Summary: Zechariah doubted Gabriel's words, but God kept His promise to Zechariah in spite of his doubt.
December 7, 2011 Luke 1:18-20
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
Rejoice Because of John’s Birth: His Birth Has God’s Word and Promise
I. It is a promise that isn’t dependant on you
Gabriel had just promised Zechariah that his wife was going to give birth to the forerunner of the Christ. He appeared out of nowhere in the temple to the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was gripped with fear and startled. He knew he was standing in the presence of a holy angel. Yet even after this wonderful promise from God he didn’t rejoice. He had the nerve to ask Gabriel, “How can I be sure of this?”
Zechariah was not the first one to ask God for a sign. When God called Gideon to go to war against a bigger and stronger army and put his life on the line, he asked God for a sign and God gave him one as there was no dew on his outside rug in the morning. The words from Gabriel were not telling Zechariah to risk his life along with an army of faithful soldiers. They were offering Zechariah the precious gift of a child in keeping with the promise of the Messiah; the Messiah that they had all been waiting for and praying for year after year. There was no reason to question Gabriel’s words or ask for a sign. It was just a wonderful free gift that God was going to give Zechariah.
The Word of the angel was not enough for Zechariah. It was not enough because Gabriel attached God’s Word of promise to Zechariah and Elizabeth. I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. Zechariah thought their old age would be too much of a barrier for God to work through. His reason told him that God would need a young and vibrant man and woman to work through, not an old man and an old woman who were beyond child-bearing years. So he was inadvertently asking God for a sign; some sort of proof that would prove to him that God had the power to do what He said He would do.
Call it arrogance or call it unbelief, but this is the core problem that hinders our faith. It is when we think that God needs powerful people or powerful objects to fulfill His promises. You look at yourself as a mother or a father and say, “How am I going to do this?” You know of a big test coming up at work and you say, “I don’t know how I’m going to get this done.” You have an opportunity to witness to a friend, but you think there is no way you will be able to say the right thing.
There is a saying that goes, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” There is some truth to that. Moses didn’t feel like he was a good enough speaker to lead two million people out into the desert. He didn’t feel qualified. God didn’t disagree with him, but He did promise Moses that he would provide him with help in order to get the job done. There is such a thing as false humility. It is found in someone who refuses to go to church with the excuse, “I don’t think God could ever love me for all I’ve done. The roof would cave in.” They base God’s love for them based on how good or evil they’ve been; as if that is the standard for God’s love. Even Christians sometimes refuse to serve as teachers or in offices of the church because they feel like they couldn’t do it. Some fear marriage and the idea of having children because they are convinced that no one could ever love them; they feel that they couldn’t ever do a good enough job of raising children. Basically they convince themselves that because they are sinful and weak that God couldn’t work through them or enable them to do anything; as if God were limited by their ability. Zechariah didn’t think he and his wife were young enough for God to produce a forerunner to the Christ through. He thought God’s power was based on HIS power and ability.
Zechariah had it backwards. If anything, God chose them because they didn’t have those abilities. It is in keeping with the history of God to see that He likes to work through the weak and powerless things. Think back to the battle that Gideon fought. God told him to go into war with jars and torches and trumpets! No one would ever imagine fighting such a war, but that is how God wanted him to fight, and He won the battle! This is how God likes to work, so that people and objects will not get the credit for His work and so that His power will be magnified through the weakness. Think of how God chose to have Moses work miracles through his old staff. Think of how God decided to heal Naaman in the weak and dirty Jordan River. He chose Amos, a fig plucking farmer, to be one of His prophets. Remember how weak and powerless Jesus looked as He was born as a baby and laid in a cattle stall. Think about how pathetic He looked as He was nailed to the cross. Yet within that weakness God was working to pay for our sins. Even today God chooses some of the most common items to work miracles through in the waters of baptism and the wine and unleavened bread of the Lord's Supper. This is the way God chooses to work in order to show how powerful He is and so that the glory has to be His. He chooses to be merciful in and through weakness, instead of only working in power.