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.
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. …
… 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.” (Luke 1)
Zechariah was a priest. A respected man of an honored lineage – set apart for God’s service.
…And though he had prayed for years,
Zechariah’s wife remained barren. Disgraced.
Now God was finally choosing to answer their prayers —
Up close and personal.
In the temple.
With an angel.
Hard to get more sure than that!
And yet Zech just had to ask: “How can I be sure?”
Ummm… probably not the best response.
So I just have to ask: “Yo, Zach, dude, you really couldn’t just ROLL with it?!
* * *
Why is it so easy to believe the bad report, and not the good?
Why do we ever struggle with believing in God’s love for us?
Is it just the deceitfulness of Sin?
Has the enemy’s voice become so familiar, it just feels safer?
Or do we just go with our eyes and our gut? (And forget that’s what got us humans here in the first place!)
But here’s the deal: I so totally “get” Zechariah’s response.
We live in a “prove it” world after all. And with technology’s trickery, how could we NOT?
And honestly, what’s wrong with, “How can I be sure?” I mean, the Lord asks us to test the spirits, right? Count the cost. Discern the Truth. Watch for wolves dressed as good guys… and all that wisdom jazz.
And then there’s the slippery, treacherous slope of unanswered prayers.
Here, when Hope was knocking on Zechariah’s heart right in front of his face, he put his faith in all the dawns of unanswered emptiness instead.
Zechariah let himself fall into the default mode of fear and doubt
… instead of falling on his face in thankfulness.
Yet, even still I think I understand: all those years of serving God faithfully, all those years of others muttering behind your back wondering what sin, what curse was lurking in your past… all those years of an empty cradle. How hard it would have been to believe it was all finally over – the reproach finally gone. Caught off guard. Incredulous. Yep, I’d be talking to that angel too:
“Whoa, Gabe, hang on, just a sec. Yeah, you’re all shiny and bright and completely scared the bejeebers out of me, but I’ve been praying a long time. Years. And actually, I guess, maybe praying turned into more a habit than a real hope. I guess maybe I stopped believing my prayer mattered. I don’t know. But I DO know this is NOT how I imagined I’d be answered. Life has gotten a little fuzzy and my mind is not what it used to be and maybe this ol’ fool is losing it after all. I’m just so tired. Done. Worn out. So, excuse me Sir, but I just have to ask, “How can I be sure?”
An honest question…
And what’s wrong with that?!
Nothing at all
… because God meets us where we’re at.
And in Zechariah’s case, he was met with the proof of a silent tongue.
Zach wasn’t being punished, he was being disciplined. There’s a big difference. Zach was being taught…shown. He was being loved.
The raging whirlwind of doubt and worry and confusion and all the unanswered years – were quieted. Literally.
…”How can I be sure?”
Well, let me show you, Zach, and you’ll be silent until you are sure. Watch and see the glory of the Lord. No more words for a while, just watch. You didn’t believe, Zechariah. That’s okay, you will – and others will too because of you. And in the fullness of this answered prayer, you will give thanks to Almighty God – who loves you regardless of your doubt.
It would appear that sometimes answered prayer comes with the need for silent strength, with the need for time to ponder and acknowledge the work of God’s hand.
It would appear that sometimes answered prayer comes with Hope smacking us upside the face, and yet it still comes anyway
despite how “dumb” we can be! ( 😉 )
It would appear that the only thing we need be sure of
is how much we are loved by God.
Lord, make my life a prayer to you.
Watering Today: Prov. 25; ps 25, 125; Jeremiah 31-32; Luke 1