1st Week of Advent: Zechariah’s Angel
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name 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.” (vv. 13-17)
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” (v. 18)
Zechariah was a priest, which meant he had spent his life studying the scriptures, and was therefore well-acquainted with what the Word of God said. If anyone would have faith, we might assume it would be a priest. However, his response to the angel’s message suggests that this man of God’s faith wasn’t as strong as it should be, and it seems his relationship to God was more ritualistic and liturgical than personal. In his study of the scriptures, he had to have read the accounts of the Lord answering prayers and fulfilling His promises. Yet when the angel appeared to him, breaking into his rituals to tell him that his own prayers would be answered, his response suggested a lack of faith. He could not bring himself to believe the angel’s words; he immediately provided the reason why God’s promise couldn’t come true.
The angel’s message was not only news of an answer to Zechariah’s personal prayer for a son; it also held a deeper significance for all of God’s people. The long-awaited son for Zechariah and Elizabeth would be the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah who would take away the sin of the world. In responding doubtfully to the angel’s promise of a son, it appears that Zechariah completely missed the second part of the message given to him. Did he doubt the news of the coming Messiah as much as he doubted the news that there would be a child in his house at last?
Application and Questions to Ponder:
Christmas is often considered a time of miracles, a time to believe that prayers will be answered and that our wildest dreams will be realized. In our scientific and all-too-often skeptical world, miracles have been relegated to Christian novels, Hallmark movies, and the occasional Readers Digest article. If and when a miracle does occur in someone’s life, there is always someone who bursts in to offer a rational explanation–the doctors gave the wrong diagnosis, someone read the medical tests wrong, the vehicle was built to protect occupants in the event of an accident. But where we don’t allow for the possibility of miracles, we also don’t allow for the possibility of God to act.
Have you been praying earnestly and seeking God for something in your life? Do you truly believe that God can and will answer those prayers? How would you respond if God sent an angel to you right now to tell you that God had heard your prayer and would answer it?
What promises has God made to you that you can’t bring yourself to believe? What reasons have you given God for why His promises can’t/won’t come true?