There are some moments in life when things happen out of the order of logic, explanation, or careful planning. There are moments when the people watching us wonder how in the world a hopeless is relationship restored, a pregnancy announcement is made when the after a infertility diagnosis, or healing when the disease is terminal.
In these passages from Joshua in the Old Testament and Luke from the New Testament, we see the clear hand of God in the lives of people devoted to Him. Joshua was leading an entire nation to the promised land of his forefathers, rallying the people every step of the way by proclaiming God’s faithfulness and goodness, and encouraging them to be courageous and strong. The promised blessing was coming, they just needed to persevere and continue to overcome, whether the obstacles were defeating an entire city or crossing the mighty Jordan river on foot. I love the Message translation of 1:5-6: “I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage!”
In Luke, Elizabeth and Zachariah were rejoicing in a promise fulfilled as they brought their baby to the temple with their friends and family. Everyone was happy, but confused. I’m sure there were whispers: “They are so old! How is this possible? Do they have the energy to even handle this new baby?”
And then, when it came time to name the child, Elizabeth proudly announced his name “John” and panic ensued. “What? You can’t do that! That’s not normal! That’s not in line with our traditions! Zachariah, c’mon, tell her she’s crazy!”
There are two things I see in this passages as I study them closer. First, when God fulfills a promise in our lives, He does it exactly the way He has planned it for us. Others around us, even well-meaning friends and family, may not understand what God is doing, and may discourage us from pursuing what God is clearly directing.
Joshua had clear direction and guidance from the Lord about the promised land, and victory followed victory because of his unconventional pursuit of God’s very best for Israel. Elizabeth and Zachariah were given this beautiful gift of a promised fulfilled by God in the form of a baby. But it went so much deeper than the blessing of a child to a barren husband and wife – the purpose that God had for John’s life was extraordinary, and far beyond what any of their friends and family could have dreamed. God always has a plan!
Secondly, God uses these incredible moments in our lives to bring glory to His name. In the story of Joshua, he never took credit for what God was doing – he clearly pointed the glory back to God and rejoiced in victory even before it happened! John’s birth was a miracle, and Zachariah was given his voice back when he proclaimed what the angel had spoken to him. And the first words out of his mouth were praise and glory to God!
The greatest testimony to others about our faith and what Jesus does in our lives is not to simply spout off Bible verses or memorize cookie-cutter “Christian” phrases. Instead, we have the beautiful opportunity to speak about our circumstances in the light of God’s mercy and grace, and give Him all the glory for what He has done, is doing, and will do in our lives! Just as the people responded in awe watching these stories unfold, those surrounding us will also stand back and be amazed, saying, “I wonder what will happen next in this young woman’s life? Because clearly, God has His hand on her!”