Faith Filled Stories – Zechariah
Sometimes we can get frustrated that we are faithful to the Lord, but don’t see our desires fulfilled. We can feel like we’ve connected with the Lord and served Him well. We’ve been grateful for all He’s given us, yet our deepest desire has been left ungranted. Why would God give us a desire for something He doesn’t plan to do anything with?
That can translate into different things. Sometimes He does give us the desires for other purposes. For example, I always wanted to be a nurse. I loved helping people, was empathetic towards their physical issues, and loved the variety and adrenaline of the job. But, when it didn’t work out for me, I was hurt and confused. Now, years later, I can see that it was more the heart and character of a nurse that He prepared in me, rather than the vocational position. Other times though, God gives us the desire, but it comes at a much later date than we planned.
Zechariah was a faithful servant of the Lord. He came from the lineage of Levi. He was a priest and stuck closely to the requirements of the Law. He was getting old in years, but was grateful for the privilege he had to serve the people of Israel.
It is interesting that he was so faithful. The culture and timing of his ministry was a tough one. The people of Israel had not heard from the Lord, nor seen any sign of Him, in over 400 years. They had become corrupt, especially in the leadership level. Many of the priests created new rules for the people to follow that were way over and above what God had intended. They stole from the Israelites and made themselves a higher authority than what belonged to them. The people of Israel weren’t exactly great either. So, the fact that Zechariah was “righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6) was a miracle in itself.
In the priestly service, the priests would cast lots (do a draw) to see who would go into the holy place to burn incense. They were representing the people of Israel durng this service, so it was a privilege. According to the notes in my Bible, there were approximately 18,000 priests in Israel at the time. The lot was cast, and Zechariah was chosen!
He went into the sanctuary and lit the incense while everyone waited in the rest of the temple praying. Zechariah was the representative for the people of Israel before the Lord. If God wasn’t pleased with the offering, the priest would die on their behalf. If He was pleased, the priest would live.
While performing this duty, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah. This same angel met Daniel hundreds of years earlier. “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.” (Luke 1:12) Remember that the people of Israel had not seen or heard from God in hundreds of years. So, seeing an angel would be a massive shock!
Gabriel told Zechariah that his prayers were heard. He and his wife would have a son, and they were to name him John. This child would be great in the sight of the Israelites, bringing joy and delight. He would be a prophet, preparing the way for Jesus, the Messiah. He would bring people back to Truth, equipped with the same power and authority of the great prophet Elijah. He would be “filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15b).
Wow. This was going to be some baby! There hadn’t been a noted prophet in the last 400 years. They hadn’t seen any sign of the Holy Spirit around. They hadn’t had anything remotely pointing to the Messiah. This all would have sounded amazing and crazy to Zechariah. Don’t forget that he was old. He and his wife. They knew Abraham’s story well. But that was like a one-of-a-kind type deal. Stories of legends from long ago. This man, Zechariah, was just one servant upon many others. He was an honourable man, but probably would have considered himself a nobody in light of the people that had gone before him. Now he was standing in front of an angel, hearing that he was going to bear a son, and that this child was going to have a profound legacy.
Zechariah didn’t know what to do. In shock of the fact that an angel was talking to him, and that he was hearing he would have quite a powerful son, his instant reaction was doubt. Though others questioned the Lord and been fine, Zechariah’s questioning was in doubt. But it was all supposed to be that way so that God could prove His glory and power that much more.
You see, because Zechariah doubted what the angel had said to him, the angel muted Zechariah and made him deaf until the birth of his child. He walked out of the inner part of the temple, and the people were amazed. He was in there longer than most priests would have been. They noticed by his signalling to them that he could no longer speak.
He returned to his home speechless and deaf before his wife. I’m sure it was interesting trying to explain everything to her when he couldn’t hear or speak. Either way, as it says, in God’s “proper time” (Luke 1:20b), Zechariah and his wife conceived.
They eventually bore their son. But Zechariah’s test of faith didn’t end in the inner sanctuary of the temple. He had another test from the Lord. Gabriel told Zechariah that he was to name his son John. No one in Zechariah’s family had that name. Levites kept to their lineage’s names. This was breaking tradition.
People tried to change the name when the child was born because it didn’t make sense. Finally, they went to Zechariah to confirm what his son’s name was actually going to be. They gave him something to write on, and he wrote: “His name will be John. And they were all amazed” (Luke 1:63).
“Immediately [Zechariah’s] mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, ‘What then will this child become?’ For indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Luke 1:64-67). Zechariah went on to prophesy about the life of his son John and the work that he would do to prepare and draw people to Jesus.
We don’t know or understand God’s ways or His timing but we can trust that it is always good and perfect. All that we do is for His purpose and His glory. Our lives are not supposed to be about ourselves. Zechariah had an important role to play as a priest. But he had an even greater role as a father to this child. He needed to grow in great wisdom, knowing the word of God deeply, and walking in righteousness in order to prepare for this child. He would have to instruct John with all that he knew. He had to wait for this precious child, because the Lord had to prepare this father for the task. He wasn’t ready before that.
Abraham had to grow in deep faith and preparation with the Lord in order to become a father of the greatest nation. Zechariah,too, had to grow in these things to prepare for one of the greatest prophets.
What we cannot see in the present can leave room for doubt and questioning of God’s purpose for us. However, when we can set all of that aside, we can be assured that God is building our character for something great. We are called to be faithful servants of Him; to love and grow with Him above all else. Then, when God’s proper time comes, He will give to us that which we desire. This in turn will be whatever His good and perfect will is for us. Child or not, we will know what that is if we seek Him with all our heart.