When a farmer plants his seeds in the ground, he possesses control over a limited number of variables whose number have increased with advances in technology. Within limits, the farmer may able to control the condition of the soil, the amount of water the seed receives, and the kind/amount of light the plant receives. But no matter the technological advances or the skill of the farmer, he cannot make the seed want to grow. Something within the seed must propel it to burst forth into Life. God is the Source and Sustainer of Life, and without Him the seed would simply rot and die in the ground.
Luke’s gospel opens upon a childless couple. There is a legitimate principle that God blesses those who are faithful to Him, but because man is not always the best interpreter of these blessings Luke makes sure to tell us that Zecharias and Elizabeth were not barren because of some curse upon them. Rather, they were righteous people walking faithfully in the commandments of God. And yet Elizabeth was barren.
I recently subjected myself to a “talk” by a preacher who used the term “brokenness” when he clearly meant sin. When used this way, “brokenness” becomes an illegitimate term to lessen the truth of man’s rebellion against God. It makes it sound like we need to be healed, when we really need to be forgiven. But that does not mean that “brokenness” is not a legitimate term when used correctly to describe the effects of sin upon our world. When Adam sinned, the ground that should have brought forth plentifully ceased to yield in abundance. Elizabeth was faithful, and yet her body was barren. And this was the cause of anguished prayers, lonely days, and the pitying glances of her friends and neighbors: a daughter of Eve could not bring forth life.
When Gabriel appeared to Zecharias to announce the upcoming birth of a baby in their family, Zecharias did not believe him. The time for child bearing was past and he had resigned himself to this. Zechariah was looking at his life like a farmer looks at a field stripped of all of its nutrients and filled with nettles and thorns. Humanly speaking, Zecharias was right, and yet Gabriel upbraided his unbelief and caused him to be mute until the promised child was born.
God did not choose this couple despite their barrenness, but because of it. God chose them to display the reality that He has power to bring forth life from that which is dead. In doing so, He makes the point that not only will sins be forgiven, but tears will be dried. Not only will the rebel receive pardon, but the sick will receive health. Not only will the lost be found, but the barren will bring forth life. Sins like scarlet will be washed white as snow, and “in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” The Author of life came to dwell among us so that He might re-write our stories, even if we have already closed the book.
He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.Psalm 113:9