Text: Luke 1:5-25
Why do bad things happen to good people? That is a question we often ask. The parents of John the Baptist, Zacharias and Elizabeth, were “both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They were probably some of the best people around during this time, and yet, they had to suffer great heart ache and shame over being childless.
During Bible times, having children was considered a blessing from God, but if a couple was childless, they were thought to be cursed for some sin or another. For this reason, childless couples were sometimes looked down upon by society. So, not only did this righteous couple have to suffer the heartache of never having a child of their own, but they also had to endure the gossip and disdain of their neighbors. (See Luke 1:25)
Additionally, Zacharias and Elizabeth no doubt endured great disappointment year after year of praying for a child and never having their prayers answered.
However, as you read on down in this first chapter of Luke, you discover that finally after many years, God blessed Zacharias and Elizabeth with a child, a special child who would one day become an important prophet and forerunner of Jesus Christ.
You may not be suffering from infertility like Zacharias and Elizabeth, but whatever hard times or impossible situation you are going through, this couples’ story offers you some encouraging lessons.
1. Never give up on God.
Luke 1:7 says that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were “well advanced in years.” Based on what Zacharias says in verse 18, Elizabeth was either close to or beyond menopause. How many years since their youth had they prayed and prayed with no answer from God? How many times had experienced heavy disappointment? And yet, they never gave up on God. They could have decided that there was no God and refused to believe in Him anymore, but they didn’t do that. They kept right on believing in God. What’s more, they continued to worship Him serve Him because we see in verse 8 and 9 that Zacharias continued to serve his duties as priest in the temple burning incense.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
2. Never stop praying.
In verse 12 and 13 the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias and told him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”
Did you get that? All those years that Zacharias and Elizabeth had been praying over and over without any answer from God…God was hearing their prayers. It may not have seemed to them that God was hearing their prayers, but He was indeed. Just because you may not be getting an answer from God doesn’t mean He is not hearing you. Like this Biblical couple, God sometimes waits to answer our prayers at a later time when He knows it will not only honor Him but be beneficial to you as well.
Sure, Zacharias and Elizabeth had to endure many years of disappointment and condescending looks from neighbors, but they also got to experience the extraordinary power of God in their lives and to have a very special child. Do you think they would have traded that to go back in time and have an ordinary child and ordinary life at a young age?
Just because you are not receiving any answers to your prayers does not mean God is not hearing you, and He just may be waiting to bless you with something far beyond your imagination. (Ephesians 3:20)
In Luke18:1-8, Jesus taught “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” illustrating through a parable how a woman persistently begged a judge to award her justice from her adversary until the judge finally gave into her.
3. Believe that God is the God of the Impossible.
When the angel of the Lord told Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would have a child, Zacharias’ response was, how can this be? “For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Zacharias believed in God but he had not yet learned to believe in God’s ability to do the impossible. Because of this, the angel Gabriel told him he would be become mute until the angel’s prophecy of the child was fulfilled.
Compare Zacharias’ response to Mary’s response just a few verses down when the angel announced to her that she, a virgin, would give birth to a son who would be called the Son of God: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.'” (Luke 1:26-38) She did not question the angel’s words. She believed that God was able to do the impossible. Note verse 37 says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
4. God will turn your sorrow into joy.
“Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.“
Zacharias and Elizabeth may have had to endure many years of disappointment, but the immense joy they experienced at the birth of their son surely made up for all of their sorrow. But, what if the couple had given up on God? What if they had stopped believing in Him and stopped serving and worshiping Him? They may have missed out on this incredible miracle and immense joy.
God not only turned their disappointment into joy, but He also turned their reproach into admiration among their community. No more would their neighbors be able to gossip about the couple being cursed by God. Instead, now they would all talk about what a marvelous thing God did for them.
5. God will give you reason to praise Him.
After the birth of John the Baptist, Zacharias’ “mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.” (Luke 1:64) A few verses down, you can read the very words that Zacharias used by the Holy Spirit to praise God:
“Blessed is 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…” (Luke 1:68-79)
God wants to show you His glory, as long as you stick with Him, He will give you reason and opportunity to praise Him.
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)
When King David was going through a difficult time, he said this:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5) King David had faith that somehow, God would help him and give him reason to praise God. We, too, should have this faith during our hard times.
You may be going through a difficult time in your life or experiencing what seems like an impossible situation. If so, I encourage you to take heart from the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Never give up on God, never stop praying, believe in God’s ability to do the impossible, and know that when the time is right, God will turn your sorrow into joy and give you plenty of reason to praise Him.