September 10, 2020 – Thursday
Luke 1:18-20 NIV
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Luke begins with the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. What is unusual here is that he will be born to a childless couple, a priest named Zechariah (a descendent of Aaron of the Abijah line) and his wife Elizabeth (also a descendent of Aaron). We are told in verses six and seven, Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
However, on this occasion when Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, he was chosen to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. While inside the temple all the other worshipers were outside praying. Incredibly, at this time the angel Gabriel appeared before Zechariah greatly frightening him. It was then the angel spoke and said in verses 13-17, Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
This brings us to our Verses of the Day where Zechariah reacted in disbelief asking, How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. And here we have a great object lesson, to question God or His messengers is to act in disbelief. Zechariah did not say he did not believe the angel, but asked what we might consider a reasonable question, How can I be sure of this? His question did not result simply from their age, but also from their many years of marriage with no children because Elizabeth was not able to conceive.
Nonetheless, even in their advanced years God had chosen to answer their prayers for a child, sent a messenger – Gabriel – to inform them. Zechariah was a priest, a man of great faith, yet he found it difficult to believe when God answered his and his wife’s prayers. They had likely even stopped praying for a child due to their advanced age, perhaps for years. Yet God still answered their prayers. He answered on His schedule, not theirs. Thus, another object lesson for us. Even if we give up and quit praying, God is still God and He can fulfil a prayer request whenever He chooses to do so.
The key here is to still believe, to trust God, and His timing. Because Zechariah questioned in disbelief his ability to speak was taken from him. Thus, we read in verses 21-22, Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. Later Zechariah returned home and sometime later his wife Elizabeth conceived and remained in seclusion for five months. The reason for remaining in seclusion for five months is unknown, but believed it was to spend time praising God and waiting until her condition was obvious before she would announce in verse 25, The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people. The disgrace was, in reality, a sense of shame or incompleteness for being unable to bear a child and God took that away from her.
There are many Psalms that include the words, trust in the Lord. The one I think is most applicable here is Psalm 40:3, He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. I can so imagine Elizabeth with a song in her heart and mouth as she praises God for the gift of this child.