‘Tis the season to wait. My family and I already waited in a long line at a Christmas Tree farm. At the mall on Black Friday, I ended up waiting in a line of three, but it might as well have been 13.
I know I should be patient and loving, but during this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas my “Speed it up, people” attitude rears its ugly head.
Waiting is not an issue for our time only. Between the Old and New Testaments, the people of Israel waited over 400 years to hear from God. But at the appointed time, a man named Zechariah received a message from God through the angel, Gabriel. (If you are not familiar with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, you can read it in Luke 1:5-25.)
It is no coincidence that Zechariah was on duty during this appointed time. Priests only served twice a year. Since there were so many priests, they were chosen by lot (rolling of the die) to burn incense. Zechariah is chosen, enters the temple, burns the incense and Gabriel relays the good news: “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife will have a son, and you will name him, John. He will make the people ready for the Lord.”
In those few sentences, God’s plan was put into motion. The curtain between heaven and earth had been drawn aside. The famine of God’s word was broken. God was speaking again.
But what about us? What should we do when we are waiting on God?
The only time I toss dice is during a game of Clue or Monopoly. I’m not a priest serving in a temple. I’ve burned incense but never for spiritual reasons. But in this waiting, God reveals there is purpose.
Zechariah walked blamelessly. He was blameless in his standing before God but not perfect in carrying out His plan. He didn’t believe Gabriel’s message which led to nine months of muteness. Before then, Zechariah had been faithful to God day after day, week after week, and year after year even though the whispers from neighbors continued. The cradle stayed empty. Arms once longing to cradle a baby now hung limp by their sides. Until now.
Zechariah served. He could have walked mechanically through his priestly duties or blamed God or his wife for this so-called curse. Yet, he stay married to Elizabeth. He served God faithfully.
Zechariah prayed. Zechariah and Elizabeth lifted up this prayer for a child many a time, for many a year. At the exact time Zechariah was in the temple praying, a whole multitude of people were praying outside. It’s true when “two or more are gathered in His name, God is in their midst (Matthew 18:20),” but when a multitude is gathered; big things happen.
The answer to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer was John the Baptist. Malachi had prophesied four hundred years earlier: “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet (v. 4:5).” John the Baptist was this Elijah, the forerunner to Jesus. The promise was fulfilled. The prayer was answered.
Wringing our hands or doing nothing while we wait accomplishes nothing. Believe there is purpose in our walking, serving and praying while we wait to hear from God. Even if that one prayer never gets answered, we will have pleased God and drawn closer to Him. And that is worth waiting for.