“But Lord, Your endless love stretches from one eternity to the other, unbroken and unrelenting toward those who fear You and those who bow facedown in awe before You. Your faithfulness to keep every gracious promise You’ve made passes from parents, to children, to grandchildren, and beyond. You are faithful to all those who follow Your ways and keep Your word.” Psalm 103:17-18
In Luke, chapter one, it is made clear that Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, spent many years praying for a child, to no avail, because Elizabeth was barren. At this point they are now well into their years, “now they both were quite old.” Luke 1:7
Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were “lovers of God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord fully.” Luke 1:6 They were also both from a family line of priest, and Zechariah served in the temple as a priest.
One day, while Zechariah’s priestly order was on duty and he was serving as priest, it happened by the casting of lots (according to the custom of the priesthood) that the honor fell upon Zechariah to enter into the Holy Place and burn incense before the Lord. A large crowd of worshipers had gathered to pray outside the temple at the hour when incense was being offered. All at once an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing just to the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was startled and overwhelmed with fear. But the angel reassured him, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God is showing grace to you. For I have come to tell you that your prayer for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John. His birth will bring you much joy and gladness. Many will rejoice because of him. He will be one of the great ones in the sight of God. He will drink no wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in his mother’s womb. And he will persuade many in Israel to convert and turn back to the Lord their God. He will go before the Lord as a forerunner, with the same power and anointing as Elijah the prophet. He will be instrumental in turning the hearts of the fathers in tenderness back to their children and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of their righteous fathers. And he will prepare a united people who are ready for the Lord’s appearing.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child. What sign can you give me to prove this will happen?
Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel. I stand beside God Himself. He has sent me to announce to you this good news. But now, since you did not believe my words you will be stricken silent and unable to speak until the day my words have been fulfilled and their appointed time and a child is born to you. That will be your sign!” Luke 1:8-20
It is known that there were so many priests that served in that day, that each priest only had one chance at getting the honor of entering into the Holy Place and burning incense before the Lord. Just one! The Passion Translation notes say: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for him.”
After spending his life faithfully serving the Lord as a priest, you would think that he would not question when the angel of the Lord stands before in the Holy Place and tells him, in detail, all the wonderful things that the Lord is going to do for him and his wife Elizabeth, and their son!
Zechariah and Elizabeth were married, they had longed and prayed for a child for many years, they were established and well respected. God was about to answer their prayers and give them the desire of their hearts!
As a priest Zechariah knew the scriptures; he knew the miraculous story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. His position as priest was in itself enough to expect him to recognize and believe the word of the Lord. The angel Gabriel clearly laid out the plan to Zechariah, and he was to see his promise fulfilled within a short period of time, yet he still wanted a sign from God to prove what He was saying was true.
Just a few verses later, the same angel, Gabriel, visits Mary, but this time there is a very remarkably different outcome.
During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent from God’s presence to an unmarried girl named Mary, living in Nazareth, a village in Galilee. She was engaged to a man name Joseph, a true descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Grace to you, young woman, for the Lord is with you and so you are anointed with great favor.”
Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her. But the angel reassured her, saying, “Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift. You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name Him Jesus. He will be supreme and will be known as the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will enthrone Him as King on His ancestor David’s throne. He will reign as King of Israel forever, and His reign will have no limit.”
Mary said, “But how could this happen? I am still a virgin!”
Gabriel answered, “The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and Almighty God will spread His shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! This is why the child born to you will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your aged aunt, Elizabeth, has also become pregnant with a son. The ‘barren one’ is now in her sixth month. Not one promise from God is empty of power, for nothing is impossible with God!
Then Mary responded, saying, “This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord! As His servant, I accept whatever He has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38
In contrast to Zechariah, Mary was just a young girl, not yet married; she was not a priest or a scholar. What Gabriel told Mary was so much more unbelievable than what he told Zechariah. A virgin conceiving a child is more unimaginable and miraculous than an old woman conceiving a child. And yet, Mary believed!
Mary responded to the words of the Lord with surrender and obedience. She is blessed, honored and has been given great favor because she believed every word spoken to her from the Lord.
We are in strange and wonderful times! The atmosphere is ripe for signs, wonders and miracles; “Then God added His witness to theirs. He validated their ministry with signs, astonishing wonders, all kinds of powerful miracles, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which He distributed as He desired.” Hebrews 2:4
We must learn to recognize the voice of our Lord for ourselves, for, “There’s a private place reserved for the lovers of God, where they sit near Him and receive the revelation-secrets of His promises.” Psalm 25:14
We must also learn to recognize and discern the voice of our Lord through our leaders, our pastors, prophets and teachers. “ My brothers and sisters, take the prophets as your mentors. They have prophesied in the name of the Lord and it brought them great sufferings, yet they patiently endured.” James 5:10
Unbelief silences your voice. Zechariah’s voice was silenced because of his unbelief, but it did not stop God’s faithfulness! God did show grace to Zechariah and he saw the miracle that was promised to him, despite himself. As he wrote the name of the baby on a tablet, “Instantly Zechariah could speak again. And his first words were praises to the Lord.” Luke 1:64
It is vital for us to stand firm in faith, clinging to the words of the Lord, regardless of when the word comes to pass, for it will surely come in the appointed time.
Faith empowers us to hope; “Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen.” Hebrews 11:1
Faith empowers us to believe the power of God’s word; “Faith empowers us to see that the universe was created and beautifully coordinated by the power of God’s words! He spoke and the invisible realm gave birth to all that is seen.” Hebrews 11:3
Faith empowers us to surrender; “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be to me according to Your word.” Luke 1:38
Faith empowers us to wait on the Lord’s appointed time; “I am God, at the right time I’ll make it happen.” Isaiah 60:22
Faith empowers us to please our Father; “And without faith living within us it would be impossible to please God. For we come to God in faith knowing that He is real and that He rewards the faith of those who give all their passion and strength into seeking Him.” Hebrews 11:6
Faith is God’s love language and His heart yearns for us to believe and trust in Him whatever the circumstances.
Great favor, blessings and honor come to us when we believe the unbelievable, when we truly believe that our God is big enough and good enough to do what He says He’s going to do. He is faithful and trustworthy and certainly capable of performing what He said He would. Let it be said of each of us, just as it was said of Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!” Luke 1:45
Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen Me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!” John 20:29