“In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 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. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: ‘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.’ Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’ 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. 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.’ 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. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’”
Zechariah and Elizabeth had God’s approval. They were called righteous in His sight. Wow! What a declaration about someone. And yet, they had no children. It even tells us who was the cause. It says that Elizabeth could not have children. She was barren.
Not only was it humiliating and heartbreaking to wear that stigma, but it put her marriage at risk. So important to the men of Israel was the command to be fruitful and multiply, that if a wife did not bear a child within a decade, it was grounds for divorce.
But her husband was not that kind of a man. They lived, loved, and followed the Lord but without a child. They waited and hoped, but the years wore on until they were old, too old.
Written for all of us to understand, they followed the Lord, they wanted children, but they couldn’t.
You see, they were called to be a part of God’s story. It means He controlled the days, months, years, and decades.
Being a part of God’s story might mean, “No.” It might mean, “Yes.” It might mean, “Wait.”
They probably thought they were called to a “No” life. No child, no reasons, no answers, no voice from God to respond to their questions. But then the morning of a lifetime dawned because they were about to encounter a miracle. They were about to discover that God had been writing every page of their story.
Being old didn’t mean it was about to be over. It meant it was about to begin.
Zechariah was chosen to enter the Temple to burn incense. As he stood worshiping, suddenly the angel Gabriel stood next to him. Zechariah was overcome with fear. He didn’t speak, but for the first time in over four hundred years a message of God was spoken. Gabriel had news. Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son and he was not going to be an ordinary son. He would be extraordinary. Even before his birth he would proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ. It would be his mission every day of his life.
Zechariah had just heard the most profound words spoken in over four hundred years. Standing right in front of him was Gabriel, one of the warrior messengers of God. Zechariah had been speechless, but then he found his voice. He didn’t speak with praise or thankfulness. He spoke with doubt and asked for more proof.
The convincing proof was right in front of him, and yet he doubted and asked for more proof. Wasn’t it enough to hear God’s Word spoken?
Is it enough for us? We also have convincing proof right in front of us. We have the truth of God’s Word spoken to us and yet too often we ask for more proof.
But his doubts didn’t change the Word that was spoken. Our doubts are never a match for God’s Word. It was true then. It is true now. It will be true for all eternity.
What was spoken would happen. Zechariah’s doubting voice was silenced. He would not be able to tell of his encounter. He would have to wait until he held his extraordinary son in his arms. He would have his proof. At that time, he would be given back his voice. At that time, he wouldn’t whisper doubts. He would shout praise.