The Absolute Word of God
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Like a 2:00 a.m. telephone call that changes your life forever; so was the announcement of the coming of John the Baptist. Unexpected and without warning, Zacharias received this message of God through the angel Gabriel. For a moment put yourself in Zacharias’ position as he learns first hand the power of the Creator.
"You shall call his name John” For Zacharias this name would seem unusual. No one in his family had ever been called by this name. In our day and age it is not unusual to hear of families giving new and unusual names to their children. But not in Zacharias’ day! Back then there were traditions and traditions were to be honored, not broken. At any rate, though the name John may not have made the short list, it certainly was not inappropriate. The name “John” means “Jehovah hath been gracious.” Truly God had been gracious to allow Zacharias and Elizabeth to have a child in their old age, but more than that, God had now lifted a four hundred year span of silence to utter words of comfort to the whole nation of Israel and ultimately to all of us. The next message of God by the angel is one of promise.
“You will have joy and gladness” When God says “you will have joy and gladness” be assured that it will be like nothing you could ever imagine. In the days of Zacharias, every nation in the known world was subject to the Roman government. If that were not enough, the common Jews had been cut off from the Law of Moses by the religious leaders of their day. With no hope of overcoming the Roman oppression, and no real perspective of God's law, the people of Israel existed with little or no hope. The arrival of John would change all of this. That is not to say that John would defeat the Romans or open a college of law studies. It simply means that for the first time in centuries, the common man would have hope in righteousness. John was an uncommon preacher for the common man. His message of repentance and searching for the kingdom to come, indeed "turned the hearts of the fathers to their children." But before this joy would take place, Zacharias would have a startling lesson to learn.
“You did not believe” When you doubt the word of God, be aware! God has noted your unbelief. We live in a world full of negative influences from the evil one. The questions that surround us every day may tempt us to doubt God’s word. You must not! You may never have the answers to all the questions of this world, but you should never, never allow your inability to understand cause you to disbelieve. Zacharias could not understand how a child could be born to Elizabeth at such an old age but he should not have doubted the ability of God. Dear reader listen, God saw the disbelief of Zacharias, and He can also see yours.
“You will be mute” As Zacharias soon found out, doubting God's word has its consequences. The miracle of the angel's visit should have been sufficient as proof of God’s word. Yet like many today, Zacharias was unable to clearly see this because he was too focused on the physical impossibilities of man. Later God did send further proof to Zacharias, yet it came in the form of a rebuke. For nearly a year Zacharias would be unable to speak. The silence of Zacharias was only temporary; however, the final consequence of disbelief is eternal condemnation.
In each of these four statements the words of God were absolute. The command was clear: “You shall call his name John.” The result was likewise manifest in the life of John: “You shall have joy and gladness.” Zacharias’ disbelief was visible to God: “You did not believe.” And the consequences of disbelief were brought to pass: “You shall be mute.” Zacharias’ story is not unlike our own; God our Creator has given us commands by which we must live and we are assured of eternal joy and happiness. On the other hand, the consequences of disbelief remain and all who doubt the word of God will be cast into an eternity of fiery proof which will expel all doubt. Perhaps you have allowed suspicion to overshadow faith in your life. If so, remember the story of Zacharias, a man whose prayer was answered and then couldn’t believe it.
By Kenneth R. Peden
From Expository Files 10.9, September, 2003