Luke 1:8-23 (English Standard Version)
8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13But 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. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for 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. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and 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.” 18And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19And 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. 20And 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.” 21And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22And 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. 23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
Luke 1:18 – Zechariah – “How shall I know this…?” The Bible is not chocked full of miracles. There is a common misconception that the Bible is full of miracles. It isn’t. There are basically four main eras in the Scriptures when we see miracles occurring a lot- through Moses during the exodus and wilderness wanderings, the time of Elijah and Elisha, the miracles of Jesus and then the Apostles. There are some others, but those are the main ones.
Miracles are extraordinary events and many Christians make the mistake of thinking that miracles in the Bible times were a common occurrence. They were not. If a miracle is common it ceases to be miraculous. The reason that Zechariah doubts Gabriel’s message is because having a child at the age that he and his wife were is impossible. There hasn’t been a recorded miracle in Israel for centuries.
So here we have a man whose job is working for the God of Israel as a priest of God who refuses to believe what an angel visiting him says. He refuses to believe it because people his age do not have children. He knew of Abraham and Sarah. He knew of Jacob and Rebekah. He knew about Hannah and Elkanah. It could be that Zechariah doubted what Gabriel announced to him, out of humility. “Why should I be so blessed to have this happen to me?” But that is not what he said when Gabriel had finished telling him what was going to happen. What he said was “How shall I know this?” (verse 18) In other words, “prove it.”
There certainly isn’t much faith being demonstrated by Zechariah at this point. He stands there, talking to an angel who has miraculously appeared to him, and doubts what he is being told. The lack of faith is stunning.
There are many today who will tell us that if we lack sufficient faith, the miracles we should be expecting will not happen. But faith is not the issue here. God’s plan is. He will do what He intends to do and He will bring Zechariah along. If God only works in the world in accordance with the strength of the faith we possess then He will hardly do anything at all. But our God does all things after the council of His own will (Ephesians 1:11)and He is going to have John the Baptist born of Elizabeth and Zechariah – whether Zechariah believes it at this point or not. So He disciplines Zechariah for his unbelief and goes about bringing the promised miracle to pass.
Thank God that He is not dependent upon us for accomplishing His eternal purposes in the world. Thank God that He accomplishes them through weak, sinful and even weak faithed members of His Church in the world. And thank Him deeply that He knows how to treat us in our sinful unbelief to bring us around to trust Him and see His great works. What a God we serve.