December 3 | ZechariahWritten by University Communications
You never know how a day will go.
On the morning of the most important day of his life, the priest Zechariah had no idea what lay ahead. Throughout his life he had been brought up in the study and practice of the Law. He routinely participated in the rituals of worship and sacrifice, so when it came time for his division to be on duty and he was chosen “according to the custom of the priesthood” to burn the incense, anything out of the ordinary was not expected.
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
- Luke 1:68
But then it happened. An angel appeared before him—such a sudden apparition of otherworldly proportions materialized right in front of him that fear reached into his chest and wrapped its fingers around his heart, squeezing it ever so softly. And then the angel spoke.
Before we move on from here, think about how silent God had been among his people. For hundreds of years, there had been nary a word nor messenger. No prophet had given any instruction or correction or exhortation, so for Zechariah to see an angel and then for him to speak…that was astounding.
And the message that the angels spoke is something that Zechariah couldn’t believe. “Guess what?” Gabriel told him, “your prayer has been answered.”
Do you think that at first Zechariah had to go through his mental list of prayers? Was it for that pain in his knee? Maybe it was a conflict with that neighbor? Or Elizabeth’s health? A promotion? A vacation? The hope of a child was so far in his past I wonder if he even considered that one as a possibility.
“Your wife Elizabeth will have a boy, and you will name him John.”
“What?!?” The shock must have flowed through him so that he hardly remembered to keep listening.
“And not only will you have a son, but your son will be incredible, set apart, and the one who prepares the way of the Lord’s salvation.”
It was too much to handle—the sudden apparition, the angelic voice, the old hope that had been allowed to die. Now the angel awaited his response.
“Are you sure you mean us? I mean, Liz and I are kind of older and our window for kids has passed.”
But Gabriel didn’t change his tune. In fact, he told Zechariah his name, explained his position as the messenger of God, and then demonstrated the authority of the message by telling him he would be mute until the birth of John. And then zap—his voice was gone.
Probably not the way that Zechariah had imagined his day would turn out.
We know how the story goes from here. Elizabeth became pregnant and gave birth to John. The whole extended family was so excited to see this new addition that they had assumed the baby’s name would be that of his father, but Elizabeth and Zechariah insisted that his name be John, just as the angel commanded. The whole crowd looked to Zechariah for confirmation, and at that very moment, his voice returned.
Don’t you love Zechariah’s first words? It had been a little over nine months of total silence, and you know that he had built up plenty of things to say to others, but his first inclination, his first response, his first words, are praise. “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed,” Luke tells us, “and he began to speak, praising God.”
Zechariah’s song that follows is a proclamation of God’s power. It tells of his mercy and ability to overcome His people’s enemies. As he closes, he reflects on the future ministry of John and the coming of the Lord and His salvation.
Zechariah never expected to encounter news about Jesus when he woke up and went to work, but it didn’t matter to the Lord. He appears in our lives according to His timetable, not ours.
The question is, are we ready? Do we wake up with the expectation of encountering Jesus? Do we long for that moment when He will break through our day? Or do we act like Zechariah and scoff when He does?
For Zechariah, it meant nine months of silence and then overwhelming praise.
Let’s try not to go the long way around. Let’s prepare to praise right now.