Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Confidence in Challenging Circumstances

As I write this morning, we are under social distancing guidelines as a result of Covid-19. School is canceled, churches aren't meeting, stores are closed, people shelter in place.

And I have seen the people in the book of Luke differently.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were "both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren..." (Luke 1:6-7). Zechariah and Elizabeth's life was not driven by their desire for a child. Apparently Zechariah had prayed and asked for a son (1:13), but his obedience and devotion to God was not dependent on God's gifts. It was dependent on God Himself. God was their audience. God was their heart desire. God was their motivation and reward.

The lack of a child, or God's answer to their prayer, did not inhibit their service. "Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense..." (Luke 1:8-9). Zechariah's ministry and diligence to his calling was not affected by God's answer, or lack of answer. He followed through. He was dependable. He was faithful to his calling--not resentful, withholding, or anxious--but steady and unmovable.

Elizabeth's response to having a child reveals her heart. She did not want a child so everyone would see, so everyone would finally notice and include her in conversation, in the responsibilities and company of children at play. She set herself apart, choosing communion with God over the enthusiasm and excitement of others. "After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months saying, 'This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men'" (Luke 1:24-25). Her desire and devotion was not to the women clambering at her door to share tidbits of advice on pregnancy, to ask after her health, to carry back news and gossip of her blossoming figure. Her focus and heart were set on the Lord Himself. Which led to her time with her relative, Mary.

And as I read of Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem, I had to wonder that Mary didn't say, "Joseph, go ahead. Count me as one of your family. I'll be here when you get back." It seems that being "with child" is a good reason not to travel cross-country and endure uncertainty. After all, this wasn't just any baby--and what mother today would take on that journey under those conditions? This was the Son of God. The was not just a baby; it was THE baby.

But if Mary hadn't gone, prophecy wouldn't have been fulfilled, "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel" (Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2). If Mary hadn't gone with Joseph, there would have been no lowly stable birth, no shepherds, no proclamation to those who knew them. No doubt there would have been wonder and awe--but Mary's obedience to governing authorities led to a wonder-full, timeless, matchless birth of our Savior.

God uses the confines of our present reality to form and shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. He uses circumstances, government edicts, and even our desires to accomplish His will. There is no need for fear, anxiety or worry. He is powerfully, wisely, wholly, mercifully using all things for good. Yes, frustrated plans. Yes, disappointment. Yes, suffering and uncertainty. But in and through it all, God is at work.

"Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

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