to develop and establish character in Zach and Liz, the kind of character that would be necessary to raise such a special child-to handle the enormous blessing. The years of waiting also made John a very special child. I don’t think anyone would have paid as much attention to John’s life and subsequent ministry if he had an older brother Steve hanging around.
As always, biblical facts are often fun and feel fuzzy when we just know them in our heads adding them to our wealth of knowledge somewhere between the multiplication tables and our favorite Gandhi quote. It is a lot harder to get our hearts involved and apply even simple truths to the mess of our own lives.
I’m 24 and there are lots of times you will hear me moping and whining about how I haven’t dated in over 6 years, still live in a small, often dirty, apartment, and have yet to start my career. I’ve asked God for those things. I haven’t been asking for them as many years as Zach and Liz and can’t even begin to claim that I’ve spent those years of petition “being righteous and walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord”. Regardless, I feel like God is at work: building climax in my life and character within me.
Today, I’m not a doctor providing medical care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. I’m not a great leader or a passionate activist. I’m not the faithful husband of the love of my life. While I’m not all of those things, I hope that I will be someday (and I hope to God it doesn’t take decades). I also have to hope that once those things are in my life and I am that man, it will be greater than I ever could have imagined. The blessings of God are always completed in their proper time; I just need the patience to wait.