|Luke 1:5-25||Read Online|
The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.”
—Luke 1:19 (HCSB)
Sometimes waiting for something, especially something you really want or need, can seem like forever. And if that something has been desired for years, and it’s terribly important to you, the nonfulfillment of it can feel like abandonment or of somehow being forgotten.
Solomon seemed to get at this feeling when he wrote, "Delayed hope makes the heart sick, but fulfilled desire is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). As we open the gospel of Luke, we see two long-awaited desires about to be fulfilled.
The two preceding Gospel accounts begin with the birth of Christ and the preaching of John the Baptist. Luke, seeking an orderly account of the life and ministry of Christ, chose to begin with the birth of the last, long-awaited great prophet before the coming of the Messiah.
The last time God had spoken through a prophet to His people was around 450 years before the Gospel of Luke begins. Talk about a long wait!
The prophet Amos seemed to speak about this long silence when he wrote about Israel’s disobedience: "Hear this! The days are coming—this is the declaration of the Lord God—when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
This time between the Old and New Testaments—between the last words spoken by God through the prophet Malachi until the time of the John the Baptist—is called the Intertestamental Period. That 450 years of silence included the rise and fall of the Greek empire and the rise of the Roman one. All that time—and no word from the Lord.
Luke opens by telling the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, both righteous before the Lord and respected descendants of Aaron in the priestly line. They’d both been praying for a child for a long time, but they were advanced in years with an unfulfilled desire.
As Zechariah performed his duty in the temple to burn incense before the Lord with people praying outside, an angel appeared and told him God had heard his prayers. Whether that meant the priestly prayer for Israel’s salvation or the personal prayer of his desire to have a son, both were about to be answered! In her old age, Elizabeth conceived a son who grew to be John the Baptist, prophet and forerunner of the hope of Israel and the world, Jesus Christ.
Here we see two great hopes brought to fulfillment by God. Sometimes the wait can seem long or actually be very long, but God remembers His promises and keeps His covenants as well as hears the individual prayers of His people who pour their hearts out to Him.
In God's timing and according to His design, hopes fulfilled are a "tree of life" as He attends to the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him and works to accomplish His will to bring salvation to the entire world in Jesus Christ.
- What’s it like to wait for something you want or need very much?
- How’s God's timing and fulfillment of our right desires sometimes different from our own timing and expected fulfillment?
- When we pray to God about things important to us and those around us, do we pray expecting God to hear us and work on our behalf?
- Do we persevere in prayer or do we give up too quickly on God?