Luke 1:6-7 "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years."
What did you do wrong? Donít tell me you are perfect, you must have done something wrong, bad things just donít happen to good people. Repent, and seek forgiveness, and perhaps God will stop withholding his blessings from your life. Do something good, do something for someone else, perhaps then God will reward youÖ..
Have you ever had such things said to you? Doesnít feel good does it? And perhaps the only comfort in such situations is reading Job and the Psalms, they understood what it was, when bad things happen to good people. Particularly in the Psalms we see, that as bad as things get, people do not abandon their hope and trust in God, in fact, it generally becomes stronger. You see, it is not that God doesnít hear our prayers, but sometimes God says no, and sometimes God says wait. Waiting is a very hard thing. But in part, that is what Advent is about, waiting. In Advent, we already know that Godís answer is yes, he just hasnít told us how or when.
Now this is important to all of us, because we may be tempted to pray in such a way, that not only do we tell God what we want, but how and when it ought be given. And if we do not get what we want in the way and at the time we have specified, then we think that God has abandoned us; or that weíve done something wrong, or that we need to do something to earn whatever it is we are asking for.
Godís grace is always free. If you have to do something to earn it, if you have to be worthy in order to receive it, it is no longer grace. Grace is always a free, no strings, gift of love. Second, Godís grace is for all people, for the wicked and the righteous, just as rain falls on the just and the unjust, so Godís grace knows no boundaries. Third, God give us, and all people, each day, exactly what we need. And this is in part what we are praying when we pray the 4th petition of the Lordís Prayer, not that we get it, but rather that we receive it with thanksgiving, recognizing it as an undeserved gift [for that is what grace is] and giving thanks to the giver.
I do not suppose that it was easy to Zechariah and Elizabeth to give thanks to God each day, for the one thing they wanted never seemed to arrive, the child; and yet our text tells us that even though they did not get what they wanted, they remained faithful, they did not grumble against God. Even as they grew past the child bearing years, they remained faithful, if it was Godís will, there would be a child. And here it is not hard to remember another childless couple, Abraham and Sarah. God had promised that they would have a child, your descendents can hardly become as numerous as the stars in the sky, if you have no children. What is the Answer?
Psalm 25:1-2To thee, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in thee I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
You see, it is not our work, of lifting up our souls, but rather the mercy of God, who in grace and love gives us what we need when we need it. And scripture gives us many examples of people who wait on God, on his mercy, on his salvation, and every time, at the tight time, God comes through. So if we should ever find ourselves waiting, let us remain faithful, and trust in God, at the right time he will answer, as he always has.
But there is a second part, and this too is important, for sometimes we do not give good advice, sometimes we give advice that is as bad as that which Jobís friends gave him. Bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes wicked people get what they want right away, while good people must wait. In such times, it is important that we learn how to listen, for often people donít want our advice, all they want is to know that what they are feeling is reasonable. Sometimes, especially in the Psalms, it almost seems that people are angry with God, but they do not let this anger come in the way of faith, they may feel angry, or hurt, or disappointed for a while, and yet they know that God is faithful, and God will give them what they need when they need it.
At such times, it is important to listen, and to point to all the promises of Godís faithfulness, for often we must wait until Godís perfect time, this is the 1st lesson of Advent.