But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. … 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 1:13, 18-20
Have you ever tucked a prayer away because continuing to hope was just too hard? If so, you will understand Zachariah’s hesitation to believe his prayer was about to be granted, even though a glorious angel delivered the news. It can be hard to resurrect a hope you have buried. Fortunately, God’s timing is always perfect.
Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were childless and well beyond child-bearing years. They lived under a cloud of dishonor because barrenness was considered a sign of divine disfavor. Contrary to that, God saw Zechariah and Elizabeth as righteous. He had other reasons for making them wait for a child.
In the years he prayed for a son, Zechariah likely imagined the joy and delight fatherhood would bring. However, he could not have anticipated the honor of fathering John the Baptist. John was the long-awaited prophet who prepared people’s hearts to receive Jesus. The angel Gabriel prophesied John would be “great in the sight of the Lord,” and many would “rejoice because of his birth.” This was worth waiting for.
God knew the geriatric pregnancy would create an air of expectancy. The people would liken it to Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, who fathered Isaac late in life. The tying and untying of Zechariah’s tongue added to the buzz as people speculated about John’s calling. The news spread far and wide. As a result, John had credibility long before he started his ministry.
Another blessing of Elizabeth’s improbable pregnancy was how it supported Mary in her even more miraculous conception. Gabriel referenced it when revealing God’s plan for her. The two women were related, and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth provided supernatural encouragement to them both.
For every hardship we pray about, our lives intersect with the lives of others in ways we do not understand. A variety of benefits came from waiting until only a miracle could give Zechariah and Elizabeth a son. God answers prayer in His timing. The key is to put our hope in God Himself, not in what we want Him to do.
- Have you ever given up on a prayer God delayed answering? What did you learn about the relationship between hope and prayer? Can you think of any benefits (for you or others) from waiting?
- Communication is a theme in today’s passage. Fittingly, Zechariah lost the ability to speak because he did not believe his ears. How would your prayer life change if you could not converse with people?