"And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 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. 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." Luke 1:18-20
Zechariah’s disbelief in the words of Gabriel aren’t too shocking for us to hear. When we experience years of pain and trials it is normal for us to become pessimistic and feel utterly defeated. It actually might have seemed abnormal or unreal for Zechariah to respond with something like, “Hot skippy, I knew this would happen!” But, instead, we see a man who is hesitant to believe that what he and his wife have longed for will actually come to pass. Hardships and pain have a way of making us look only for the bad things in life. They have a way of opening our eyes only to the obstacles of our lives. Zechariah can only see the old age of Elizabeth and of himself, and the length of time his prayer has gone unanswered; he can only see what stands in the way of God answering his prayers. Therefore, when he is told of this child to come, he asks a question that shows very clearly his disbelief and he is given a consequence because of this unbelief.
In our lives we often become like Zechariah. We pray and pray and pray for things, yet our prayers never seem to be answered. It is safe to assume, that in the old age of Elizabeth and Zechariah, they had long ago ceased to pray for a child. However, their prayer was heard, remembered, and answered by God in his own time. At the time our prayers are answered, much joy and gladness may come from that answer. We see this first in the name of John, which means “Jehovah is a gracious giver”, and then upon the birth of John these new parents would have much joy and gladness. In this, we see comfort and sweetness of the mercies of God; first, to know that indeed our prayers are heard, and second, that when our prayers are finally answered it is doubly sweet. Mercies that are long awaited are all the more accepted when God finally grants them. In our lives we will become discouraged and experience difficult times when God seems to be far from us. We will pray and even disbelieve the answers to those prayers at times. However none of this nullifies the grace, the goodness, or the plan of God. We can lean in and embrace our weakness knowing that the plan of God includes our good joy and gladness and, ultimately, the worship and glory of Jesus Christ.
- Genesis 15:8
- Genesis 17:17
- Acts 10:4,31