There are certain moments in life where it is so easy to see what God has planned for us. For instance, when I was reintroduced to my wife 10 years ago, having known her a bit for most of my life, it was very clear to me that after all those years, now was the time that we were meant to be together. So while it wasn’t always a straight path from our first date to our wedding day, it was always one that I knew I was meant to travel.
However, I have also found that in life, there are many more times when I struggle mightily to understand what God wants me to do. No matter how hard I pray, there are times when I am so out of touch with God’s will for me that just putting one foot in front of the other seems like a monumental task. During these moments in life, I try even harder to tune in to hear God, I try to quiet the world around me or even shut it out entirely to see if I can catch even a faint murmur from Him. But alas, for whatever reason, I’m just not ready to hear Him.
This, however, was not the issue facing Zechariah in Luke, Chapter 1. Zechariah’s wasn’t a crisis of not hearing, it was a crisis made from not believing what he was hearing. To be honest, it is somewhat comforting. To know that a man as righteous as Zechariah, “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” as Luke writes, is having a crisis of faith makes me feel a little bit better about my own crises of faith.
Let’s set the scene.
Zechariah is in the church, serving as the priest for the day. He is preparing the service and all of the other worshipers are outside. An angel of the Lord appears to him and tells him that, even though his wife, Elizabeth is barren and try as they might they’ve never been able to conceive a child, that if they give it one more try they will be blessed with a baby. Zechariah’s response? “Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” He’s just been visited by an angel, not a common occurrence, and the first thing out of his mouth is to question the veracity of what he is being told. Not to pinch himself, not to rub his eyes, but to almost defiantly say, “I mean you, angel from Heaven, having chosen me of all people this day to visit with a message from God, you say this is going to happen, but how can I really be sure?” Now that is a crisis of not believing.
There are few messages delivered more clearly than by an angel sent from Heaven, and yet disbelief still entrenches itself in Zechariah. I give Zachariah a hard time, but in truth, this is what you and I do many times each day of our lives. We see the will of God play out before us in our homes, at work, in our travels, and we choose to question whether or not it is what should be happening. We question whether it’s what we want to happen. Many times we try so hard to change things, to make our lives conform to our own will, our own desires. Why do we do this? I’d argue it’s partly a fear of letting go, partly a desire to conform to the ways of the world around us, but above all it is a lack of faith that God’s will for us is, while maybe not what we think we want for ourselves, actually the path we are meant to travel.
But Zechariah’s story doesn’t end there. The angel takes away his voice for not believing, and sends him home to his wife. Verse 23 goes on: “When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.” Again, let’s step back and consider how these events might have unfolded. Zechariah returns home, mute, unable to share this incredible and certainly awe-inspiring revelation with his wife. And somehow he has to convince her that, all evidence to the contrary, they need to give conception one more try.
(Because they are going to have a child who, mind you, will turn out to be John the Baptist.)
Take a minute and think about that “conversation” from Elizabeth’s point of view. Yet, she gets pregnant, and you know why? Elizabeth has faith. The first words she speaks are to glorify God, saying “The Lord has done this for me.” She doesn’t question, she has faith.
But this is how God works, right? He gives us an impossible task, fraught with difficulty and challenges and hardship. We question and we fight against it as it often times forces us to our knees, sometimes in exhaustion and sometimes shaking our fist in anger at our situation. But, what else does he give us? He gives us Elizabeth. A woman so strong in her faith that through all of this, every hurdle that has been laid in front of her, she becomes pregnant. “The Lord has done this for me,” she says. The Lord has done this for me. Now that is a woman that knows how to be in a relationship with God. Willing to love her God, and knowing Him so well that she trusted through all the craziness that what He was telling her, through Zechariah, was indeed true. Being so deep in her relationship with God that this crazy (to us) notion that she could bear a child was the will of God, and through him all things are possible.
I know my “conception” is on the horizon. I’m certain that God is going to lay many things on my heart that are going to make me say, “WHAT?! Seriously? You want me to do what now?” My goal then is to everyday work to deepen my relationship with God so that when Zechariah shows up in my life and says, “Remember that thing, that thing deep inside you? The time has come, go get it,” I’m ready to take that first step.