Luke 1, from The Message
5-7During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zacharias. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.
8-12It so happened that as Zacharias was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was paralyzed in fear.
13-15But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zacharias. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.
15-17“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”
18Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
19-20But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Zacharias was mute until the day John the Baptist was named.
You might well have heard this story in the past month or two. I did, and it stood out to me. Here was Zacharias, a priest who served God wholeheartedly, and an angel from God appears to him. This is an angel of God, the type that has to start off with “Don’t fear,” and by the time he’s done telling Zacharias that he is going to be the father of John the Baptist in some detail, Zacharias’s response is “Do you expect me to believe this?”
Can you imagine what Zacharias must have been gone through to come to this point? I wonder how many times he’d been prayed over and even prophesied over that he would have a child, and it never happened. I wonder how many times he laid awake at night in bed unable to sleep, weeping to God, wondering if God really does reward those who seek him. At some point, he must have given up entirely, not wanting to think about it at all.
That is the faith of these modern times.
God often seems hard to find. We can explain things that the ancient man attributed to God. We know that people often see the things they want to see, and we’ve been disappointed in life time and again. We have so many distractions that we have a hard time stopping and hearing God, if we ever can. We believe that God can do anything; we doubt that God is even there at all. And if an angel appeared to us, we’d question everything about it, especially if it was what we wanted to hear.
I went through a long phase of my life where I really didn’t want people to pray over me or talk to me about the things I really wanted and couldn’t have. I didn’t want to dig into that desire and disappointment. Hoping hurt too much.
God is still merciful with our unbelief. Zacharias was punished but forgiven. As for us, Jesus said we have more than we need to believe. His words… “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 19)
God has given enough. I have to trust that.