Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.- Luke 1:64
In Luke’s Gospel account he goes into great detail not only about the birth of Jesus, but also the birth of John the Baptist. According to Luke, the angel Gabriel announces the birth of John first. John’s father was serving in the Temple and was in the sanctuary of the Lord burning incense on the altar when the angel appeared.
According to Luke, “he was shaken and overwhelmed with fear.” I don’t think I would have felt differently. I know most depictions we make of angels are childlike but I doubt angels look at all like this. Every time someone in the Bible sees an angel they are scared to death. Most of the time the first words the angel says are “Don’t be afraid.” If angels looked like the images we have no one would be scared. They probably wouldn’t be taken seriously either.
After the angel tells him of the coming pregnancy and birth and how John will prepare the way for the Lord, he isn’t convinced. He knows about how old Abraham and Sarah were when she had Isaac. I doubt Zechariah and Elizabeth were nearly as old. He had an angel sent by God standing so close he could reach out and touch Him. He still doubted. Because of his doubt he was made mute until the birth.
It’s easy to judge Zechariah some 2,000 years later, we have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. I wonder how many of us would have doubted the same way he did. I know so many of us doubt God’s ability to use us. We forget about people in the Bible that seemed like unlikely choices that God used to do great things. People like Gideon, an old man named Abraham, a stuttering man named Moses and a humble shepherd named David just to name a few.
If God could use them, he can use any and all of us.
Even though Zechariah doubted in the beginning, when he finally was obedient in the naming of John the first thing he did was praise God. The scriptures say that when he wrote the name John, immediately his speech came back and he praised God. I find it interesting that he could speak only after he was able to show obedience. I wonder how often God is waiting for us to step out in faith before giving us the breakthrough we are waiting for.
I also notice that when Zechariah praised God he didn’t say anything about John or himself until the end. He first praised God and the coming Messiah. How easy would it have been for him to focus on what his own son would accomplish. It seems obvious to me that the whole experience changed Zechariah’s heart from one of doubt to one of faith and praise.
I hope that this Christmas we all can focus on Jesus and what He has done for us instead of the busyness of the season and the gifts.