Day 1: Waiting (Luke 1:5-25)
Today’s passage: Luke 1:5-25
It is interesting that we jump from the idea of certainty yesterday to a story today. Remember, Luke’s point is that this is not some once-upon-a-time fairy tale. No, this is real. It happened. He grounds it in a specific place, time, and people.
Further, it is not a recent story. No, God wrote this story long before the beginning of time. And there have been many people WAITING in expectation.
Why bring this up? Because for Luke, this is story of certainty: not human certainty, but the certainty of God.
I am drawn into stories, into the real lives of real people. I am also drawn into big stories, big visions. Luke has my attention.
We know exactly when all that he writes about happens. Israel has been waiting to hear God. The last of the prophets, Malachi, spoke God’s Word some 400 years before this encounter. God has been “silent” for four centuries. To put that in perspective, America, from where I hail, isn’t even 300 years old…and the patriotic forefathers are a distant memory.
Imagine hanging onto your faith for 400 years, with your current situation being one where the local guy, Herod, is a tyrant…and the foreign power ruling over you is Rome.
A heavenly messenger appears, and he tells Zechariah that his prayer has been heard. What do you think Zechariah was praying for? Was it a son? I don’t think so. He was on duty as the priest in the temple. This was a once in a lifetime event. He, and others from the division of Abijah, traveled to Jerusalem to man their posts. I expect he was praying for Israel’s deliverance. Imagine standing in a line of people that goes back centuries. Then it happens. You are appointed on one day, one day in your entire life, to go before God and pray for your people. Where do you go? Not just anywhere, but to Jerusalem. What do you pray for? The salvation of your nation.
This moment is uniquely special for Zechariah. Yet how many others have gone before him and offered this prayer? When we pray for something over and over, we almost get numb. We pray, but do we really expect the answer? I imagine it was the same, at times, for some of the priests. And then it happens. An angel shows up! Saying you are surprised is an understatement. You even challenge him. The angel, to make a point to you and everyone else, puts you on notice. First he quotes—you guessed it—Malachi, and then he strikes you dumb.
I mentioned that this is a story from the foundation of time. Luke as he constructs his account connects us back to God’s story of salvation. This salvation has been a while coming. Yet God does not forget his promises. Indeed, the name Zechariah means, “the Lord remembers.”