Luke 1:5-7 – 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.
The introduction of Zachariah, the future father of John the Baptist, is glowing. He and his wife are righteous, they walk blamelessly in God’s commandments and statutes. And the next word is “But”. They are righteous and walk blamelessly but that next word puts us on alert. There is a “but” in their lives. Even thought hey walk obediently there is something that is not right.
The “but” here tell us two things. Luke points out that they have no child because Elizabeth is barren and then he tells us that they are advanced in age. In other words, they cannot have a child. They have stopped praying for one. They have come to some sort of resolution in their lives about the plain facts: they are going to leave the world childless.
Children are a blessing from God. They are a reward from God. But we would not conclude rightly if we concluded that they are a reward for righteous living. Zechariah and Elizabeth walk righteously and have not been so rewarded. The belief that such a curse from God is due to sin was certainly alive and well in these days. John 9:1-2, Luke 13:1-5 show us that the belief that bad things happen to bad people was doing very well, thank you very much. Everyone knows that Zechariah is a good priest, a good husband, an example to the community of obedience to the Law. But they wonder what he has done or what Elizabeth has done to deserve this slap from God. Elizabeth and Zechariah may have wondered themselves.
But Luke is careful to tell us that this barrenness is nothing but the hand of God. He intentionally points out that whatever problems this couple have is not because of sin. What we know is that it is because of the plan of God. We see the same thing with Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel.
It rains on the just and the unjust. And in the rain that is falling on this couple the pain is because God is going to do something far greater for them than they could ever imagine. This is such a hard lesson for us to learn. Perhaps that is why we see it being repeated to us so much throughout the Scriptures. God works everything for our good. He does not just step in to a bad event and then fix it. He orchestrates the whole thing.
He will do for us in ways that are far better than we could ever think or imagine but He will do it when He knows the time is right and not a moment before. And He will do it in circumstances that we could not foresee.
The message here? Trust God. Hardship is not always a sign of sin. It may be a sign that God is doing something far greater than you could ever have imagined. Just because you are not able to envision how anything good can come out of a situation is hardly proof that it can’t happen.
A good dose of Job 38-42 would do us all some good. It is not an easy lesson to learn. It wasn’t for Zechariah. He learned it the hard way. But God was faithful and Zech has been rejoicing in that for a very long time now.