In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
When Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, he was an old man; and his wife was old too. In fact, Zacharias retires from his “priestly service” towards the end of this excerpt. But there had been a time in their lives when they had earnestly asked the Lord for a child. We don’t know how long ago this prayer was uttered. But we can safely assume that many years had passed since Elizabeth’s childbearing years. Ten, twenty, thirty, maybe even forty or fifty years had passed since the last time Zacharias and Elizabeth had knelt side by side at their bed and begged God for a son. And God said “No.” Or so they thought…
When Gabriel came, Zacharias was going through the rote of his responsibility as priest. After Gabriel told Zacharias not to be afraid, he said, “Your petition has been heard.” Had Gabriel not immediately told Zacharias that Elizabeth would have a son, Zacharias would have been wondering, “What petition?”
You see, it had been so long since Zacharias had believed that God would give him a son, that he had already forced himself through the disappointment and hopelessness of an apparent “No.” He was out of faith. He was out of hope. And for a moment, he didn’t even remember what he had asked for years ago. Zacharias had already been through the tremendous pain of seeing an unhappy wife day after day, and the feeling of helplessness as he tried to comfort her. He had already accepted the prospect that his legacy would end with him and once he was gone, even the memory of him would soon follow. He knew that he and Elizabeth would never have a son. It was impossible.
So when Gabriel said those heavenly words to Zacharias, he didn’t believe him. He just couldn’t. He had worked so hard to become hard and to make himself forget his number one dream. And even when the archangel Gabriel told him that his dream would come true, he didn’t believe him. Gabriel said, “Do you know who I am? I am Gabriel, the messenger of the LORD. Day and night I stand alert in His presence, and I hear every word that comes out of His righteous mouth. Since the day of my creation until now, I have never seen a single word of His fall to the floor fruitless. Nothing He says is idle. Nothing He says is false. Nothing he speaks can ever be undone. But I can see that you have been created in His image. And I know that that means your tongue has the same potential of life and death as His does. Because you have not understood this, I have to close your mouth lest you sabotage the work of God, the birth of your son, the forerunner of the Messiah.”
When Gabriel (God) closed Zacharias’ mouth, He wasn’t punishing him. He wasn’t trying to teach him a lesson on faith. He was protecting John the Baptist and ultimately Jesus Christ. God understood that Zacharias had power in his tongue because of who he was – a human. No other creature in the expanse of the universe has been modeled after God in every way.
Gabriel had already made it clear to Zacharias that God hears, and that He answers. So if Zacharias had been allowed to continue to speak in unbelief, God would have heard that “prayer” too and been “forced” to honor those words. Just like He did with Ishmael (which, by the way, means “God hears.”) after He had already told Abraham “Your seed will be blessed.” (Gen. 13:16 & 17:20) The law OF God is the law TO God. Remember the last blog post? We ARE the word of God.
Keep your mind open now. =)
It’s hard for us to understand anything other than time. But we have to remember that God created time and that He never forgets anything because time never passes for God. So when Zacharias had asked God for a son years ago, his petition was still ringing fresh in God’s ears. He was still hearing Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s prayers as if they were still praying. He hadn’t forgotten! And when He sent Gabriel down into time, He was sending him into the perfect time for John the Baptist. Everything was ordered to perfection from the time Zacharias prayed, to the time John was born.
Purpose transcends time. Stay in your purpose and you will operate outside of time. You will operate in the spirit. God is able to sustain your life for a thousand years if you stay in your purpose. Speaking anything other than faith brings you out of your purpose and back into time. And once you’re in time, your purpose is delayed. But without time there is no such thing as delay or when or then or now. Outside of time there is no remember, and there is no forget. Outside of time there is only God. And God IS.