Have you ever felt that God had forgotten you? Ever thought of yourself as a second-rate Christian who would never be visited by God’s promise? Ever assume that only super-holy preacher types get their prayers answered? Have you ever had trouble believing His promise that you—an individual—are significant to Him? If so, you’re in good company.
18And Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am old, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19The angel responded to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and have been sent to say this to you and bring you this good news; 20And now behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things happen, because you did not believe my words, which will come true in their proper time.” 21And the crowd waited for Zacharias and began to wonder about his delay in the holy place. 22But when he came out, he couldn’t speak to them, and they knew that he had seen a vision in the temple and he kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23And when the days of his service came to an end, he went back to his house. 24And after these days Elizabeth his wife conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25“This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when he looked upon me with favor to take away my disgrace from Man.”
It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to read this passage and recognize that this scene seems eerily familiar. It happened to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis! The same situation: an old man and his old wife, both faithful servants of God, reacting in understandably dubious wonderment at the news that they will be having children soon. The first time this happened, God was keeping a promise to begin a nation; this time, He’s keeping His promise to redeem creation. The odds were stacked against Abraham in Genesis; they were similarly stacked here in Luke. The beginning of a great national adventure in Genesis is echoed in the beginning of a great global adventure in Luke.
God keeps His promises, it turns out. And He’s never late. Both Abraham and Zacharias could well attest to the fact that He sometimes misses an opportunity to be early—but He’s never late. The birth of John the Baptist was coming just in time—and was an example of God showing His favor on many levels. He was sending a prophet to Israel, His chosen nation. He was sending a prophet to pave the way for the extension of the covenant to us, the Gentiles.
And He was showing His favor to an individual, as well. Yesterday we saw where Zacharias, in the course of attending to his daily mundane duties, was chosen to stand in the presence of God—both in the lesser priestly sense, and in the literal real sense. His life, already a paragon of righteousness and faithfulness, was radically transformed by a face-to-face with Gabriel, the angel who stands in the presence of God Almighty. Now, in today’s readings, we see where God hasn’t forgotten his child Elizabeth. In her day and time, being childless was an invitation for the public to speculate about all the things that must be spiritually wrong with the woman who was unable to produce heirs. It was disgraceful and humiliating for Elizabeth. But God had chosen her for an incredibly important part of His plan, and through the execution of this plan her shame was removed. She literally found her validation in God’s plan for Man.
God hasn’t forgotten you. Your financial problems, your marital problems, the difficulties you’re having in relationships or at work—these haven’t escaped His notice. He is faithful to His promises, and He hasn’t forgotten you. Moreover, He is always on time, and always has a sense of poetry, of art, to His dealings. He’ll find a way to visit you and others on several other levels in ways you couldn’t have possibly imagined. Like Abraham and Sarah—and Zacharias and Elizabeth—we are to believe God at his word. Believe Him. No matter how ridiculous it sounds, He is in command of the situation. He has it well in hand, and will be right on time.
And He’s thinking of you.