“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:2-3)
God never changes (Num. 23:19). Some thirty years prior to God displaying His works through this blind man, He displayed His works through a barren woman. Elizabeth “had no child” (Lk. 1:7). She and her husband were “advanced in years” and hopeless of heritage.
Despite the reproach of those around them, Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6). It was not that sin prevented the fullness of their quiver. It was the Lord. For He opens and closes the womb that He might display His works (1 Sam 1:4).
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah,” our story continues, “for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Lk. 1:13). Zechariah was troubled by the appearance of the angel. Now, he was stunned by the angel’s words—the very message of God.
Gabriel carried on about the son that God would give Zechariah. Describing him as being “great before the Lord” and “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk. 1:15). People will “rejoice at his birth,” and he will bring his parents “joy and gladness” (Lk. 1:14). He would do the work of God by preparing the way for the Messiah—the one whom God promised in His last prophecy (Mal. 4:5-6).
Zechariah seemed to miss it all. He was still stunned that he would have a son. “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Lk. 1:18). It was too much for him to believe. So he brazenly asked for proof. It was like saying, “Oh yeah? Show me!”
Old bodies are less fruitful. Everyone knows that. The heat of Zechariah’s hope diminished the more advanced he became in age. His physical reality troubled his spiritual sight.
Zechariah experienced years of reproach, disappointment, and emptiness. He couldn’t see past it all. He forgot that God is mindful of the humble (Lk. 1:48) and cares for His people (1 Pet. 5:7). Even worse, He forgot the meaning of it all, the big picture, the coming Messiah.
The lament of a small unanswered prayer was a distraction from a big salvific promise. He couldn’t see past it. He couldn’t marvel at the dawning of the Son. The Messiah was coming, but Zechariah couldn’t get past his barren wife.
Ironically enough, Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh has remembered.” Gabriel said, “your prayer has been heard” (Lk. 1:13). God was mindful of Zechariah. He didn’t forget.
To say that God has remembered is to speak of heaven in earthly terms. Yahweh cannot forget. For He knows all at all times. He is forever mindful of everything, even of that which no one else is ever mindful.
God was not silent for 400 years because He lacked words. He was not running short on angelic assistance for 500 years. Nor was He miraculously uninvolved on earth for 800 years due to a lack of power. Nothing thwarts His plans—not kings, not calamities, and especially not old age (Is. 14:27).
God remembered. Elizabeth’s barrenness was not due to sin, but that the works of God might be displayed in her. He “gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:9). God broke His silence, broke her barrenness, and broke His plan wide open.
Our unanswered prayers can lead us to forget God’s true power. But we should be mindful of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations, including our own. He does not need more proof, only more people to remember. Will you remember His promises this Christmas?