Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Luke 1:18–20 NIV Read More

It’s all to easy to read this like Gabriel is punishing Zechariah. “You listen to me! Imma gonna teach you to question ME!” But I don’t think it was like that.

We already know from the earlier verses that Zechariah is righteous and faithful. This guy believes God and he believes that God is faithful to His people. He has confidence in the works of the Law and the Temple, the sacrifices, the whole bit. Zechariah is not a rebel.

But this is pretty shocking news. He’s an old man, and not only is he old, can he really raise the kid that will grow up to prepare the way for the Messiah? Can he raise a prophet? This is getting more unbelievable by the moment!

He really just thought out loud, and Gabriel the angel was eavesdropping.

Gabriel also knows that the moment Z steps out of that tent, nobody is going to believe him. This is worthy and true news, so the proof of Gabriel’s authority has to make it outside of the temple. It has to make it all of the way home to Elizabeth.

Note that Gabriel didn’t say “Since you didn’t believe me, this isn’t going to happen.”

Note that Gabriel didn’t say “Since you didn’t believe me, this isn’t going to happen.”

(That wasn’t a typo)

Note that Gabriel didn’t say “Since you didn’t believe me, this isn’t going to happen.”

Instead, knowing that it is fantastic news and it is hard to believe by these folks, Gabriel gives Zechariah a little discipline that will be obvious to everyone else too. Sure, he could rebuke Zechariah, but a little sign, a little testimony, will help drive the truth home.

Zechariah had at least 9 months to think about what he saw before he was able to clearly tell anyone about it. Think about that. He had a profound truth revealed to him and he was unable to clearly communicate it for at least 9 months. It’s good that we rush out on Monday to tell people what we heard about at church on Sunday, but Z had 9 months to really own this experience.

No selfies, no testimonials, no bragging rights.

Gabriel gave one other clue away that would be enough to smack you speechless. If he was standing there, in front of Zechariah, and said “I stand in the presence of God.” (Present continual tense!) then where was Zechariah standing? It’s not that Gabriel said “I just came from God’s throne room to this place.”

Nope, Gabriel was there in front of Zechariah, who was also standing in the presence of God.

It would take 9 months for Zechariah to retell his story to anybody. Surely in that time he realized the truth and the power of God (as attested by his wife’s belly!) and the power of his daily work. He wasn’t just burning incense at the appointed time, he was walking around and working in the presence of God.

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