God Answers Zechariah's Prayer – And Then Some

But Zechariah can't handle the good news.

Luke 1:5-18a (ESV)

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this?”

Angels are scary. Every time the Bible recounts someone seeing an angel, they’re terrified and the angel has to calm them down (like with the shepherds when angels announced the birth of the Christ).

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not.” – Luke 2:9-10a

But Zechariah’s encounter with the angel is even scarier. He’s alone in the holy part of the temple, having been chosen by lot to offer incense. The angel really gives him a start.  So, he begins by saying, “Do not be afraid.” He then gives Zechariah the best news imaginable.

But Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this?” Oops! The problem is that he isn’t wondering about the mechanics of how this will happen; he’s questioning the truthfulness of the angel. The NIV renders his question as, “How can I be sure of this?

Zechariah is a man of God but he’s about to get one of the all-time great attitude adjustments.

Zechariah has been asking the Lord to take away his wife’s barrenness. God heard his prayer and will grant his request. Zechariah is greatly blessed.

People expect life to go a certain way, but it rarely does. Part of growing in Christ is learning to accept Him as Lord. This means relinquishing control over what happens next to another. The funny thing about this is that He has always had control. This is really all about being comfortable with that arrangement.

That’s what it means to “accept” Jesus as Lord.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.