The Drama of Disappointment

As I begin to prepare my heart for the birth of our Savior, I was struck by the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and their drama of disappointment as it is found in Luke 1.

“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. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John . . . After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Did you see the drama of disappointment in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth?  They were childless.  This was especially difficult in Jewish culture. Notice what Barclay observes about this,

The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, ‘A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.’ Childlessness was a valid ground for divorce.[1]

You can see that being childless would have been a great burden and constant source of pain to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their culture.  Their childlessness was not a consequence of sin.  In fact, the text says that they were “righteous and blameless” in God’s eyes. Even so, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived with the constant heartache of not realizing their dreams and yet they were faithful and walked blamelessly in obedience to God.

Did you also notice they are described as “advanced in years”?  This means they were beyond the age in which a person could naturally conceive and have children and, therefore, had been dealing with this pain for years.

In spite of his age, Zechariah is told by the angel that “your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.”  To appreciate the scene we need to understand what had taken place for Zechariah to even be in the temple serving that day.

Zechariah “was a member of one of twenty-four divisions in the first-century priesthood…, one of approximately 18,000 priests. More specifically, he was a member of the eighth order, Abijah (1 Chron. 24:10). A priest only officiated at the sacrifice once in his life, having been selected by lot.[2]

Zechariah had been chosen by lot out of 18,000 priests for a once in a lifetime opportunity to serve in the temple.  This would be the greatest day of his life as a priest! As great as this honor was, he still ended up talking to God in the temple about the personal pain and disappointment that he and Elizabeth shared.

What can we learn from this?

First, we serve a God of the miraculous!  Nothing is too difficult for him, even when there is no human hope for a solution.

Second, God is active in his creation and it is never too late from him to intervene!  He is at work today even when I do not see it.

Third, disappointment can be part of a faithful believer’s life for years and it can be deep!  This does not mean we have done something wrong, but the pain and disappointment can be a normal Christian experience that we may never fully understand.

Fourth, we must be faithful in the disappointment and be honest with God as we endure.  Like Zechariah, we must express ourselves to God and not hide the disappointment we feel as long as it is a burden.

Fifth, as Zechariah heard from God in the temple, I need to intentionally make the effort to hear from God in his Word.  I have to make time for prayer and the study of his Word.

Father, thank you for this amazing story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Thank you for being involved in your creation and for providing John who paved the way for Jesus.  Thank you for giving us your Son and our Savior!  Thank you for understanding my heartaches and caring about them.  May you help me to be faithful as I serve you even when there are times of disappointment in that service.  May your will be done in and through me for your glory.

Following Jesus with you,



[1] William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 10.

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 48.

The Best Life Possible…

Two primary thoughts struck me this morning as I read Matthew 11.  The first is that even the greatest person to be born of a woman can be perplexed and have doubts about God’s plan.  John the Baptist, the first prophet to Israel in 400 years, and who came on the scene with the power of Elijah found himself in prison wondering, “where did I misunderstand God’s plan?” 

In the midst of John’s uncertainty, Jesus mildly rebukes him and yet gives him great praise for his role in preparing the world for the coming King and His Kingdom. John had proclaimed a message of judgment and yet Jesus reminded him that the Kingdom was more than that.  How easy it is to think we know what God is doing and yet God’s plan is often different than ours.  God is in control even when my circumstances do not fit my understanding of His plan!

The second thing that stood out to me this morning is that I live a very privileged life. In fact, it is the best time to live since the Fall because I am living in the dawning of the Kingdom!  The Kingdom is not yet fully realized, but in its present form, the best life possible is the one that is yoked to Jesus in discipleship.  Jesus said,

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

An alternate translation is “my yoke is pleasant and my burden is easy to carry.”  A yoke was used in the culture to bind two oxen together as they plowed a field.

Why is being yoked to Jesus the best life possible? Because of the character of Jesus.  I am not yoked to a tyrant or an unreasonable uncaring authority, but one whose character is marked by gentle humility.  In fact, Jesus over time is carefully making me like Him as I am yoked to Him in discipleship.

Father, plowing a field and pulling a load is hard work! Nowhere did You promise soft ground for tilling or level paths for bearing my load. What You did promise is a relationship with You as I till and as I pull. The demands are great.  In fact, You expect my very best, but my relationship with You in life makes the path pleasant and my burden easy to carry.  Help me to learn from You and remain faithful.  Thank you for wanting to disciple me!

Following Jesus with you!

The Verdict Is In!

I am fascinated by the apostle Paul.  In his own description of himself, he states that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, zealous, a persecutor of the church and much more (Phil. 3:5ff).  Then in Acts 9 he encounters Christ and his life is forever changed as he became a follower of Jesus.

As an Apostle spreading the Gospel, he encountered great hardship. He summarizes his challenging life when he says,

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (1 Cor. 11:23-28)

How did Paul press on through extreme physical suffering and even accusations from those within the church (1 Cor. 4)?

I think one of the truths that allowed Paul to maintain his joy, perseverance, and passion is found in Rom. 8:1 which says:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What is so striking about that verse?  The word “now.”  Paul realized that the verdict is in on his life even before his life is finished!  When he embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior and God, his sin was forgiven, and he began life as a child of God.  He understood the Gospel freed him from trying to earn his position before God and he wanted the world to know that!

In our culture, our court system weighs the evidence of a person’s actions and then makes a verdict of guilt or innocence.  But, as a Christian, the verdict is in now prior to the weight of all evidence of my life!  As a Christian, I can know now that my sins have been forgiven, even the ones I have not yet committed because I have already been declared righteous in the court of God because of my faith in Christ.

This truth is summarized in Rom. 5:1-2 which says,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith (past tense), we have peace with God (present tense) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Paul got it!  Through Christ, he was declared righteous (“justified”), had peace with God and stood in a grace relationship with God!  As a result, Paul lived out of his certain position.  His security was found in the promises of God’s Word and his actions were based upon the truth of God’s Word.

Father help me to grasp the amazing truth that the verdict on my life is already in!  You have already determined my standing because of my choice to trust in Jesus as my Savior.  When I make mistakes and doubt myself today, I need not live in fear of your rejection because your grace through Christ has already set me in a permanent loving relationship with you.  You are now my Father and nothing I can do will change that.  Help these truths motivate me to faithfulness and obedience and give me your peace in the midst of a fallen world.

Following Jesus with you!