And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
If an angel told you that you, or your wife, would become pregnant in old age how would you respond? Shock? Fear? Excitement? Disbelief? None of us can blame Zechariah for his response. I mean, at least it was better than Sarah who laughed when the angel told Abraham she would have a son. While his answer is understandable, it certainly does not please God for there are consequences to his response.
How often are we like Zechariah? The Lord is at work in a particular area of our life and we just cannot believe that it is really Him working. We doubt that a particular opportunity is from Him. We undermine His work thinking that He would be better off using someone else. When prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak the name of Christ, we come up with an excuse as to why we should not or cannot do it.
It is easy to point out the spiritual failures of others. But ours are just as glaring. We fall woefully short of God’s call to be holy as He is holy. Yet there is hope. In Christ, there is an abundance of pardon and mercy for the worst of sinners. God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8). When you sin, run to Jesus.
Zechariah repents, but there are still consequences for his lack of belief. The Lord makes him mute until his son is born. There is a certain sense of irony in this punishment. Zechariah just heard the best news the people of God had heard in 400 years and now he could not even speak about it.
Yet in the discipline, God was teaching Zechariah an important lesson. He was teaching him to trust his word. In a sense, Zechariah wanted a sign that these things would be true and God gave him one. Since Zechariah failed to believe this good news, God forbid him from sharing it.
We must learn to trust God’s words. The place where we find them today is the Bible. So often we doubt the promises of God. We think His commands really are not for our good. We cannot fathom His love and forgiveness are for us after all we have done. But the Word of God is true. It never fails. And the call for you and me is to take God at His Word.
Prayer — Father, thank you for answering prayers. Help me to take you at your word. May I not be a man or woman of doubt. Strengthen my faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.