Summary: What to do with disappointments in prayer
Luke 1:5-25 “Back-story; the Birth of John the Baptist”
Who here has ever had a major disappointment in life? How many have prayed for something, but it just seems like heaven in silent? Let me ask you...how did you feel because of that silence or lack of an answer to prayer? What were your thoughts?
This morning, as we come back to our study in Luke chapter 1, we’re going to be introduced to people who have had just that experience...and who very well may have felt the exact same things.
Last week, we read the introduction to Luke’s gospel, and considered a few of the reasons why this account was written, now today, we’ll get to the beginning of the story.
You know, the fact that the Bible comes in story form is as important as the truth the story tells. God wants to draw us into his action, through history to our present moment. The story form is meant to shape the way we understand life, in history and for the future...and especially in the present.
A story has a beginning, middle and end...and most of all, a story has a PLOT.
As we read this story of Jesus...we will find as we go, that WE’RE also in the story...as we read it and take it in, we’ll find ourselves journeying toward God...being drawn toward him in the currents of the story. We’ll be able to see ourselves as we consider what’s happening to the characters we read about.
This morning, we’ll see ourselves as we see one couple who faced a lot of disappointment.
So...lets begin this morning by picking up where we left off, and reading v5-7
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
This opening sequence is often called the “gospel overture”...it’s sort of like Luke saying “before I tell you Jesus’s story...let me give you the back-story...let me back up and tell you about someone else who played an important role in the story as it unfolds.
Luke, wanting to be a good historian provides a reference to a time period for us by telling us that he’s starting this story back during the days of Herod, king of Judea.
Now, this would have been a man known in history as Herod the Great. At least, HE called himself great. Remember that, it’s important later on. He was in power between 37bc to 4bc.
He wasn’t really a king, like a sovereign ruler...he only had limited authority under Rome...and history isn’t kind in remembering him...he was known as a power-hungry, brutal man. He did a lot of building projects, including the temple in Jerusalem and the port in Cesarea…
But the people of Palestine hated him no matter what he did...because he was a puppet ruler.
Now...he’s not who this story is about... he’s just a point of reference...so the camera pans away from this larger than life historical figure….and lands on an old backwoods priest and his infertile and most probably post-menopausal wife.
Why are we here Luke? Who cares about these people? Luke tells us, “hey, they’re good people...they both come from the priestly lineage and they are committed and devout practitioners of Judaism! They’re important, you’ll see.”
This falls into place with so many characters in the bible before them...Abe and Sarah, Jacob and Rebecca, Hanna, Samson’s parents...so right away, this fits into the pattern of all the stories that had gone before it.
Now the text tells us that they walked “blamelessly”...and we don’t want to mistake that for being “sinless”...it’s just saying that they were sincere in their devotion...and that’s an important detail because in that time and culture, people would have often assumed that Zach and Beth’s infertility was the result of some sin in their lives that G was punishing them for.
But Luke wants us to understand that’s not the case...these were good people who had spent their lives serving G...but in spite of that, they had still lived a LIFETIME of disappointment and shame.
Shame? Oh yes...in that culture at that time, a woman who was childless was considered a disgrace. According to law, Zach could have divorced her...and it had its practical side to it...without children, there would be no one to carry on his name or take care of them when they were old. There was no Social Security or Medicare or even Hospice in those days. You had your kids...or you had nothing.