The Father's Mercies

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 

Lamentations 3:22-23

I’m so thankful for my Father’s mercies each morning. The sun always rises. The problems from yesterday are a little less poignant. The coffee is warm. His word is true. He is near, and he is listening to me, his child. 

I am studying through Luke currently. God’s nearness has always been an attribute of God that has brought me such peace. We get to see God’s faithfulness and his nearness displayed in this first chapter of Luke. 

Luke begins his narrative with Zechariah and Elizabeth, a faithful priest and his wife. Elizabeth is unable to have children. So many women know this pain, but for Elizabeth, it was also shame. Yet, Luke describes Elizabeth as faithful. She is faithful even though her life is overshadowed by pain and shame. Thankfully, God is also faithful. He sees Elizabeth’s barrenness, yet he also sees her and Zechariah’s faithfulness. 

God tells Zechariah that they will have a son and that his task will be to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Zechariah misses the mission, and focuses only on the problem. He and Elizabeth are past child-bearing age; how will they have a son? God humbles Zechariah by taking his voice away. Zechariah will now watch as God does the impossible. Zechariah’s silence will allow him to grow his faith and to believe God. Isn’t our Lord merciful? He did not strike Zechariah down for his lack of belief; he gave him time to develop that belief.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, responds to her pregnancy with praise. She prays, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (emphasis mine). She praises God for noticing her. She doesn’t necessarily praise him for giving her what she prayed for. She praises him because she is not alone in her shame. God knows her heartache and her pain. That is what her faith allows her to understand. God is not rewarding her with a baby; he is rewarding her with vision. He is allowing her to see Him and to be used by Him.

We often read on by Zechariah and Elizabeth in the gospel narrative, but I think many of us have more in common with these two than we realize. 

They know pain and they know shame. Whether your pain and your shame feels small or if it seems to overshadow your whole life, you can relate to these two. We can reject God in our pain or we can draw near to him. As we see here, He is always near. God sees your pain and he sees your shame, and he cares. God is near to you whether you caused your own pain or whether your pain was inflicted on you. He looks upon you. He doesn’t just look on you though; he will walk with you. Because of Jesus, God comes close and he knows you and he wants you to know him. 

Zechariah had a lapse of faith and belief. Whether you want to admit it or not, you can relate. God gives Zechariah a remedy for his lack of belief. Be quiet. Stop arguing and fighting and trying to talk around the issue. Just listen for a while. God is near. He sees you, and he sees your fears. He will help your unbelief. All too often, we are the one that’s in the way. By being quiet, we can allow God to work in us.

Elizabeth is allowed to see the other side of her pain and shame. This may or may not happen for you. The promise you do have is that God is faithful, God is good, God is near to you, and God sees you. Elizabeth didn’t know that God would give her a child. In fact, she had come to terms with the fact that she would not have any children. In the face of that truth, she chose to trust God anyway. She chose to remain faithful to his commands. Her faithfulness allowed her to still know God, and in turn, it allowed her to be used by God anyway. 

We all know some sort of pain or shame. We all struggle to believe God in our dark places, and we all have the same choice that Zechariah and Elizabeth did. We can remain faithful, trust his goodness, and possibly be used by Him to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Or we can choose not to do those things and miss out on experiencing God in all his goodness and in all his faithfulness. 

God sees you. He knows you. He is near to you. 

And he wants you to know him.