Summary: Gabriel was the last person Zachariah expected to meet in the temple and Gabriel’s message was the least expected word from God that Zachariah thought he would hear.
How many parents do we have here today? Raise your hands.
I met Phil and his wife, Linda when we lived in Vermont. They were DINKs. That was the term we used to describe people married where the husband and wife had a career and no plans to have children. DINKs was short for “double income, no kids.” Actually, Phil kind of wanted children, but his wife didn’t. At least that’s what I remember. They were both very successful in their careers and had lots of stuff to show for it, but no children to pass it on to. When we visited them and brought along our three children, it always seemed like they looked sad.
God’s word teaches us that children are a heritage from the Lord. There are few matters that feel more painful to some women than not being able to bear children. Luke begins his gospel with a story of a barren woman and her husband who are beyond child bearing years and how God blesses them to be able to bear a son. And what a colorful experience comes about with this child! Zachariah and Elizabeth. Fine upstanding people. Religious and faithful to the tee. Probably in their 60’s or so when we meet them in Luke.
Here is Zachariah, a Levitical priest, chosen by lot to go into the temple to burn incense. Everyone is outside worshipping and praying. Can you picture it? This is a huge honor! Most priests never got to do this. Don’t you know that he was at least somewhat nervous. He’s most likely never done this before and will never do it again. Ok, now, follow the instructions carefully. He’s a righteous man wanting to do the right things and wanting to do them right. He’s there, in that holy temple alone, when suddenly someone else is in there with him! Someone is standing there at the right side of the alter of incense! An angel! Zachariah is scared to death! This is not supposed to happen!
But what do angels look like? Did he glow? Did he dress like an angel?
The angel starts to speak. He tells Zachariah at least 12 things:
1. Don’t be afraid, Zachariah
2. Your prayers have been heard
3. Your wife will bear you a son
4. You are to name him John
5. He will be a joy and delight to you
6. Many will rejoice because of his birth
7. He will be great in the sight of the Lord
8. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink
9. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth
10. He will bring many people in Israel back to the Lord
11. He will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah
a. To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.
b. To make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
That was a mouth full!
Now let me ask you a question. What would you have done if that were you? What would you have said?
Zachariah is an older man. He’s become sort of set in his ways by this time. He’s listening, but he’s having a hard time believing his ears. NIV and NASB give you a fuller sense of his response in verse 18.
The Greek literally says: “By what can I know this?” That is idiomatic. We might say, “You’ve got to be kidding, right?” Listen to Zachariah’s logic. He states the obvious. I am old. My wife has too many years on her for this.