The DEEP

Zechariah Talks Back to Gabriel

So Gabriel hits him with the perfect comeback line.

Luke 1:18-19 (NKJV)

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.

Notice that Gabriel doesn’t detail how an old couple can produce a child. That’s not what Zechariah asked about. Zechariah asked, “How shall I know this?” – In other words, “How can I know that you’re telling the truth?”

Gabriel’s answer is magnificently blunt. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God.”

Remember Isaiah’s experience with standing in the presence of God?

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”
– Isaiah 6:4-5 (NKJV)

Isaiah is desperate when he says, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” He’s literally disintegrating.

And why is that? Because he’s a man of unclean lips. Just as Moses couldn’t see God’s face and live, Isaiah is too sinful to stand in the presence of God without coming undone.

But that’s not a problem for Gabriel; he stands in the presence of God all the time. It’s the ultimate lie-detector test and Gabriel passes it with flying colors.

And Zechariah totally gets this. So what he hears Gabriel saying is, “You couldn’t stand in the presence of God for five seconds. I do it every day.”


Zechariah is a true man of God and he has been chosen for an important role. Yet here we see some surprising cluelessness.

But, like Zechariah, we all need a clue. The problem with Zechariah, and with us, is being able to adjust our plans in the light of God’s direction. Unfortunately, people with lots of initiative often get grand ideas rolling without leaving enough room for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It’s great to make plans but we need to expect major changes and redirections. People are too attached to their dreams.

One of the great thrills of being a Christian is seeing God mess with our plans. Sometimes He just blesses them, but often He closes some doors and opens others. If we play along with these “plot twists” we’ll be able to look back years later and marvel at the way God choreographed things.

This can be thrilling, once you get used to it – but it does take some getting used to.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

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.