Great Saints Still Make Mistakes

Zechariah and Elizabeth are not without sin.

Luke 1:19-25 (ESV)

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

As great as Zechariah and Elizabeth are in the kingdom of heaven (which is pretty great) we see here some serious error on their part. Gabriel strikes Zechariah dumb for the outrageous stupidity of not believing him. This is for a purpose; he needs to have this seared into his memory. Gabriel points out specifically that this is, “because you did not believe my words.” Zechariah now has 9 months to think about that.

Notice Elizabeth’s error too. She is grateful that God has taken away her reproach among people. That’s not unexpected but still sinful and petty. The news that Gabriel has delivered is infinitely more significant than Elizabeth’s popularity. She’s missing the point.

If you were a friend of Zechariah’s, what would you be praying for right now? If you were Zechariah, what would your prayers (and prayer requests) be? They’d probably be way off the mark, right?

We might be praying for Zechariah’s speech to be restored. Wrong! Or for Elizabeth’s pregnancy to go smoothly. Wrong, but at least not ridiculous. Or for Gabriel’s prophesy to some true. Silly, but you’re getting warmer. Or for Zachariah and Elizabeth to be strengthened for what’s coming next. Bingo!

Gabriel’s prophesy is certifiably true. This is going to happen. But John is going to be a piece of work. Zechariah and Elizabeth need prayers and they need help. Both are about to show up.

We all have prayers that we can’t shake – the ones that are always on our minds even when we’re not praying. But are we asking for the right things? How would we even know?

Here’s a suggestion. Pick something that’s been weighing on your soul and commit to a full half-hour of prayer for that one thing. It’s OK if it’s about you. Over time, the spirit may redirect your prayers.

Let this happen. The subject may even change and you’ll find yourself praying about something else.

In the end, you’ll be exhausted, but wondrous things may have happened. Write down where God led you. Save your notes; they will amaze you some day.

Intense prayer is different.

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

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.