In step with God: Disappointed faith? - 5 December 2023
By Louise Gevers
Walking with God is a rich, dynamic experience for the person who “delights in him” and trusts Him each step of the way. Today’s text well captures the nurturing nature of the relationship that exists; it is God who establishes them, and sustains them. Even when they lose their footing God remains throughout, and doesn’t let go, or reject them, but wisely helps, restores and blesses their recovery.
When we’re enduring trials, however, we often become self-absorbed, and aren’t conscious of God’s nearness – especially when our prayers appear to be unheard or unanswered. We may be so caught up in the problem that we actually ask if this is happening because God is angry with us, hasn’t heard our prayers, or has actually withdrawn himself from us because we’ve sinned, or disappointed him. We forget his promises and continue stumbling, out of sync with his plan. But God is still at work.
Zechariah may well have experienced something like this; his wife’s barrenness would’ve been very hard for them both. Hope of a baby was past and they had suffered deep pain and disappointment but, a devoted priest, he continued steadfastly serving God in the temple, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, “lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed the Lord’s laws and commands” but “had no children … and she and Zechariah were both very old.” (Luke 1:6-7)
But God is God. In his impeccable timing he would turn their sorrow into laughter and complete his unfinished business with them by a miracle to herald the first Christmas and with it restore their joy.
Yet when the time came Zechariah couldn’t believe, even though God had sent the archangel Gabriel to tell him the news. He’d even orchestrated Gabriel’s arrival to be on the day chosen for Zechariah to perform his duties in the temple yet: “When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John.” (Luke 1:12-13)
Zechariah did what we all do so often: he looked at his and Elizabeth’s inadequacies and past God’s great power to fulfil this prophecy with a miraculous conception of their baby, who, Gabriel said, would be “a great man” in God’s eyes and would, “from his very birth be filled with the Holy Spirit”. He would, “go ahead of the Lord, strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah” bringing “fathers and children together again”. He “would also turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous” and “get the Lord’s people ready for him.” (Luke 1:15-17) But Zechariah couldn’t believe that what had happened to Abraham could be happening to him.
So God “made firm the steps of His servant and gave him time to ponder it: “Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true.” (Luke 1:20)
Prayer: Father God, we acknowledge that your greatness is more than we can contemplate and our understanding is dwarfed by your wisdom. By your grace, please keep our faith alive and growing in every situation that we may see your hand at work and honour you. Amen