In His Time
Elizabeth had long since resigned herself to the fact that she would never hear the patter of little feet in the parsonage where she and her husband, Zechariah lived. Elizabeth was barren. Barren--the very word elicits thoughts of sand blowing across a desert wasteland.
Zechariah was in the sanctuary carrying out his priestly duties, when God interrupted him. Gabriel, the angel that stands in the very presence of God, left his coveted place to stand in the presence of God's priest. Shocked by the angelic sight, Zechariah became frightened. Like many worshipers today, Zechariah wasn't expecting to hear a word from the Lord while he was doing his religious duty.
Gabriel had some good news: But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John." (Luke 1:13)
"Thy prayer has been heard"--what prayer! Zechariah hadn't done any praying for a child in years. He'd forgotten about the prayer, but God hadn't. In his perfect timing, God answered a young man's prayer when he was too old to believe anymore and gave his wife a son, when she was too old to conceive anymore.
How could a religious man be surprised to find a word from God in the sanctuary? Why would a priest doubt that God could answer his stale prayer?
Even spiritual men have moments when their faith flickers. Let me explain what I mean by that.
When the angel of the Lord told him he would have a son, Zechariah doubted the prophecy. It is impossible, Zechariah thought, for an old man and a barren woman to have a son. After 50 + years of disappointment, perhaps I'd doubt too. How about you?
After he expressed his doubt, Zechariah was speechless.
Literally, Zechariah was speechless. "And now, since you didn't believe what I said, you won't be able to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly come true at the proper time." (Luke 1:20 NLT)
I don't know what constitutes the greater miracle, an elderly woman having a baby or preacher being quiet for nine months. Though I have no experience having a baby, I did have a time in my life when I couldn't speak. It was a humbling experience.
During a surgery to remove my cancerous thyroid, my doctor tapped on my recurrent laryngeal nerve, thinking it was fatty tissue. The assistant surgeon assured the doctor it was not the nerve and advised he cut it. Twice he asked for an instrument to sever the structure, but when he tried, his hand froze. "Because I tapped on the nerve," the doctor explained to me, "it no longer transmits the signal from the brain to the vocal cord," The result was a paralyzed vocal cord.
"But doctor," I said, "I'm
a preacher, what do I do without a voice?"