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By: Larry Shaffer
Luke 1.13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard.”
Another Victorious Testimony
Do you ever felt discouraged when God doesn’t answer your prayer? I believe every Christian has experienced this discouragement at some level. For some of us, the discouragement has been excruciating. We feel that our heartfelt petition (for a good thing) is being ignored.
We feel especially discouraged because we see God answering prayers for others and not us. Others testimonies should be encouraging to us, but we secretly may whisper, ‘ why doesn’t this happen to me?’ Often, others give testimony at church and tell of amazing answers to prayer. It is supposed to encourage us and give us hope. But it often causes an opposite emotion within us.
Yes, we know that it can happen to others, but what about me? It’s always others who win the drawing, the lotto, the award. It’s always others who have testimonies of answered prayers producing happiness, renewal, revivals, freedom, healing, the salvation of loved ones, etc.
In Luke 1, we find God answering the prayers of another specially-chosen couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth. Well, this story has a little different twist. Maybe this narrative will have a better effect on our doubts. Perhaps this narrative will bring us encouragement regarding the long-lasting endurance of our petitions?
Let’s look at the context of the angel’s words of good news (your petition has been heard) to Zacharias. You might be surprised!!!
In the time of Herod the Great, Roman king of Judea, Zacharias served as a priest. He was married to Elizabeth. What do we know about Zacharias and Elizabeth? Well, there’s good news and bad news about what we know.
Good News: They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. Luke 1.6
Believe it or not, there is a lot of rich theology in this brief verse.
They are righteous before God, and no one is righteous in the sight of God without being saved. They were saved; not by following the law of Moses but by faith. People before Jesus and after Jesus were saved by faith; never by obeying the law. Just like Abraham, who believed in the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. That is justification. Also, they walked and lived out their righteousness and in a practical manner. This is the process of sanctification.
This is rich, rich Theology regarding how God saves us and keeps us.
Bad News: But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Luke. 1.7
Most likely, Elizabeth prayed the way Hannah prayed nearly a thousand years before. (1 Samuel 1) Hannah was barren and prayed for a son.
She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly…’ O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…’ I Samuel 1.10ff.
Elizabeth knew this story well, no doubt. It may have been her favorite text from the scripture. God answered Hannah’s plea and gave her a son that would alter the course of the nation of Israel. God gave Hannah, Samuel.
By faith, I assume Elizabeth held this story of answered prayer close to her heart and continued to pray for a child. But the son never came. Now she is old. The prayer was never answered and now, in her old age, it can’t be answered.
Hannah had a son during her childbearing years. God answered her prayer. But not Elizabeth. How do we know? The text in Luke 1.7 says they were childless, and now both of them are old and advanced in years. The time of giving birth to a child was gone for Elizabeth.
Meanwhile, back at the temple
In this context, Zacharias was chosen to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. While he was in the temple alone, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. We’ll look into this further next time.
Father, You are about to do something amazing for Zacharias and Elizabeth long after their hope had dissipated. We are about to be reminded that ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ When our hope is diminished, and our spirits are crushed, You make Yourself known in the most wonderful ways. Our faith is sometimes weak as we look at the immediate situation around us. Instead, may we look up to You, with our eyes fixed on You, and maintain our hope. For nothing is impossible with God! Amen!