In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the
priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of
them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and
regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were
getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by
lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer
incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying
outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of
incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said
to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear
you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even
before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the
Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of
parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a
people prepared for the Lord.' Zechariah said to the angel, 'How will I know that this is so? For I
am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.' The angel replied, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the
presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now,
because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute,
unable to speak, until the day these things occur.'
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary.
When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had seen a vision in
the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She
said, 'This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the
disgrace I have endured among my people.'
"Your prayer has been heard!" What a wonderful message to hear! But how hard to believe.
Zechariah's eyes are focused only on what he sees; only on his own understanding. "I and my
wife are old, how can this be?" It's so easy to become locked into a worldview that somehow
acknowledges and worships God but at the same time doesn't really think that he is either willing
or capable of acting on our behalf. We believe but we don't believe, so we become worldly, seeing
only the evidence of our eyes. Our real faith is transferred to and reserved for other things;
science, politics, psychology, social work, family, hobbies etc. you name it. It can be amazing the
things we are able to put our faith in. But God answering prayer? Someone once said "When
people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything."
Even in the fearsome presence of the angel, it was hard to believe.
Jesus once encountered a man who asked him for help 'if he could.' Jesus told him "everything.
Is possible for one who believes" and he replied, "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!"
If we are to overcome our unbelief, we need the help of Jesus.
Jesus, help our unbelief. Wherever our faith is small or we find ourselves in doubt about you. Help
us. Come to our hearts, Lord Jesus. Amen