Imagine praying for something for many years and then being visited by an angel telling you that God has heard your prayer!
That is what happened to a Jewish priest by the name of Zechariah, as he went into the temple sanctuary to burn incense. Why did God send an angel to tell Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, that they were going to have a son in their old age? Why not just let events unfold?
Perhaps to prepare their hearts and minds for something extraordinary – that a woman, long past child bearing age would give birth to a son, and that this son would be John the Baptist, destined to prepare the way for the coming of God’s son on earth.
I have always related to this story in a small way ever since the birth of our son following an eleven year gap from the birth of three daughters earlier on in our marriage. It was by no means a miracle birth since we were still in our early 40’s, but it was a huge blessing to my wife and me, along with our three daughters.
We took on Gabriel’s words to Zechariah as our own, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice in his birth.” (Luke 1:14) This was certainly true for our family and close friends. We named him Stephen after Stephen in Acts 7. Our joy in Stephen’s birth did not diminish our joy and love for our three daughters, but in fact enhanced our overall joy for our family as a whole and what God was doing in our lives – even adding a fourth daughter a couple of years later with special needs but lots of blessings.
For Zechariah and Elizabeth, God was indeed answering a long term prayer request for a son, but it was also to accomplish a purpose much larger than their initial request may have intended.
Who can know the mind of God? He often has a purpose in response to our prayers that reaches far beyond our intended request. Today, our first three daughters and son are all raising families of their own – bringing life to thirteen children created in the image and likeness of God, being raised in Christian traditions and ways. Who can imagine how God will use these parents and their children to further his will and purpose in the years to come?
“For it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13)
Oh, the wonder of falling into the will of the living God!