Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Luke 1:18 (NKJV)
Disillusioned, but desperate, Zechariah, the priest, enters the holy place. He’s there on behalf of the people, yet he’s secretly fighting heartache. He knows it’s impractical, unrealistic, but that little virus of hope wells up inside him today. Maybe he and Elizabeth were having another morning conversation about what it would be like to have a child of their own, a son to carry on the family name. After all, they are faithful believers, devout Jews who follow the Law and love the Lord (Luke 1:6).
As the people share their hearts with God outside (Luke 1:10), he presses into His presence in the holiest of places, sharing his pain yet again (Luke 1:13).
The prayer probably sounded mechanical and usual. They had repeated it since the wedding. Every year pushed the knife of unanswered prayer a little deeper. He had learned the pain of hope, how it keeps you hanging on without ever delivering. But, he can’t resist. He is overcome with want, so he asked.
Finally, his timing matched God’s. God was ready to bring John into the world. John had a role to play, and his number was being called.
God sent one of His most important messengers, Gabriel, to reveal the good news (Luke 1: 11, 19), but the years had done a number on the priest. All of the let down would not allow him to trust the glory that stood before him. Never mind the fact that Elizabeth is old, far beyond the years of child bearing. He knows the story of Abraham, but, come on, Lord, “Abraham is the founder of our faith. I’m no Abraham. I’m just a priest.”
Although it might be painful for us to admit, Zechariah demonstrated the “logical” faith so many of us cling to. Faith that makes sense is safe, free from pain or risks. No expectations, no let downs. Could God do it? Sure, but it wouldn’t align with reality, so why hope for it?
God still gave Zechariah what He had promised him, but it cost him his voice (Luke 1:20) – his ability to explain.
God uses the waiting periods to teach us things about ourselves we wouldn’t otherwise have known. These times are difficult, unexplainably painful sometimes. Maybe you’re waiting for a cure, a companion, or just some compassion. When our emotions are laid bare before Him and all religious pretense is gone, God tends to reveal more of Himself. For Zechariah, all those years of waiting became sweet memories of how he and Elizabeth had grown closer to Yahweh.
That’s what He did for Zechariah and Elizabeth. He gave them their son, John, which means “the Lord is gracious” and He gave them more of Himself, the ultimate act of grace. He does the same for you. He may not answer right now, or today or tomorrow, but He gives more of Himself. He gives more grace.