Thursday, December 06, 2007

In God's Time

This year Pastor has chosen to focus the Advent midweek services on the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist - the Forerunner of Jesus. Last night's sermon considered the wonderful events which surrounded his conception and birth.

Pastor read from Luke chapter 1 for the two readings last evening. The first was the annunciation of John's birth and the second the birth of John the Baptist. I was able to read both readings prior to the service, so when Pastor began reading them, I was able to listen and contemplate and this verse struck me, "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." (Luke 1: 12)

"For your prayer has been heard" is the phrase that caught my ear. What prayer? He was serving as High Priest and praying for the people, but not that prayer. The prayer heard was the one he had prayed and Elizabeth had prayed their whole married life - to have children. And now, when they probably aren't praying for that due to being "advanced in years," now God is ready to fulfill that request.

A prayer that had seemed to go unheard for all these years and now to our shaded human eyes seems impossible, is now granted. When God allows us to see His viewpoint, it makes perfect sense. But we live in this veil of tears and the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh cloud our vision and obscure the true picture.

God's timing is perfect, whether we see it or not. May He grant us the faith to see and believe and confess, just as He did for Zechariah.

"And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, 'His name is John.'" (Luke 1:63)

"And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us
from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.'" (Luke 1:67-79)


Susan said...

And now for something completely different...

"What prayer?" Mrs M writes.

My [other] pastor has been making a point in recent years to say that Zechariah wasn't praying for a baby. He was too old to pray for that. Even those who are infertile and long to have children will give up praying for a baby by the time they're 60 or 70 or 80. And if Zechariah was officiating at evening prayer, he had a liturgy that he was praying; he wasn't there praying his personal prayers. Part of that liturgy is found recorded in various parts of the OT, and it includes confession and forgiveness and prayers for the promised Messiah. Even the Benedictus shows us that the main thing Zechariah praised God for was the Messiah, whose coming was assured by the arrival of the Forerunner.

Like I said, something completely different. The longer I've heard this, the more sense it makes (especially with regard to why Zechariah was shushed for 9 months).

Glenda said...

I agree with you Susan. What I realized during the reading was that Zechariah wasn't praying for a baby then - he was too old, he had given up on that so to speak. I also knew he was there as the high priest saying the prayers of the liturgy; yet I hadn't made the connection to that being a prayer for the coming Messiah.

It dawned on me that when the angel said "Your prayer has been heard... Elizabeth would conceive..." that wasn't what he had been praying, yet even though he had prayed that in his life, it wasn't the prayer on his lips "now." He had waited for 30-40+ years for *that* prayer to be answered, and how silly I often am for being impatient with answers to my prayers.

But that is just service level "aha" understanding. What you wrote your pastor has been saying makes even more sense. When one stops to realize that Zechariah was praying at the time for the promised Messiah and the angel came with its proclamation, *that* prayer, an even more important prayer, was answered. And that prayer had been prayed for thousands of years and now was finally answered.

As I just reread the sermon from that evening, my pastor even said this. Apparently I wasn't listening very well, or I would have written a little different post huh?

Thanks for the comment Susan. I agree with you completely. It makes more sense the longer I think about it.

Susan said...

I must've misread your original post, Glenda. Sorry about that! I thought you were saying that you'd suddenly realized that Zechariah was praying for a baby (which I thought was a little odd, since that's all I heard for decades).

And I agree with you totally about how impatient I am, waiting for answers to my prayers. I'll give God a few days. Maybe even a couple of weeks. But ask me to wait years for an answer, and I am not a happy camper.

"Apparently I wasn't listening very well."
Well, you were meditating on what had been preached, and you missed some of the preaching while you were pondering God's word. Nothing wrong with that! That's a whole lot different from tuning out of the sermon so as to plan tomorrow's school lessons. (Not that you'd be guilty of that. I'm speaking from my own experience...)

"It makes sense the longer I think about it."
That's what I have found. It explains why Gabriel responded to Mary's question so differently from Zechariah's question. And it speaks to so many other theological points. For example, why did Simeon and others KNOW about the Messiah? Besides the shepherds "making these things widely known," what happened to Zechariah at evening prayer at the temple that day would've been quite the scuttlebutt, and it would've gotten around about how "God has heard your prayer" for the Messiah.