Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1.2 -- Zechariah and Elizabeth: Desires and Disappointment

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-24, 39-80

Background: Zechariah and Elizabeth lived righteous lives for God. Zechariah was a priest, and Elizabeth too was a Levite, a descendant of Aaron. I can imagine Elizabeth faithfully serving her father and mother as a youngster before growing up to marry Zechariah and help him in his life of service. What was Elizabeth and Zechariah's reward for years of faithfully following the Lord?

For a time -- decades even -- it wasn't apparent that God saw their service and blessed them for it. Children were recognized as blessings from God, and Elizabeth and Zechariah yearned for children of their own. Yet, Elizabeth was barren, and they had none. Where was God's blessing?

My thoughts: It is so easy to make plans based on our desires and lifelong dreams. Yes, it is alright to dream and plan, but when it comes down to it, we must desire God's best for our lives even when that best doesn't match the plans we made for ourselves.

Elizabeth and Zechariah wanted a baby. They wanted the joys of parenthood and the privilege of raising a child in the ways of the Lord. Probably, they expected children to come soon after their marriage. The aging husband and wife must have held on to hope long after their friends shook their heads in pity. They might have withstood gossip and speculation about them -- that they had a terrible secret and were not as righteous as they looked. Otherwise, why would God withhold His blessing?

They prayed for children -- for years. It might have become a habit that was gradually pushed to the back of their minds as time passed and everyday life continued on without the arrival of the long awaited baby.

What happens when our plans aren't fulfilled the way we would wish? Do we become angry? Do we pass blame? We don't know how much Zechariah and Elizabeth struggled with their thwarted plans, but we do know one thing: "They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord." In other words, they kept serving; they kept obeying God. They didn't become bitter and retreat from worship. Elizabeth became a mentor and refuge within her family -- evidenced later by her relationship with her cousin Mary. Zechariah continued on as a priest.

So, that is the answer. We must pray and ask God to make His plans our plans. We ask that He give us the strength to obey regardless of whether we have been "rewarded" or not. God's blessings are given -- not deserved -- and joy is found in being content regardless of our circumstances.

This is hard for me to understand. There are things I want -- desires that mean a great deal to me. Could I give them up if He asked me to? Is God first in my life? It is my desire that my answer always be "yes" to those two questions. Then, once I have prayed and asked God for direction, I must obey Him. I must live blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

Sometimes, our desires may truly be God given and be His best for us, but our timing differs from His. Elizabeth and Zechariah were in for a big surprise when they found out God hadn't said "no" to children; He had just said "not now." ...but more on that later.

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