Consequences of Unbelief
The gospel writer Luke described Zacharias and Elizabeth as
an elderly couple, “both advanced in years,” and without children. “Elizabeth
was barren.” Zechariah was a priest who married a woman of priestly descent.
“They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the
commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).
Zacharias had the honor “to enter the temple of the Lord
and burn incense” (v. 9). “And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer
outside at the hour of the incense offering” (v. 10).
It was a very special time for the elderly priest. He and
his wife had prayed often and for many years for a son to carry on his family
name, and to fill their lives with joy.
Imagine what it was like that day in the temple when “an
angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of
incense” in the Holy Place (v. 11). “Fear gripped” Zacharias as he listened to
“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been
heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you will give him the name
John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth”
God answered the prayers of this righteous couple in a most
impressive manner. But it was not a message of importance just for this humble
couple; it was an important word for the people of Israel.
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will
drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in
his mother’s womb. And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord
their God” (vv. 15-16, cf. v. 41). God has chosen this child for a special
purpose. He will have a special anointing of the Holy Spirit “while yet in his
mother’s womb,” and his message will be the instrument of God to bring a revival
in the nation.
His presence will remind people of “the spirit and power of
Elijah,” and his message will be used “to prepare a people” for the coming of
the Lord (v. 17). This child to be born will prepare the way for the coming of
God answers prayers! He does the impossible. He
accomplishes His eternal purposes in the most astonishing manner. “And after
these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant . . .” (v. 24). It was not a
virgin birth, but a natural conception. Elizabeth became pregnant. How
What was the reaction of the father to be when God’s
messenger brought the good news? “How shall I know this for certain? For I am an
old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (v. 18).
It was enough that God said He was answering Zachariah’s
prayers. Gabriel had just given Zachariah the evidence. God’s word is a good
When the answer came Zachariah was astounded and filled
with amazement. He was not expecting God to answer his prayers, because a secret
unbelief lay hidden away in his heart. God is faithful, and His consistent
faithfulness reveals our hollow and shallow faith. When the answer came,
Zachariah could not believe it!
When God answers our prayers we often are astonished and
filled with amazement. Like Zachariah, we have heard the promises and we have
asked God in sincere prayer, and when God says yes we are surprised. We are not
strangers to the blessings of God’s eternal and unchanging love. The angel said,
“Your prayer has been heard.” God’s purposes are being fulfilled in you.
Zachariah wanted a sign. He wanted a fleece, and he got it!
Gabriel was put out with Zachariah’s unbelief. “And behold, you shall be silent
and unable to speak until the day when these things shall take place, because
you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time” (v.
Zachariah did not speak a word for nine months! What if God
did the same thing to you and me in our unbelief? How long would we remain
silent? Do we tempt God in a similar manner? What guarantees do we go asking for
when God speaks? Do we go “looking for some minute circumstances to verify a
magnificent promise”? Do we make our feelings a kind of test of our acceptance
of God’s word? I will not believe unless I ____? What? Why should God tolerate
our unbelief and chastise Zachariah? What has God done to chasten your unbelief?
What if God said to you or me, “If that is the way you witness to My
faithfulness, you shall never speak again”? God be merciful to your servant for
we, too, are like Zachariah. Thank God, “If we believe not, yet He abides
faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
Zachariah could not bless the people who waited anxiously
outside for the blessing. He could not speak a word. He could give no
instruction, or a word of praise, or even tell them what God has said to him. He
was a useless servant. He was as good as dead for nine months until his son John
the Baptist was born.
After John's birth, God loosed his tongue, and he poured
out praise to God and prophesied under the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 64-79). May the God of grace
loosen our tongues as well.
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
Click for printer friendly page
CLICK to E-mail SELAH! to a friend.