Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had been in the service of the Lord their whole lives.
You might cast them today as Pastor and Wife, and former missionary kids, but you'd have to know that they were the among the very humblest, joyful, obedient, wise and giving.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord.
All this, but they had no children. Elizabeth called her barrenness "a reproach". No one to receive the gift of their Godly heritage. No son to bring into the brotherhood of priests. No one to care for them in their latter years. And now they were in their latter years. Did it ever become easier to bear, I wonder, or was the cry of their hearts still for a child, even after so many years?
While Zechariah was waiting on the Lord, burning incense in an inner chamber, an angel appeared right there with him. History seems to indicate that heaven had kept its gates closed for about four hundred years. Israel was in a bad place, occupied by Romans - times were very hard. But what do you think the angel, (Gabriel, no less) chose to speak to Zechariah about?
13 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.
Isn't it amazing that the Lord sent a messenger to burst into Earth's atmosphere, and the immediate subject is the prayer, the very old prayer, that the man had been offering for so many, many years? I love that after 'do not be afraid' comes 'your prayer has been heard'.
And not only will his wife bear a son, but she will bear A SON! If Zechariah and Elizabeth had written a description of the son they longed for, I'll bet it would be pretty similar to this one. Is it even possible that the angel is proclaiming aloud the hopes their hearts had only whispered to the Lord? Who knows, but I'm sure this father-to-be was buoyed higher and higher as he heard what was to come. His son, HIS SON would be:
If the OB tucked your newborn into your arms and made such a declaration - can you imagine? The child's future would construct itself right there in front of you, glowing and grand, bright and beautiful - much much much more than you would have ever dared hope for!
ALL of what Gabriel declared did come true - of course it did, what else? But there's no way that it looked like what these two parents imagined. Absolutely No Way. In their golden vision of their future son, I'll bet there was no camelhair clothing or diet of bugs and honey. I feel pretty sure they did not imagine, no way did they envision their boy as a man living in the wilderness, instead of with them, denouncing the religious leaders, their own business associates, as it were: "You brood of vipers!" Do you believe that those young parents conceived a dream for their long-awaited son that included dungeons or his head on a platter?
I wonder if the Lord intended His words to be repeated to Zechariah and Elizabeth as they sifted through the shards of their hopes, all that was left of their boy as Herod prepared to finish his time here on earth. Was He sending the comfort of truth to these disillusioned and distraught parents?
"Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist." Matthew 11:11
Our dreams, our visions and our hopes for our children - no parent can deny that we all build them. How we think it will be, what we imagine it will look like, what paths they will take and how wonderful it will be! As you read this, do you sense the Spirit whisper encouragement to let those dreams go and to cling tightly to the Father instead? Let us hold lightly the dreams we spin for our children!
And rejoice over what He's going to do!