Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perfect Timing (devotional # 3)

We return today to Zacharias and Elizabeth. Luke 1 tells us that while Zacharias was performing his priestly duties the angel came to tell him he would be conceiving a very special son. Verse 8 states that Zacharias was serving "in the order of his division." I Chronicles 24 explains that the Temple priesthood was organized into 24 divisions, with each division serving twice a year for one week. As a descendant of Abijah, Zacharias' division was the 8th. In ancient times the Lord had set the schedule for the priest's rotations. At some future date Zacharias was going to need to be on duty so that Gabriel could appear and tell him that what he has hoped and prayed for - a son - would finally come to pass.

Verse 9 tells us that Zacharias' lot fell to burn incense. This was a high honor. MacArthur's study Bible sheds light on the perfect timing of God. "Because of the large number of priests, most would never be chosen for such a duty, and no one was permitted to serve in this capacity twice. Zacharias no doubt regarded this as the supreme moment in a lifetime of priestly service. The incense was kept burning perpetually, just in front of the veil that divided the holy place from the most holy place. The lone priest would offer the incense every morning and every evening, while the rest of the priests and worshippers stood outside the holy place in prayer (v. 10)."

Zacharias had been born into a priestly family (the right job) and within a specific lineage (the right division, thus the right week of the year to serve). Then the lot (an unknown procedure divinely controlled by God) fell to him. He was given the honor to enter the holy place where Gabriel would bring him the good news.

Are you resting in the knowledge that God's timing in your own life is perfect? Maybe it doesn't seem perfect to you at the moment, but can you look back and see other events that, at the time, didn't seem to make sense, but in hindsight were perfectly timed by God?

Psalm 18:30 reminds us, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him."

James 1:17 encourages us; "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

I remember several years ago just after Katie had been born. Within the span of one month our landlord sold the house we were living in, Mark lost his job and we found out we would be having a second baby right on the heels of our newborn. My parent's graciously offered to let us move in with them. We knew God would use this time as blessing and restoration, but had any of us known it would last 10 1/2 months, we may have questioned our resolve. There was discouragement and faith-challenges during that time, but God's hand was evident. His timing would be perfect.

As a faithful priest, Zacharias, enters the Temple to burn incense and the angel, Gabriel, appears. Gabriel shares how Zacharias' prayer has been heard and that he will bear a son. Gabriel tells him to name the baby John and shares how great this child will be in the sight of the Lord.

I marvel at how perfect the timing of the Lord is in this story. Not only does the Lord prepare the way for John's birth and future ministry, but the timing of John and Jesus' births also brought comfort and joy to Elizabeth and Mary.

Following the account of Zacharias in the Temple is the revelation of Christ's birth that Gabriel shares with Mary. In verse 34 Mary basically says, "How on earth is this going to happen?" A few verses earlier Zacharias has asked the same thing. Gabriel said that he was the sign as the answer to the long-awaited prayer and gently rebuked Zacharias by making him mute until it happened.

Zacharias was expected to believe.

In contrast (vs. 35-37) Gabriel explains to Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her (the how). One commentary says that Mary's was not unbelief, but wonderment. I don't know if there was a stark difference between their questions, but God gave them each what they needed to grow their faith and it didn't look the same. Gabriel also encouraged Mary's faith with something akin to "by the way, Elizabeth is also having a baby because" "For with God nothing will be impossible." That was quite a faith-boost to a young girl who has witnessed the longing and faithfulness of her dear relatives. Then Mary in faith says, "let it be to me according to your word."

God gives us all we need to trust Him. Zacharias' name means "Jehovah has remembered." He was not forgotten; He just needed to wait for the perfect timing of God. He lived faithfully, but he should have lived expectantly too. Easier said than done, isn't it!

My family and my parents recognized that God had given us a unique opportunity when we lived together. We did our best to maximize the time together and allow the Spirit to bring restoration/healing amidst a trial.

God has not forgotten you! Luke 12:6 says "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." God is good and He is for you. Rest in faith, believing that His timing is perfect, not only in the lives of Biblical characters, but in your life, as well.

Remain faithful and expectant; God remembers you!

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