Ein Kerem—Waiting on God’s Promise a Long Time

God has something special planned for you.

When we think of the Bible’s Christmas couple, of course we picture Joseph and Mary. But there’s another couple in the Christmas narrative. In fact, they appear even before Jesus’ parents do.

Ein Kerem terraces

(Photo: Tradition places the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth at Ein Kerem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God had been silent for 400 years. No additional Scripture. No more prophecy. No visions. Just waiting for the Messiah. 400 years! Then, God spoke to an old man in Jerusalem. God had been silent to Zacharias and Elizabeth as well. They were elderly and had no children. They prayed for years. But nothing.

God’s Word makes the point that they were righteous in God’s sight—blameless in God’s Law. In other words, their childless home wasn’t because of their unfaithfulness.

Times of waiting on God can even come to a point of what seems impossible. Most times of lack are like that.

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. (Rom. 8:24, The Message)

God had something special planned for them. And for you.

God Remembers His Covenant

Times of waiting on God makes us feel as if God has forgotten us. Especially—like Zacharias and Elizabeth—when we are faithful and yet God remains silent for years.

This old couple’s names are significant:

  • Zacharias means: “God remembers”
  • Elizabeth means: “My God of the promise”

Together their names mean: “God remembers His promise.” But what promise?


(Photo: Painting of Elizabeth and Mary at Ein Kerem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As a priest, Zacharias took his turn to enter the temple and burn incense. To his surprise, someone suddenly showed up:

An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.” (Luke 1:11-13)

These barren parents would miraculously have a son, John the Baptist, would point people to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Three Covenants Fulfilled in One Person

After John’s birth, Zacharias explained by divine inspiration how God remembered His covenant. In fact, how God remembered all three unconditional covenants in the Old Testament.

  1. The Covenant to Abraham—God promised Abraham land, descendants, and blessing (Gen. 12:1-3). Zecharias said: “to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father” (Luke 1:72-73).
  2. The Covenant to David—God promised David that one from his house would sit on his Jerusalem throne and reign over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16). Zecharias said: “[God] has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant” (Luke 1:69).
  3. The New Covenant to Israel—God promised Israel a New Covenant, one that would replace the Mosaic Covenant and that would bring forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:6-13).  Zecharias said: “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77).

The meaning of Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s names are found in the old man’s words:

And to remember His holy covenant . . . —Luke 1:72

Indeed, God had remembered His covenant! Their son John would point people to Jesus, the One who would fulfill all of the promises.

Ein Kerem

(Photo: Ein Kerem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Ein Kerem Reminder: God Has Not Forgotten You

You are waiting on God too, aren’t you?

  • A relationship to mend.
  • A debilitating disease to receive relief or healing.
  • Guidance for a major life decision.
  • Having a child.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,” Peter reminds us (2 Peter 3:9). “As some count slowness” refers to those who demand God perform on their timetable and not His.

Zacharias and Elizabeth were so old, they likely had given up hope of having a child. Even though this old couple was past the time when God’s promise “could” come true, they both remained “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).

You may have been waiting on God for a long time already. Don’t allow God’s delay distract you from faithfulness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancée from prison:

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Whatever it is you’re waiting on God for, remember that the fulfillment of all of your longings is ultimately found in Jesus. Even if you wait your whole life, you have God’s promise that Christ will make all things right for you—and in you—when He comes for you.

God’s delay doesn’t represent God’s apathy. He has something special planned.

God remembers His promise.

Tell me what you think: What helps you hang on when waiting on God feels too long? To leave a comment, just click here.

Waiting on GodLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.

• What do you do when the life God has promised you looks nothing like the life he has given you?

If you find yourself waiting on God—or if you don’t know what God wants you to do next—this book offers a wise and practical guide to finding hope and peace in life’s difficult pauses.

You will discover what to do when it seems God does nothing.


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  • What helps you hang on when waiting on God feels too long?

  • LKO

    Encouragement from other believers who speak the truth of God’s Word helps me hang on in seasons of waiting – I suppose that is why we’re told in the NT to “exhort one another.” An encouraging word, a timely verse – God uses such simple things to refresh our parched souls in seasons that can seem interminable.

  • Joanna L Kearns

    Wayne what helps you?

    • I helps me to remember that God’s delay doesn’t represent God’s apathy. He has something special planned.


    Yes i’m still waiting on God,i hope He would Help me soon

  • editha c. llamera

    For more than five years , we’re waiting for God to act in His own timetable. We prayed and fasted regularly for a campsite. I believe it’s worth waiting for God prepared the best and His Name will be glorified. Amen! Whatsoever His answer, He isa still our God who cares! Where God leads, He will provide for He is a God of more than enough.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Editha. God sure deserves our trust and waiting on Him, because He is trustworthy. Thanks.

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  • Nahashon Wasilwa

    The fact that God has been gracious to me and given me the gift of life, makes me wait as i meditate on His word. I am not late, people who are late are dead and therefore the fact that i am alive means God is preparing me for greater things. Surely a live dog is better than a dead lion, there is hope. May God give me strength of waiting.

    • You’re right, Nahashon. And I love that proverbs about the live dog! So true. May the Lord bless you as you wait on Him.