Posted by Danielle DuRant on December 1, 2017
Topic: Just Thinking Magazine
Time and again I have found myself drawn to the story of Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, which Luke records in the first chapter of his Gospel. You will recall that Elizabeth was barren and they were both well advanced in years. However, unlike Abraham and Sarah, as far as we know, Zechariah and Elizabeth had not been given any promise of a child. They were living in a period of silence, as some Bible scholars call it: It had been over 400 years since God had spoken of a coming Redeemer and his forerunner through the prophet Malachi.
Moreover, though year after year Zechariah served in the temple, the lots always fell to someone else to perform the evening offering of incense—a once in a lifetime privilege. Who knew how many times the lots overlooked him? Nevertheless, Zechariah and Elizabeth held onto God and did not forget his words; as Luke tells us, “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (1:6).
“God is the author and source of all the good that you have had already,” theologian J.I. Packer reminds us, “and all the good that you hope for in the future. This is the fundamental philosophy of Christian prayer. The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence. When we are on our knees, we know that it is not we who control the world; it is not in our power, therefore, to supply our needs by our own independent efforts; every good thing that we desire for ourselves and for others must be sought from God, and will come, if it comes at all, as a gift from His hands.”1
O LORD, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:1, 2)
had the prayer been uttered?
Only to be met with
How many decades
had the lots been cast?
Only to fall to
“O LORD, assuage this longing.”
Did hope expire like hot breath
when passion dried
with the passing of time
Did prayer taste like ashes
bringing tears to the eyes?
Yet when one evening cast
its shadows and lots,
it did fall to you
once to burn before the Lord
a sweet aroma.
Did your prayer rise up with hope
or fear descend like smoke
before the angel appeared,
Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard.
In a breath
a fragrant offering descends:
Your wife will bear you a son.
a rush of air—
the weight of longing—
did you believe God
The LORD remembers.
Zechariah’s name means “The LORD remembers.” And He did.
Danielle DuRant is Director of Research and Writing at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
1 J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 11.