ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.5
5. God brings Good
Luke 1:11-13 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
It seems that one of the by-products of sin is fear of the Lord. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God and then acknowledged that they were afraid of Him (Gen 3:8,10). Today so many people fear God because they think He is going to slap them! Yes, it is natural when we are guilty to flee from a holy God, but tragically that only shows even more the awfulness of this thing the Bible calls ‘Sin’, because it also blinds us to the whole truth (2 Cor 4:4). The whole truth is that God promised blessing for His people (Deut 7:9-15) because He is love (1 Jn 4:8). The Bible shows Him constantly seeking to bless His people, those who will come to Him. In fact anyone can come to Him and receive His blessing, His goodness – but of course you must first see that that is something you really want, mustn’t you?
So, here we have righteous but childless Zechariah in the innermost part of the Temple, minding his own business while lighting the incense, when he is confronted by a messenger from heaven, an angel – and he’s frightened. For all of his righteousness, all of his goodness, he has not been able to come to a place of peace in the presence of God. Indeed for Him, God is not a loving heavenly Father, but an awesome far-off, holy Being, one to be feared. Well yes, the Bible does say that the ‘fear of the Lord’ is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), but note that it is the beginning. That simply means that recognizing our weakness and our failures and seeing God’s perfection is a starting place for any relationship with Him. From that we find that He’s there with open arms to whoever will come with an open and honest heart, acknowledging their need.
Of course Zechariah hasn’t realized that because Jesus hasn’t come yet and hasn’t demonstrated God’s staggering love by dying for us. No, Zechariah is still in the place of fear, because he hasn’t yet realized that God is good, and all God does in our direction is for our good, for our blessing. He’s still in the “God will condemn me” mode. He hasn’t yet got to the realization that “God loves me, God is for me, God wants to bless me” place that the children of God come to as they receive the wonderful work of Jesus in their lives.
The very first thing the angel does is try to put Zechariah at rest – don’t be afraid. When he says that, he means it. You don’t have to be afraid! There is no cause for that. God has come to bring blessing. What was the greatest burden in Zechariah’s life? That he had no children. So what’s God going to do? Enable him to have a child! Isn’t that good?
Those of us who still struggle with a “God’s a hard man” mentality (see Lk 19:21) will grumble and say, “So why did he have to wait so long?” Hullo? He could have waited all his life! But God came at a time that was right, because of lots of other circumstances now falling into place, and enabled him to have the child he had so longed for. Isn’t that wonderful? How you respond to this, reveals where you’re really at with God. Do you need, perhaps, to pray, ‘Lord set me free from this fear and help me see you as you really are, full of love for me’?