Skip to comments.Zacharias
Posted on 03/30/2019 5:24:27 PM PDT by pcottraux
By Philip Cottraux
God hadnt spoken to the Jews in 400 years. Malachi was the last prophet before the long gap between Old and New Testaments. But theres a final word that bridges the two together: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: (Malachi 3:1).
Now to be clear, God did move for His people before Christ came. He intervened during the Maccabbean revolt, then miraculously supplied enough oil to consecrate the temple. But as far as actually prophecy, He still remained silent. And now over a century had passed since Judah Maccabeus. Then, one routine day at the temple, all that changed.
Luke 1:5: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her names was Elisabeth. Zacharias and Elisabeth were righteous, but had been struck barren. They are one of seven (Gods perfect number) infertile couples in the Bible. However, while Zacharias dutifully observed the temple rituals, his attitude indicates indifference to the power of God, a microcosm of all Judahs spiritual state. Going to the temple was just another routine. So many churches today are stuck in a religious rut thats long lost its meaning.
Which is why he was so caught off guard when something unexpected happened: And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him he was troubled, and fear fell upon him (verses 11-12). I cant help but wonder if Zacharias should have been afraid at the sight of an angel. After all, he was in the place where Gods presence was supposed to be the strongest on planet earth. Matthew 15:8: This people draweth night unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
And if it seems like Im judging Zacharias too harshly, lets examine how he responded to what the angel said: Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and they wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God (verses 13-16).
For the first time in centuries, God was raising up a prophet. And he had chosen an old barren couple to introduce this great man to the world. Furthermore, this was to be forerunner to the Messiah Himself. The news should have caused Zacharias to jump up and down for joy. Instead, he was skeptical. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years (verse 18). It would be one thing to doubt a word coming from a prophet. But an angel? But without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).
I cant help but think that this level of doubt even shocked the angel. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (verse 19). Gabriel seemed to be saying Dont you know who I am? I came to bring you good news, dummy!
The punishment for Zacharias one question seems extreme, but theres a good reason for it. And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things hall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season (verse 20). Zacharias was unable to speak until the child was born. This illustrates how critical faith is to Gods plan. Doubt hinders His ability to work. God has mastery over the whole universe; He commanded the heavens and earth into existence. But mans unbelief is the one thing that ties His hands.
The problem is that Zacharias was part of the plan to bring Jesus into the world. He and Elisabeth would give birth to John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Christ. In the grand scheme of things, he wasnt as crucial as someone like Mary. But this mission was so vital, God couldnt afford for even someone on the outermost edges to speak negatively. So Zacharias mouth had to be shut until his role was finished.
Theres no room for even a speck of doubt in Gods plan. As Christians, we can only speak faith over every one of His promises. You risk being cast out of the plan if you speak any doubt. The hour is too dire.
Eight days after the child was born, the time for circumcision had come. Levitical tradition held that he should be named after his father. Verse 60: And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. When Zacharias was consulted, still being mute, he asked for a tablet and wrote affirming His name is John (verse 63). Since Gabriel had given the name in verse 13, Zacharias acknowledgement showed that he now believed the prophecy; the silence was lifted and the Holy Spirit took over. Verse 64: And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
What happened next is crucial to the story: And far came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea (verse 65). The Jews had been in a spiritual dry place for so long, but news of this incident now swept the hill country. The first revival had come. People started to believe and get excited about how God was moving. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him (verse 66).
Verses 67-68: And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people. The following speech (verses 68-79) is the first time God had directly spoken to His people in four hundred years. This is what the power of faith can do. Once Zacharias doubt was gone, the Lord was able to use him for one of the most seismic moments in Biblical history.
If John the Baptist was to prepare the way for Jesus, this sudden move of God prepared the way for John. And the child grew, and waxed strong inspirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel (verse 80). The child waxed strong and was able to perform his calling because his father stopped speaking doubt and spoke life over him. Proverbs 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Whatever Gods calling is over you, Hell be hindered if you speak doubt over it. But speaking life can change the world, even generations into the future.
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Zachariah means “God remembers”
Elizabeth (Elisheva) “The oath (promise) of God.
Together they make,”God remembers his promise”.
The poem Zachariah writes afterwards is also filled with puns (in Hebrew) on these two names and the name of his son, John.
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