Luke 1:18-25 (NIV) 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 answered, “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 proper 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.”
The fact that Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a son was amazing news – unbelievable, since they were both well advanced in years. So, despite his years of praying, and his years of hope that his prayers would be answered, Zechariah’s faith was sorely lacking. Even with an angel making him the promise, he was unwilling to simply believe and receive.
Faith, action spurred by belief in God’s promise is essential for those who would receive any promised blessings. God had selected Zechariah and Elizabeth, and He could foresee that they could both be brought to a place where they would believe and act, but Zechariah was going to need a strong push in the right direction. The silencing of his voice was not as much punishment as it was a form of the proof that he was asking for – albeit an inconvenient form of proof. But it had the benefit that it was something that he could not deny or explain away. One moment he could speak, and the next, no sound came out, no matter how hard he tried.
Faith is vital for those who would participate with God in what He is doing, as well as for those who are simply looking for blessing, because in both cases, there is always a part for the participant or seeker to play, even if it is simply going and washing in a pool (John 9:7), or holding out one’s hand (Mark 3:5), or taking up a mat and walking home (Luke 5:24), and without faith people simply will not act. They will always be second-guessing what God tells them to do, acting timidly, or completely refusing to act out of fear that God won’t hold up His end of the deal.
When Zechariah came out of the temple, he wanted so badly to share what he had seen and heard, but he couldn’t make a sound, and waving his arms around didn’t communicate anything more than the fact that he had experienced something amazing while he was in the temple.
After he returned home to Elizabeth, he was eventually able to communicate to her what had happened. It took her a short time to really allow her heart to believe – she had often been disappointed in the past. But soon she was convinced, and was willing to give it one more shot. And, through their faith, their actions spurred by belief in God’s promise, she was enabled to finally become pregnant. She stayed out of the public eye for five months, long enough to convince her that the pregnancy would not miscarry, but the whole time she knew that she was at last being blessed with her heart’s desire.
Father, when I pray, help me never to do so with even the smallest doubt that you will actually accomplish what I am praying for – even more so when You give me the assurance that You will do what I am asking. Instead, keep my heart always hopeful and optimistic so that I will immediately act in faith to do any part of Your plan that You allot to me, without any fear or doubt.