“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.” (Luke 1:13)
Imagine praying for something for many years and then being visited by an angel telling you that God has heard your prayer!
This 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.
My wife and 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 in our marriage. It was by no means a miraculous birth, but we did get a sense that we should be open to having more children even though we had crossed the age 40 threshold.
We took on Gabriel’s words to Zechariah as our own, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” (Luke 1:14 NIV) This was certainly true for our family and close friends. We named our son Stephen after Stephen in Acts 7. Our joy in his 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 he was also accomplishing a purpose much larger than their initial request may have intended – the birth of John the Baptist, who would serve to proclaim the coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
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 who are 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?
Oh, the wonder of falling into the will of the living God!
Have you been waiting for God to answer a long held and faithful prayer like Zechariah and Elizabeth?