Although the Jewish priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, obeyed God in every way, they lived in shame. The people in their culture and time period (first century BC) considered it a punishment from God if a couple was childless—and Elizabeth and Zechariah were childless.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a child throughout their lengthy marriage until they’d lost hope. By now they were old. Too old, by human standards, to have children. But God delights in turning human ways upside down. He loves to do things His way, often surprising us.

Doubtful to Dumbstruck

While Zechariah burned incense in God’s temple at Jerusalem, an angel appeared to him. And not just any angel. This was Gabriel, who'd appear to Mary and tell her she'd bear God’s Son, Jesus. Gabriel told Zechariah that God had heard his and Elizabeth’s prayers. They would soon have a son, who would pave the way for the Messiah—an important assignment.

But unlike Mary, who responded with humility (see Luke 1:38), Zechariah asked Gabriel for proof that God sent him.

“How can I be sure of this?” he said (Luke 1:18). In other words, Zechariah wanted a sign, a miracle, to prove that Gabriel wasn’t lying, that God was the one who sent Gabriel. So Gabriel gave the doubting priest what he asked for. “Sure, here’s your sign—you won’t be able to talk until your son is born” (see Luke 1:20).Probably not the sign Zechariah was hoping for.

No More Doubts

1 Samuel 15:29 tells us, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie.” When God makes a promise, wecan count on it. It’s a done deal. To ask God—or in this case, a top-echelon angel sent by God—to prove His promise can be trusted, is close to calling God a liar.

Not too smart.

In case we think God’s punishment was a bit harsh, Zechariah, as a priest, would have known the history of his people. From an early age, he would have heard the account of Abraham and Sarah, aged 100 and 90 when their son, Isaac, was born. Zechariah had no excuse for doubting God’s promise to give Elizabeth and him a baby.

Zechariah’s punishment was short-lived, however. Once the baby was born and Zechariah wrote the name Gabriel had given him, his tongue worked. So well that he preached a sermon about what John would accomplish in his lifetime (see Luke 1:67-79). Zechariah’s doubting days were over.

Flawed to Perfection

Does it bother you that a priest of God had faults? Or do you feel encouraged that he fell off his pedestal, proving he was human?

I have a feeling God intentionally put Zechariah’s offence in the Bible. He wants to show us how He uses flawed people, people who make mistakes, people who aren’t perfect, to accomplish His perfect plans.

People like you and me.

All About Zechariah

Read Luke 1:5-25, 57-79 

• Who: A Jewish priest of God

• When: Roughly a year before Jesus Christ was born

• Where: Modern-day Israel

Illustration: Sky Light Pictures/

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