Advent 2016: Christ Was Born For This: Day 23

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

by

Today's Text: Luke 1:5-25

Text: Luke 1:5-25

NATIVITY INTRODUCTION
    “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:1-4).
    In the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he tells his readers he is writing to give an “orderly sequence” of Jesus’ life. Luke anchors his Gospel in verifiable historical markers because he wants us to know that the story he is telling really happened.
    If Luke’s account is only a myth, it means nothing. But if it is true—if the Son of God came not only to live among us, but to die for us and rise to life and give that life to all who trust in His name—then the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, has changed the world and our place in it.
    In these days leading up to Christmas, we’ll read the detailed narrative of the Nativity according to Luke. Luke’s Gospel gives us the fullest account of the Nativity story, walking us through the people, places, and divine interventions which led to the birth of the Savior of the world. May the story of Jesus’ birth cause our celebration of Christmas to be marked by our worship of Him.

//

One of my favorite memories of our twin girls is from last Christmas Eve. After lighting that last candle and launching into a surprisingly spirited rendition of “Silent Night,” we bowed our heads to pray—and I peeked. Sometimes I can’t help myself, hearing the expectant innocence in their prayers. When I opened my eyes I saw one daughter, hands clasped against her bowing head as she murmured her prayer. The other sat eyes wide open, cheeks smushed and chin resting in her hands, as she stared into the candlelight, waiting.

In that moment, I saw my own relationship with the Lord: the praying and the waiting. Because while I try to attune my heart to His in prayer, to wait on Him, I find that sometimes—well, it’s just hard to wait.

Zechariah was a faithful priest who also happened to be in the business of waiting. Scripture tells us he and his wife, Elizabeth, were good people, “righteous before God, walking blamelessly” with Him. “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (Luke 1:5-7). These two people, believed to be in their eighties at the time, had hoped for a child their whole lives. At what age do you think they stopped praying for that child? How many years had passed since then?

But that wasn’t the only waiting Zechariah was accustomed to. After decades of faithfully serving as a priest, he was chosen by lot to enter the holy place on the Day of Atonement and burn incense—a symbol of prayer (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4)—on behalf of the people who were praying outside the temple (Luke 1:9-10).

As one of 8,000 priests serving in Palestine at that time, this would be the one and only time Zechariah would enter into the holy place and perform this duty. It was in this moment that the Lord sent His angel Gabriel to meet Zechariah at the altar and say, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John“ (Luke 1:13).

I imagine Zechariah’s ears might’ve started ringing just then, intermingled with words like: joy… Holy Spirit… womb… make ready for the Lord. Because he was a real man living with the very real, lifetime-long grief of being childless in a culture that placed great value on children. His prayer had never been answered until now—at least, not with a “yes.” Things can happen to a heart that waits and hopes and longs for prayers that seemingly go unanswered. It can grow sick in the waiting (Proverbs 13:12). Doubt can take root in the waiting.

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
- Luke 1:18

We know the rest of the story. Because of his doubt, Zechariah would “be silent and unable to speak until the day” his son was born (Luke 1: 20). This was not punishment for his unbelief, but rather, discipline from a loving Father (Proverbs 3:12). In Zechariah’s silence, God tended to his heart. And when the silence was over, Zechariah’s first words were a song of blessing unto the Lord (Luke 1:64, 67-80).

Perhaps the priest who’d served the Lord faithfully his entire life still had one small piece of his heart closed off from his Maker. And because God loves His children, He is jealous for every part of our hearts, that not one piece of us would stay separated from His presence. That’s why He sent us His Son.

The world that lay waiting—for new life, for irrevocable hope—would soon receive the ultimate answer to all her prayers.

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Kara Gause is an editor for She Reads Truth happily residing in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s married to one swell fella and mother to a set of delightfully spirited twin girls. Sunsets and snow cones are near and dear to her heart, as is anything or anyone who reminds her of God’s goodness.

  • This brought a new perspective to an old passage for me. Thank you for such a beautifully written word. Our God is so faithful and loving, it’s amazing how he desires us to surrender every part of our hearts and minds. Then when we do He brings us to a deeper joy then we could have ever conjured up on our own. I want to open up every part of my heart to him always and feel His presence in my life in unimaginable ways. Thank you again and merry Christmas!!!

  • I needed to hear this tonight, about patience with waiting on God. At my age it’s so easy to get caught up in everyone having a boyfriend so it gets to the point where you want one yourself, and then you get over exciting when any boy gives you any sort of attention. Reading this tonight helped me remember that God’s timing is more perfect than mine will ever be, and for now I need to pray and wait for God to shape me into the beautiful Christian girl that he wants me to be!

  • Christine

    I struggle with Zachariah’s discipline. Aren’t we supposed to be able to ask our Father questions? Aren’t we to pour out our hearts before Him? Zachariah asked, what feels to me, is a legitimate, human question? Why such a harsh consequence? I’be been struggling with doubt and anxiety lately, so I struggled with this this morning.

    • Christine

      Sorry for the typos!

      • JoAnn

        Hi Christine,
        Yes – God wants us to pour out our hearts…and he did not punish Zechariah…he “quieted him” so he could work on his heart…it was discipline. Also Zechariah was prepared for this miracle as a righteous man of God so for him this really wasn’t harsh. Hope that helps a little.
        JoAnn :-)

  • Wow! Thankful that Luke recorded these events. And thankful that God tends to hearts in the moments of silence! the times where we are not able to speak, allows God to speak and our hearts to turn in praise! all the while, the son conceived in Elizabeth is already filled with Holy spirit and has a nazarite calling on his life! this is just the beginning and preparation for the prophecy fulfillment. Wow!

  • This made me reflect on the year of grief following the birth and death of my twin boys and the death of my brother. In that year, I realized how many pieces of my heart were closed off from my maker. I’m so thankful God loves me, I’m so thankful he’s jealous for every piece of my heart, and I’m so thankful he tended to my heart while I struggled through the grief, the questions and the emotions during that time.

    My love for my savior is so much more today than it was before these tragic events. Thank you for reminding me of His faithfulness through Zechariah’s story.

  • I’m always blown away by Old Testament stories of tremendous faith. It is hard to keep faith in an age where God is more present with us than ever because of Jesus. It simply wasn’t so back in the OT. I can’t wrap my mind around how difficult it must have been to have such a distance from God. This particular Old Testament story was reassuring–I am certainly not the only to lose faith. And even when my faith falls short, God never does!! Today I am deeply thankful for Christ’s sacrifice that broke down the barrier between God and man

  • “He is jealous for every part of our hearts…” This resounds with me today.

  • Waiting. We have it all wrong. Or at least I do. I remember waiting (what seemed like forever) for my husband. Then, after getting married at 33, I thought I was done. With this waiting thing. Now, it’s been two years since we’ve starting trying for a family. This actually in my gut has me thinking I’m not meant to be a mom. Being 38 now. It seems so young, I know. But, I thought I “learned” how to be patient in my 20’s and now I’m expected to wait again for the next phase of my life? The Bible is full of waiting for God’s plan to be revealed to us. No matter how frustrating, I am so thankful I’m on God’s agenda and not my own.

  • Emma Feldman

    Thank you SRT for today’s devotion!! Every devotion through this year’s advent has been wonderful, but today’s really hit home for me. I have recently been accepted into the University of Texas at Austin through automatic admission and am currently waiting to hear back from McCombs Business School to see if I got into my desired major. I feel like I’m becoming more and more anxious every day as I wait for their decision, but this devotion was the perfect reminder for me to be patient, because God has a plan for everyone :-)

  • “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard'” Luke 1:13 What is one of our greatest fears? That no one hears, no one notices. This verse is reassuring. God sees. God hears. God knows. God answers. How many times had they prayed for a child? Many times over the years, I am sure. The angel tells Zechariah that his prayer, not his prayers, had been heard. The very first time. God heard and God had a plan. All the other times were not wasted, but simply added to the first. It was all one prayer before God. This answer to prayer didn’t look anything like what Zechariah expected as an answer to his prayers. But an answer, much more profound and meaningful, it was. This wasn’t just any baby, he was the long awaited answer to prophecy long ago. This son would go to prepare the way for God’s son.

  • Needed this today. I am guilty of letting doubt creep in while waiting for prayers to be answered. God’s timing is perfect and no situation is beyond His intervention. I am thankful for another reminder that what might seem impossible to me is not impossible for God. This verse from yesterday’s sermon at church came back to me as I reflected on the reading for today:

    “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.”
    – Micah 7:7

    Praying that these words will become mine as I continue to wait and hope in the Lord.

  • What a beautiful reminder as I always love to reflect on the waiting in scripture since that is my current story. Thankful that we have nothing to be afraid of!

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Jess Gardiner

    It is challenging comparing Zachariah and Mary’s encounter with the angel: the first asked for confirmation to believe, the second asked for clarification of how God could would work this out (belief.) Mary’s humble, obedient response as the Lords willing servant is very different to Zechariah’s response and the amazing thing is that the consequence of her pregnancy held a lot more uncertainty and danger than Zechariah’s and Elisabeth’s. Often times when God speaks, I resemble Zachariah and doubt. But the best part of this comparison is this: God is still faithful to keep his promises!!!! Weak faith or strong faith… both had the babies promised! I ready a wonderful quote the other day that said, “It’s not the quality of our faith but the object of our faith that holds us secure.” Thanks be to God that even doubting, weak faith in Christ is STRONGER than the greatest confidence and faith in another.

  • Thank you for the encouragement and invitation to enter into the peace ofChrist. I am a brand new mom, gave birth on the 6th of December. These two weeks have been the hardest of my life. The nights are the worst. This morning I got to spend time with my jesus and this blog was a part of that. Thank you.

    • Zoe

      Praying that God continues to strengthen and bless you richly. Congratulations momma, you can do it

    • Linda Ruth Ciglen

      Dear Lori, It is so hard, especially the first few weeks! Grab sleep whenever you can. It does get better, I assure you. Yet I found mothering discipled me in following Jesus like nothing else I have ever done. I learned so much about sacrificial love – about laying down my life, laying aside my interests, putting my baby’s needs ahead of my own desires. I learned so much about God’s patience and care and extraordinary love for us. God bless you, mama!

    • Hilary

      Praying for you now, Lori! Those first few weeks are so hard. I remember rocking my new baby and bawling thinking I’d never rest again. It WILL get better – make sure you take care of you. Read the Word when you can, even if it’s just a verse, and sleep when the baby sleeps! Congratulations!

  • Gabrielle Clark

    Today’s devotion was everything!! The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth reminded me of Jacob waiting 14 years for Rachel. Jacob initially thought he would have to wait only 7 years but ended up waiting another 7 years for Rachel. Gosh, these people waited almost their whole life and long seasons to see God answer their prayers with a yes. But to see what the Lord did in their hearts and lives in the midst of the waiting is so beautiful. This is so convicting for me because I don’t even like waiting a week for somethings. Lord, please be still my heart, and teach me to wait on your perfect timing.

  • Sometimes I think God brings us through intentional times of drought, so that our roots for Him learn to go down deep. Waiting. Longing. Hoping. May we learn what it means to “wait well” as we trust the promise that He does not waste our seasons of waiting. May we be encouraged to know that there is always something good on the other side of the waiting. As someone who has walked the lonely, painful road of infertility, I can say without waver that this time is used as a time of refinement as God shapes us to look more like Himself. As someone who has walked the lonely, hard road of infertility, something I have learned is that God wants to

  • I love verses 16 and 17 in the passage because this is our mission. The only difference is that we eagerly await the 2nd coming of our Lord, not the 1st. We are here “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” for His return!

  • Kathryn Candy

    In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor said “Fear is failure to see God in our future”. I am typically a fearful person in the midst of having to wait for circumstances to change. Often forgetting that God will not always change my circumstances but sustain me through them. My fear creeps in when I doubt who God is, but He, being my Creator, has a perfect path and future planned out for me. Just as he sustained and sifted Zechariah’s heart, he will do so for us. And in the end our circumstances will change, maybe not in the way we wanted them to, but in a way that brings glory to Him and is best for us.

  • Melinda Watters

    God wants the whole of me. He does not want even a little to be missing given over to doubt, fear, or a wrong belief. He loves me that much and cares that much! I love that he made Zechariah silent. I wonder that this was much for his own good. He asked how he would know. Well he was given tangible proof, his silence. Now he was kept from the temptations of speaking his doubts. Saying things he my regret as they waited for the arrival of this baby
    Now he could listen. Listen to God. Listen to his wife. He could rest and watch all that God was doing. He could know without a doubt it would happen because he couldn’t speak.

  • Waiting often feels like the hardest part… especially when you feel like you’re trying to do everything right: “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly…” Sometimes the waiting IS about the Lord doing a continued work in us and sometimes I remind myself that the waiting is about God’s divine plan for history and about HIS timing for HIS purpose. It’s not all about me (even though I’m often guilty of trying to tell Him I think my timing might be better. Will I ever learn??).
    We wait because we trust that God’s timing is always best. There were 400 years of silence between Malachi in the Old Testament and Gabriel appearing to Zechariah. The waiting had been long for the people of God. But the time had finally come. God was on the move. What glorious anticipation!
    Sidenote: When I flipped back to Malachi, I realized the last verses were declaring a prophet like Elijah who would “turn the hearts of fathers to their children.” Fast forward to Luke 1:17 and we see the Lord calling it to fruition. Don’t you love how the Lord ALWAYS holds true to His promises?!?

    • Melissa

      Amen to all of the above!

    • Carly

      Thank you for the good message Heidi! It really resonated with me. I pray that God uses this waiting season to capture every part of our hearts.

  • So encouraged!! Nothing in our lives will ever be perfect due to our sinful nature and so this reminder is ever so important…we will grow weary in the waiting BUT God is faithful now and forever.

  • I loved this. Waiting is hard. It sounds easy but to do it well…SO very hard!
    I always thought Zechariah was being punished for being disbelieving, it was wonderful to read this perspective. Because this I know, God IS jealous for our whole hearts. A reminder to search MY heart.
    Here’s my heart Lord. You can have it all. Every part.

  • This passage is particularly meaningful to me this morning as I am in the midst of a long struggle with infertility. It is striking how Zechariah’s prayer was answered likely many years after he last prayed for a child. I can also relate to Elizabeth’s feelings of shame in her barrenness. My heart hurts this morning, but I am thankful for this reminder of God’s love and tenderness.

    • Kari

      Praying for you Beth.

    • Lindsay Sterchi

      Beth, I have been where you are and I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m praying this morning that you will encounter Jesus during this season and that you can rest in his embrace.

    • Carly

      Sharing the same struggle Beth. This devotional meant a lot to me too. Sending up prayers that will be answered in His timing.

    • Linda Ruth Ciglen

      I can relate to Zechariah and Elizabeth, too. Would they have endured for DECADES snide looks and pitying glances at their barrenness, speculation that perhaps there was secret sin in their lives, or why else would the Almighty have withheld a child? Would they have agonized for DECADES over ways that they might have been displeasing to the God they loved and trusted? It really struck me today how Zechariah and Elizabeth, walking righteously with the Lord for DECADES, and praying for DECADES for a child, had their prayer answered at last in the fullness of time because God chose them to be the parents of the forerunner to the Messiah, and that forerunner had to be born at exactly the right time. Had he been born when Zechariah and Elizabeth were in their 20’s and first began praying for a child, he couldn’t have been the forerunner. Lord, help us to trust Your timing.

    • Hilary

      I’ve been there as well. Praying for you now, Beth.

  • rebecca7395

    I am encouraged as I read this passage and the lesson. Doubt will take root in our hearts over time, and only God can weed it out. I’m thankful to know our Heavenly Father cares so much to not only bless us with answered prayers, but also to continue to work in us to bring us more in line with His righteousness. He will not leave us in the state He finds us.

  • The heart does indeed grow weary in waiting for prayers unanswered to be answered. This is where I – like many – sit this morning… And I have NOT been as faithful as Zechariah. But God has. Always. Though my heart has been His for 40+/- years, parts get taken back as “the wait” produces weariness and disillusions become apparent.

    This morning I press on. And pray that by God’s Holy Spirit, I will be wholly and HOLY filled to walk in this place regardless of God’s answer – or silence – to my prayers… He is so faithful. And His ways are much higher than mine. THIS I know is Truth. And on this I stand. HE knows the plans He has for me.

    Thank you SRT sisters for this morning’s Word. Please pray for God’s strength to be mine.

  • churchmouse

    Yes. This. “In Zechariah’s silence, God tends to his heart.” Sometimes I just simply Talk. Too. Much. When I’m stressed or worried, I feel the need to ‘talk it out.’ And sometimes I talk to the wrong people. People who really can’t offer a solution or aren’t in the situation or simply don’t need to know. Did I mention sometimes I Talk. Too. Much? Ahhhh the gift of silence is the lesson from the Lord through Zachariah to me here this morning. Quit talking and listen to the Lord. He speaks in the quiet. He is the One to Whom I should turn. He understands the situation. He knows the best course of action. He alone can best comfort and encourage. I need to Just. Be. Silent. Then I hear God and I know the prayer will be answered. The miracle is coming. Ssshhhh.

    • ~Amy F.~

      You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today! It’s hard for me to remember that when I most feel the need to “talk it out,” what I really need is to spend time in His presence listening. Since yesterday I’ve felt like talking to alleviate the burden I feel, but your comment is just on time to remind me what I should do instead. Thank you!

    • Lana

      I am the SAME WAY. I keep Exodus 14:14 close to my heart for this reason. The lord will fight for you. You must be quiet. Thank you for this reminder, churchmouse. Lord knows I needed to hear it. Praying that God uses this quiet time to tend to my heart like Zechariah. And Amy you are so right. In moments I feel like I need to talk, I’m going to try to spend time in his presence instead. Amen!

    • Donna

      Yes!

    • Hollie

      Your response hits so close to home for me as well. In fact, I feel like I already know my word for this next year needs to be “less”. Less in many areas, but less words spoken is a big one! I love how in doing that it opens is up to MORE listening, more of the Lord!

    • Nikki

      This was a word for my heart this morning. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Cindybelle

      Oh my goodness – thank you for reminding me to just be silent and wait for God to work!!

    • Carly

      Same!!!

  • This is so encouraging to me. I too have a prayer that I have been praying for a very long time. For 32 years now. I had forgotten about this story and so this refresher gives me a new hope that one day God will answer my prayer! Thank you SRT

  • In the past two weeks I have heard this passage 3 times and I love the way God is moving in this repetition. Yesterday I heard an amazing sermon about how Zechariah’s silence was not a punishment at all, but a time to draw close to God…a time when he may have given up hope on his on and only those 9 months of nearness to God would allow him to rely totally on God for his hope. It was a beautiful message, and one I can relate to as I am in the last trimester of a healthy pregnancy after a period of infertility and a miscarriage. It his hard to remain hopeful on our own and a wonder and miracle to have a Father who will draw near to us and hope with us.

  • Kelly R Smith

    Hope has been the theme of my Advent season this year. I reached a point of being almost out of hope. Doubt took root in the waiting. I was ready to give the darkness the space it kept fighting for. Reading and meditating on Jesus, the Light of the World, shone a light into my darkness. It was small at first, but it was enough to give life to my hope. As we read together over the past weeks, my hope grew. Irrevocable hope has come! I am so thankful for Jesus who brings this irrevocable hope!

  • I love the expectation and hope of advent. But I think it’s easy for us because we know the story. Imagine being the people who had been waiting for their Savior for so long. How many had given up hope? Stopped believing the prophets? Grown tired of waiting?

    I think of the things in my life that I’ve grown weary of waiting for. Sometimes it’s so hard to trust in God’s perfect timing and His perfect plan. I’m so thankful that He is patient with our shortcomings and faithful to His promises.

  • I’ve been waiting for years on a promise God made to me. While I don’t think I have allowed doubt to take root, I have grown lazy in my prayers. Sometimes remembering His promise is the only thing that keeps me hanging on though. Praying that I step up my prayer life and like Zachariah, God will tend to my heart and my relationship with Him.

  • “Things can happen to a heart that waits and hopes and longs for prayers that seemingly go unanswered. It can grow sick in the waiting (Proverbs 13:12). Doubt can take root in the waiting.” I’m in a place of waiting now and have started to let the doubt take root. Praying now that God will strengthen my faith and hope even when I can’t see the big picture.

    • Nancy Grant

      It is hard to see at times, but I am beginning to grasp the fact that what Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 is true… that He is working all things together for our good. I pray that you will take this truth and trust God, then begin to rejoice that He is working because faith is the substance of things hoped for… if it were already so, we would have no need of faith… and it’s faith that pleases our Father. Praying that your faith will grow immeasurably as you trust in Him.

    • Emily

      Sweet Emily, I’m not even sure you will see this reply since this Devo has come and gone, but when I saw your comment, I thought that was me writing it. Haha
      I just highlighted that verse in my Bible because, I too, am waiting for something special and have been for 8 long years. Doubt and anger and bitterness and jealousy have crept in along the way throughout these past 8 years and threatened to kill any hope: BUT, the Lord has been so gracious and loving and has been teaching me so much these past few months. I just wanted to let you know to fight that doubt with prayer and God’s word. It’s a daily struggle for me, but with the Lord’s help, I am winning!

  • I love this with Zachariah – not punishment for his unbelief, but discipline where God tended his heart, changing his unbelief to a song of blessing. I guess that time of discipline can’t have been easy but oh what a wonderful, precious and life changing thing came out of it. In times when God is ‘tending my heart’ may I be as receptive to discipline as Zachariah!

  • I love hearing the story of John the Baptist and his parents prayer. Question, do you know why God commanded John the Baptist not to drink strong wine?

    • Becky

      Good question! It has to do with the Nazarite vow prescribed in Numbers 6. It was a sign of being set apart for intense devotion to the Lord. Samson in the Old Testament was called to be under a Nazarite vow from birth like John the Baptist (although he failed!). Most of the time, though it was meant for a short period of time – a vow anyone could take – if they wanted to enter into an intense time of seeking the Lord. You can read more about it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/Num/Law-Concerning-Nazarites

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