I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalms 27:13-14 (NKJV)
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
Malachi 3:1 (ESV)
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Luke 1:5-17 (ESV)
Watching and Waiting
God continually reminded His people throughout their history that He would be faithful to His promises, He would send a Rescuer and redeem His people. These promises were to give them hope in the midst of challenging and difficult times. But each generation was tempted to lose heart. Only a nurtured faith that God would be true to His promises and reveal HIs goodness to them kept them encouraged while they watched and waited.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 (ESV)
Very few of us like to wait. We have microwaves to make cooking faster, On Demand video streaming to make our entertainment faster, Drive-Thru lines to make our fast food even faster, social media to make our relationships faster. Being patient and waiting for anything is a discipline few of us work at developing. Our world is structured to give us immediate gratification for any need, any desire, any craving, anything we want we can get quickly. With that kind of convenience, why would we want to go through the hassle of developing such a difficult thing as patience? Until we are forced to wait.
Your Prayer Has Been Heard
Zechariah is introduced in the story as an old priest, whose wife Elizabeth “among the daughters of Aaron” is barren. They are advanced in years and childless. Long ago they may have given up hoping for a child. But their life that may have fallen into monotony or despair gets interrupted by the angel Gabriel, who is bringing a message of hope and joy. He says, “Don’t be afraid…your prayer has been heard.” Through years of waiting and hoping, in times of fear or despair, he prayed. And God heard his prayer. And the answer to his prayer involved them into God’s story.
Waiting is a painful reminder that you are not in charge. Waiting puts control in someone or something else’s hands. It demands that the inner self that is so demanding and so controlling be shut up and shut off and patience take its place. The season of Advent is primarily about this one thing: waiting. It’ s recognizing the Creator of the universe is in control and not us. His plans are accomplished His way and in His timing. What is needed from us is simply trust. Many things in life are confusing and challenging. The pride in us desires control over anything and everything. But humility requires us to release our demand for control into the hands of a loving God and train our soul to put our trust in Him. For those who feel like they have waited a lifetime for God to come through, let Zechariah and Elizabeth encourage you that no one is too old or too far gone to become involved in God’s story. Your prayer is heard. Don’t give up hope.
Think about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s life and circumstances. What do you think it was like hearing news about having a baby at their age? What would it be like to hear the words from an angel, “Your prayer has been heard?”
In seasons of waiting, God can strengthen our faith and patience. If you are in a season of waiting, what might you learn about the Lord, His promises, or maybe even yourself? How can your relationship with the Lord deepen in this season?
Think about a time when you were in a situation that seemed hopeless and you were tempted to give up hope. What did that feel like? What was it like waiting a long time?
Is there an area of your life you feel like you have given up hope? How does this story change your perspective on God’s story? Take time to rekindle hope in prayer.
Pray for those you know are in despair, or are struggling to see God’s goodness, and ask God to strengthen their hopes again.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Charles Wesley
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80