Hope Found in an Old Story

I always forget how much I love reading the Gospels until I begin reading them again. And then I am struck with the richness of the story. God came to earth. Even grander than that, he came as a little, helpless baby. We get to read this story on the other side of history. For the characters partaking, they don’t know how it will all unfold.

For hundreds of years prior to the time of the Gospels God had been silent. No vision. No prophets. No word from him. Imagine that. All you have heard about your people is that God is with you and then he is just silent—for four generations. That had to be discouraging and troubling.

In Luke 1 we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth. I have always appreciated their story. It’s so exciting. Maybe it stands out to me more now because I can understand (in some small measure) what it means to long for a child that you do not have. I wonder how much more Zechariah and Elizabeth felt that God was absent because he had not opened her womb. God was silent in Israel, but he was also silent (seemingly) in their own personal story. In Luke 1:6 we are told that both she and her husband were righteous, following all of the Lord’s commandments, and then we are told the terrible news, “but they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren” (vs. 7). Being barren was a great reproach, and she bore that shame every day of her life. She just wanted a baby.

And then Zechariah goes to the temple. Our pastor just started preaching through the Gospel of Luke and one of the things he pointed out in this point in the story was how God answered Zechariah’s specific prayer. He did not give Zechariah a grand vision for the people waiting outside. He answered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s cry for a child. It would be this child who would be the forerunner to the greatest story ever told.

God is a personal God. We say that so often and it becomes cliché. But it’s true, regardless of its overuse. God was working a thousand good details in the desperation of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s longing for a child. They just might not have always seen it. I know I often don’t. What Luke shows us, and what the rest of the Gospels show for that matter, is that God is not some uninvolved Father, leaving his children to fend for themselves. Rather he is a compassionate and merciful God, who is always in the details of our lives—even when they hurt. He might not show up in the ways we would like until the twilight of our lives, but that doesn’t mean he is not there, caring for us and working out everything for our good. Lord, help me to believe this daily.