Summary: We can be walking with the Lord, be strong in His might, and still struggle with doubt. It is not a sin to struggle with doubt, but it is a sin to settle on unbelief, which angers God.
Zechariah the Doubter
1. A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense's closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick. ? ?
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. ?
Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement. But, you all looked on with anticipation. I therefore put to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty." The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. ? ?
"But how?" inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door." ? ?
The jury foreman replied, "Oh, we looked, but your client didn't."
2. The jury did look — they had enough doubt, or at least curiosity to look. But they did not let that doubt deter them from doing their job. Always some doubt.
Main idea: We can be walking with the Lord, be strong in His might, and still struggle with doubt. It is not a sin to struggle with doubt, but it is a sin to settle on unbelief, which angers God.
I. Zechariah Had an IMPECCABLE Background (1-10).
Many of the Jews thought Holy Spirit no longer working in their nation 400 years
Malachi left us with expectation of Elijah returning to prepare for the Messianic era.
This is how the last part of the Old Testament ends: 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” [Malachi 4:4-6]
A. He was of priestly DESCENT.
B. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were very GODLY.
• blameless (not sinless, but not characterized by glaring sins)
• had the wisdom of years of experience and faithful service (over 60)
C. They had gone through life DISAPPOINTED.
D. Zechariah was chosen by LOT to offer incense, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
There were about 18,000 priests in that day. Served 2X a year & holidays
Early traditions suggested Zechariah serving during Feast of Tabernacles, in September (crowds). They traced day of his vision to Sept. 25. Thus, if Elizabeth conceived then, and Mary conceived 6 months later, that means she conceived March 25th, and, if Jesus was in the womb for exactly nine months, would have been born December 25th. The Saturnalia explanation may be a factor, but only a factor.
• Lot was drawn to offer incense; once served, removed from the lottery.
• Principle: Some things that seem to be just “chance” are in the plan of God.
E. But even the most dedicated of us have feet of CLAY.
1. Only Jesus proved to be without blemish and sinless.
2. We want to believe in someone other than Jesus who has it “all together.”
3. And thus most of the people we consider super-human are people we don’t know very well.
II. Zechariah Had An Amazing Spiritual EXPERIENCE (11-17).
A. The angel GABRIEL appears to him — and he is afraid!
B. Gabriel brings a message outside of Zechariah’s COMFORT ZONE.
1. He and Elizabeth to conceive a child in their old age.
2. He would be a lifelong Nazarite (see Numbers 6:1-3)
3. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.
C. With an angel standing right in front of him, Zechariah asks for a SIGN.
1. Do you see the comedy in this?
2. Zechariah had prayed for a son; God was about to answer his prayer, he could not believe it. Asking in faith means believing that God can do what you ask. He may choose not to, but He can. Zechariah’s bluff was called.
3. Conceiving a child in old age was not without precedent. Zechariah knew the story of Abraham and Sarah, for example.
D. It is not a sin to struggle with DOUBT, but it is a sin to choose UNBELIEF.
1. “Faith isn't believing without proof – it's trusting without reservation.” William Sloane Coffin. But is there no room for doubt?