Sometimes God lets things happen in your life, and you wonder, “Why, God? Why is this happening? Why is it happening like this? Why is it happening now? I mean, I know you say you’ve got a plan, Father – but, really? How on Earth, and how in heaven, is this part of your plan?”
Sometimes, looking back on it years later, we see. We understand, in hindsight, why God kept us from marrying that person. Why we didn’t get the job. Why the sale of that house fell through. And, of course, sometimes, we never know, at least not during this life. Then we wonder, “Will God explain it to me when I get to Heaven? Or will I even care about it then?”
Mysteries. Some are revealed. Some are not. I want to tell you about one such mystery that, I think, today, I actually understand. It has to do with old women getting pregnant…
You’ve probably heard about Abraham’s wife. Her name was Sarah. The story is in Genesis 17:15-17.
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
So, a ninety year old woman got pregnant and had a son, and Abraham named their son Isaac. But (big disappointment here), I don’t know why Abraham and Sarah were so old when Isaac was born.
Now, John the Baptist – that’s a different story. His parents were old, too. And today, I know why. I’m speculating, of course, because the Bible doesn’t actually tell us why. But listen to my explanation, and see what you think.
The story is told by Luke in his gospel.
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. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
(Luke 1:5-7, ESV)
An angel appeared to Zechariah the priest while he was serving in the temple and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son. It happened just like the angel said it would, and Zechariah the priest named his son John. This John was later called John the Baptist, but his mom and dad didn’t call him that. They just called him John, or Johnny, or “you little squirt!” or something like that. When they were mad at him, like when he pulled the dog’s tail, maybe Elizabeth called him, “John ben Zechariah! Stop teasing Brutus right now!” You know how moms are, using your full name when you’re in trouble. Maybe that’s a new thing, but it seems to me like it probably started a long time ago.
Anyway. John. His parents were really old when he was born. Why?
To avoid heartbreak, that’s why.
Zechariah was a priest who ministered before God, and he was a good one. Zechariah was a man of faith, devoted to God; he was a man who tried earnestly to live a life of righteousness and obedience. He was honored to be a priest of God Most High, and he carried out his responsibilities diligently, with great care and reverence.
But John? Well, John loved God, too. Very much, in fact. But John saw corruption in the priesthood, and instead of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a priest, he went out into the desert, meditated, prayed, and became a noisy and boisterous preacher. John was adamantly opposed to hypocrisy. In his devotion to God, he was offended by the hypocrisy he saw in the priests.
Do you see? When John came back from the desert, he would have been a terrible disappointment to his dad, who was one of the few good priests.
And that’s why God waited until Zechariah was old before blessing him and Elizabeth with John.
John had all the benefits of the godly upbringing of his good and noble father and mother. And then, his elderly parents died. John went into the desert to grieve, and to decide what to do next. And, in a very real way, John followed in his dad’s footsteps. He proclaimed God’s message of truth and love, and a lot of men and women were transformed by John’s devotion and care for there well-being. He didn’t preach to hurt them; he preached to help them. And his love for his listeners was obvious. It was moving. They repented, and with God’s help, they changed.
But, I don’t think Zechariah would have understood. So, timing was everything.
God has a way of understanding timing. He makes things work out.
Books by Bob Young