The Lord’s Unlikely Players

Elderly Couple

Luke 1:5-7 “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.”

Zechariah and Elizabeth were a couple who didn’t fit into the mainstream of Jewish society. Zechariah had a respectable job as a priest, but there was this matter of children. They didn’t have any. Unlike our day, when couples actually choose childlessness, having no children was universally considered a curse. It was thought by some to be grounds for suspicion of bad morals. “Surely they must have offended God in some way to be denied the gift of children.” Perhaps this couple wasn’t shunned, but they must have encountered situations in which they felt like outsiders.

Then there was the matter of age. Zechariah and Elizabeth lived at a time when people gave the elderly more respect than in our own. But their advanced age made it highly unlikely their family situation would change. It also made them unlikely candidates for special service to God, from a human point of view. Vigorous service to the Lord, a prime role in the work of his kingdom, may seem more appropriate for the young and energetic. Zechariah and Elizabeth had reached the age when many expect to pull back, slow down, and take things easy.

None of that mattered to God. The only relevant piece of information to him was this: “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” That is not the same thing as saying they were perfect. They were sinners saved by God’s grace, like the rest of us. It is rather evidence that they had sincere faith in God and demonstrated that faith by a life that sought to follow his will. God chose this faithful couple to become the parents of the greatest prophet who ever lived. They became God’s unexpected servants in preparing for the Savior to come.

We can learn a couple of things from the Lord’s choice. We may consider certain people suspect because they do not fit the accepted cultural or social mold for a Christian. I’m not referring to issues of biblical faith or morals. Those are standards we must defend vigorously and promote aggressively.

Rather, we become guilty of marginalizing people, moving them off to the fringes of congregational life and service, because they aren’t like most of us in ways that have nothing to do with biblical standards–the elderly, the single, people with disabilities, those who have low incomes.  God doesn’t discount them from serving him on these grounds. Zechariah and Elizabeth, like other senior citizens mentioned in the Bible, teach us not to overlook people for service just because the hair is turning gray.

At the same time, God’s choice here encourages us. We may not see ourselves as big players on the grand stage of history. I’m sure Zechariah and Elizabeth never imagined they would rise from obscurity to play a part in God’s plan to save the world and have their names recorded on the pages of Scripture.

But just as God’s grace rescues sinners who have done nothing to deserve his favor, it chooses servants who have done nothing to suggest they are qualified for his missions. Don’t discount the Lord’s ability to use you. He saved you. Who knows what grand adventures in faith he may have planned for any one of his faithful people?

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