Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought I’d read from Luke 1 this morning. My pastor had preached about Zechariah this past week and what had happened to him in the temple, so I thought I’d go back and read from there.
Zechariah was a priest and as it happened, his turn to lead the worship came up. His duty as High Priest that day was to go into the temple…way into the temple…and light incense in the inner courts as well as offer the atonement for the people that day. The Bible also mentions here that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were older, but didn’t have any children because Elizabeth was barren. As my pastor pointed out, to be childless for them was an awful thing. It was as if to say that the promises of God would stop for them because there were no children for them to pass that heritage on to. Not to mention Elizabeth’s feelings she must have had of unfulfillment, of not coming into her own as a woman because she had been unable to bear children. But anyhow, that’s another story.
So here we have Zechariah in the temple doing his priestly duties when all of a sudden he turns and sees an angel standing right there. And the angel proceeds to tell him that he and Elizabeth will have a child. And Zechariah’s response to the angel is basically “how can I know this is so?” And I have to think that Zechariah must have been so shocked at the sight of the angel that he just let what was in his mind fly without thinking about it. I mean, seriously? How can this be so? Well I mean there is an ANGEL standing there telling you this and you don’t get blown away by just that one fact? But then the angel tells you what you’ve been wanting to hear for who knows how long now and you ask “how could this be so?” Man, what a foot-in-mouth moment. Because see here’s what I think.
I think Zechariah was so caught off guard by the angel’s appearance that he didn’t have a chance to edit what he said before he said it. Because he said for sure what was in his heart. He spoke right out of the pain that he’d been suffering at not being called Daddy by anybody. He spoke right out of the anger that he felt at seeing his precious wife agonize over never having felt the soft kick of an infant in her womb. He spoke right out of the bitterness that he had probably tried many times to stuff back down when yet another couple announced the birth of a child.
There’s so much honesty in what he says. How will I know? I can imagine that immediately his heart leapt at the angel’s words, but then almost as quickly he reigned himself back in. Words thoughtlessly uttered by a man who couldn’t bear to allow himself to hope.
In that moment, his pain and fear caused him to close his eyes to what was right in front of him. And brokenness will do that to you sometimes.
I can only imagine all the things that Zechariah was thinking as he moved about inside the Inner Courts of the Holy Place.
Maybe he was thinking if he’d been chosen to do this High Priest thing sooner, he could have done it well enough to have pleased God and maybe then God would have answered his prayer. Or maybe he was thinking about the son he would never have to be able to past the priesthood responsibilities onto. Maybe he was concentrating so much on getting what he was doing right, that he wasn’t thinking about any of that at all. Maybe that’s why the angel’s words were such a surprise.
Maybe he had come to a place of acceptance of his childless state and the angel just rolled up in there and ripped that wound right back open.
God does that sometimes. We think we’ve arrived at a place of acceptance of something. We decide that we will resign ourselves to being what we are instead of what we thought God had called us to be.
And then we stop praying for the desire of our heart.
Because it’s just too hard. It hurts too much to ask and ask and ask only to be disappointed over and over again. It’s easier to just put that thing away and forget about it than to keep taking the beating over and over when we feel like God is ignoring our prayer.
And when we make that decision on our own to just suck it up and live with it, we move into a place of false acceptance and whether we realize it not, that splinter that we allowed to remain in the wound as it healed is still there. The wound looks healed. The scab may even be gone. You may not even be able to tell it’s there just by looking because it’s in there so deep. But the splinter is still in there and when we bump it just right, it still causes pain because it was never dealt with properly. Because WE decided how to handle it, not God.
See I don’t think God would have wanted Zechariah to harbor that splinter. And if it hadn’t have been in God’s plan for he and Elizabeth to have children, God would have healed that broken place in Zechariah’s heart before allowing that wound to heal over. God had not yet filled that empty hole with healing or with a child, which tells me that He never meant for Zechariah to stop praying about it. He never meant for Zechariah to lose faith.
*insert Journey song here…Don’t stop be-lieeeev- in’ hold onto that fee-ee-ee-leh-eh-en…*
Okay so maybe the Journey song was too much, but you get the point.
If God hasn’t told you no, then the answer isn’t no. And you can’t assume because He hasn’t given you a yes by actually answering your prayers yet, that His intention isn’t still to answer them. Because His yes’s are yes’s and His no’s are no’s. God’s not a trickster. He doesn’t play games with your heart. Your heart is precious to Him. More than you know. And He isn’t deaf. He hears your pleas. He isn’t blind. He sees your tears.
So my question for you is, do you have a splinter somewhere that you’ve allowed to heal over? Do you have something that you’ve decided God has said no to, when He really only just hasn’t said yes yet?
Allowing God to probe those wounds that haven’t healed properly can be a pretty painful endeavor. It really causes us to have to put all our trust in Him to go back and reopen places that we’ve learned to deal with or have managed to close ourselves off from. But I assure you that He’s worthy of that trust.
He’s a good Doctor. He heals all wounds…and He heals them well, clean and splinter-free.