5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Here we have an amazing story of Zechariah and his encounter with an angel. The back ground to this story is what is so amazing. Firstly, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were old – very old – well past having children old. So old, that naturally it was impossible for them to have children. No 21st century medicine to support older women with child birth.
Secondly, despite being old, they have not stopped praying for a child. When it was easy to quit praying, they kept going. And then, one day, an angel turns up and says guess what? Your prayer has been answered; you are going to have a son!
I love Zechariah’s response in the Message Bible, “Do you expect me to believe this?” Yet, what is so amazing about this, is that they had not stopped praying. Their faith had not waivered. Even though he struggled to accept the answer, they hadn’t given up asking.
I can’t begin to list all the things that I have stopped asking God for. And to be honest, when you have been asking God for something for a long time, and there is no answer, and when it now looks like it is impossible, it’s easy to give up. We might even say it just wasn’t God’s will.
Well, as I read this story, I am encouraged, that it is never too late for God to answer my prayer. Until something else better comes from God, we should not let the naturally impossible be a reason to give up and stop asking God for it.
Father, forgive me for all the things that I have stopped praying for. For you, nothing is impossible, nothing is ever too late.
Written by Andrew Martin