“How will I know this?” (Luke 1) Oh Zechariah I relate to you. I believe, but oh Lord, I am in great need for help in my unbelief.
Zechariah, a priest whose whole world was surrounded by things that reminded him and his people of God. His mind was filled with things of God as he would have memorized the Torah and more as a young child and recited much of it over and over through the years. He was chosen this year to go into the holiest of places in the temple. Surely his focus would have been on God’s greatness and holiness.
Then an angel joins him in his duties to bring him a personal message and one for his people. Was it the personal nature of the message that tripped him up? Who am I that God is mindful of me after all these years? Instead of being overjoyed or overwhelmed with amazement, he is overwhelmed with doubts and disbelief, astonishment that these things are possible.
“How shall I know this?” followed by why these things were impossible. His focus was on his circumstances, not on the fact that a heavenly being was talking to him, or that he had just been told that the desire of his heart would be fulfilled, not just for his own “joy and gladness” but many would rejoice over this news.
He would father the one preparing the way for the bringer of “good news and great joy for all the people.” His baby boy would walk in the Spirit of Elijah. Zechariah would have known all the prophecies. Instead of flipping through all that Scriptures had said about this moment, he flipped through all the reasons that had already filled his heart of why nots. His aches, longings and unfulfilled desires seemed to have blocked his ability to receive the invitation to join the greatest story with joy and anticipation.
Thankfully, this did not forfeit his role. His disbelief did not disqualify him, but it did silence him. He would have nine months to watch and see how God fulfilled what He had promised. Nine months of seeing God’s grace and mercy that did not strike him dead for questioning God and His plan in the Holy of Holies of all places. God graciously quieted his mouth so that his mind and heart could hear and see all that God was doing. Quieting his mouth so he could be quick to listen and have time to ponder all the Scriptures that pointed to this moment in time.
Nine months to fill up his heart and mind with amazement and praise that would pour out as the declaration of the angel’s words at the circumcision of his son. “His name is John!” And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. (Luke 1:64) Luke includes Zechariah’s many words that poured out and declared all that he had known deep down to be true, and all that would come to pass. He remembered who God was and stepped into his role that God had graciously given him.
…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1: 78-79)
I love that all of Zechariah’s doubts and triumphs are included for us. God is not afraid of our doubts and chooses not to leave us alone to figure it out, but gives us what we need to be able to see Him and hear Him better. To God be the glory.