And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
(Luke 2:13-14 NKJ)
In part two of this series, we saw that as believers betrothed to Christ, if our prayer lives are barren, the responsibility for this is entirely ours.
Moving on with Luke’s account of the nativity story, let’s now consider Elizabeth’s husband, Zachariah.
Solid Belief, or Spiritual Scepticism?
Gabriel appears to Elizabeth’s husband, whilst he is carrying out his priestly duties. We understand through Gabriel’s words that Zachariah had prayed to God about his wife’s barrenness. He is now being told “your prayer is heard”.
Do you think Zachariah’s request had somehow been misdirected… had been bouncing around the heavenly sphere and only reached God’s throne around the time of Gabriel’s visit?
Of course not! Zachariah’s words were heard from the very first time he uttered his prayer. Perhaps it was years, even decades after his prayer, before Gabriel’s appearance. It would seem Zachariah had completely given up on receiving his prayer request, had even perhaps forgotten his petition. Clearly though, God had not!
We can understand, maybe even relate to Zachariah’s response, as Gabriel tells him God is now intending to grant his request and that his wife will bear him a son. Zachariah is sceptical. Zachariah’s unbelief, based upon his sense-knowledge and experience of life, rules out the supernatural ability and intervention of God.
Compare Zachariah’s attitude with the Virgin Mary’s response when she learns that she’s about to conceive the long-awaited Messiah. Mary’s questioning of the angelic messenger sprang (understandably), from honest bewilderment and confusion. She is a virgin. She knows she hasn’t been intimate with a man. She’s aware that procreation requires sexual intimacy.
However, once Gabriel explained how the miracle would occur, her immediate response was humble submission. On the other hand, Zachariah’s questioning of Gabriel stemmed from unbelief. The priest’s response was not only an affront to the heavenly messenger but also tantamount to calling God a liar.
Perhaps you are wondering, why Zachariah’s questioning should be seen less favourably than Mary’s. What was the difference between the two questions asked regarding two equally impossible situations?
I believe the difference lies in the fact that Zachariah, aware his wife was barren, was in effect asking God for a miracle. Gabriel confirms that his prayer had not only been heard but is about to be granted. The difference between the two individuals is that Mary believed what she had been told. You will recall from our discussion in Part 1 of this series, that without faith, we cannot please God.
Now, either Zachariah thought Gabriel had lied, or else he felt the miracle he’d sought was now beyond even God’s supreme power. Since passage of time had placed Elizabeth outside the cycle of fertility (according to human perception), he felt a miracle was now out of the question. He believed God’s intervention had to occur within the natural realms of possibility. Zachariah expected God to answer his request within a certain time-frame.
I believe we can make this supposition because of Gabriel’s response to Zachariah’s challenge. He says:
…you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time (Luke 1:20 NKJ – emphasis mine).
Of Mary however, it is said:
Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord (Luke 1:45 NKJ)
Luke 1:37 further assures us that there is nothing impossible for the Lord. In other words, no word of God is incapable of fulfilment.
Do you believe that our Heavenly Father is a God who honours His Word? Do you believe in your heart (not your head) that He specialises in the impossible?
(To be continued/…)
CREDITS: All graphics within this post are CC0 Images courtesy of Pixabay.com