Yesterday I started an Advent series with the first post covering Elizabeth. Her husband was Zechariah, who’s the subject for today. Luke wrote in the first chapter and fifth verse that Zechariah was a priest from the division of Abijah. Who was this man? Back in 1 Chronicles 24:10, Abijah’s name was listed among other names of priests who served during the reign of King David. This is an amazing heritage for Zechariah. It’s a heritage that he does not take for granted. According to Luke, Zechariah was righteous before God and walked blamelessly according to the statutes and commandments of the Lord (Luke 1:6, ESV). This does not sound like a man slacking off, or treating his priestly role in a lackadaisical manner. He’s committed to serving the Lord.
After Luke finished describing Zechariah, the reader’s first glimpse of this man was right where to expect him: in the temple serving the Lord (Luke 1:8-9). Now, I should mention at this point that Zechariah had no children. His wife was barren. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the inability to have children becomes a painful reality for some married couples. Child-bearing encompasses so many experiences and emotions. When this fails to be a reality for married couples, it feels like something intrinsic about life has been stolen from them. Those couples need to grieve those feelings as a family. I would submit to my readers that this describes Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Given the fact that Zechariah was a priest, this meant that he functioned as an intermediary between the Lord and his people. That was how the priestly order of things went down in the temple. It must be said that Zechariah was not precluded from interceding for himself and his family. In fact, the Levitical code required priests to intercede for themselves before performing anything on behalf of the people (Leviticus 9:6-14, ESV). In Luke’s text, Zechariah offered incense in the Lord’s presence, which alluded to intercessory prayer (Luke 1:9 & Rev 5:8c, ESV). Gabriel’s appearance and response confirmed this as he spoke to Zechariah, “your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Luke 1:13, ESV).
When I have reflected upon this passage, Zechariah’s intercession for Elizabeth serves as a model for me. His prayer for his wife’s barrenness echoed Isaac’s prayer over Rebekah (Genesis 25:21, ESV). I’m not married at the moment, but I will be. Zechariah’s actions have challenged me to intercede faithfully for my fiance’s well-being before the Lord. This must be done daily with the expectation that the Lord will answer. I do not know how many years Zechariah prayed the same prayer to the Lord regarding his wife’s barrenness. Every day, he faithfully obeyed his routine in the temple and his life (Luke 1:6, ESV). Part of me believes that the Lord responded to Zechariah because of his faithfulness. I am fairly certain that is a key piece; however, I won’t demand that from the text.
Now, what Zechariah learned from Gabriel just blows his mind. The angel told him that his son will be named John, and that he’ll filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb, and that he’ll go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:13-17, ESV). The last part of verse seventeen was the real kicker. In effect, Gabriel informed Zechariah that his son would fulfill Biblical prophecy in Malachi 4:6, which stated that “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.” This was an unbelievable revelation for Zechariah to digest in one sitting. His son would pave the way for the coming of the Messiah. The sheer magnitude of this more than likely allowed Zechariah’s unbelief to come out; therefore, Gabriel told him that he would be unable to speak until God’s word took place (Luke 1:18-20, ESV).
What does Zechariah have to do with Advent and Christmas? He waited many years for a child of his own, for an answer to his lifelong yearning. The Lord responded to Zechariah’s longing with his son, John the Baptist, a prophet who prepared the way for the Lord during his life and ministry. The arrival of Zechariah’s son heralded the forthcoming appearance of the Messiah. This was God’s way of telling Zechariah and Elizabeth that your longing for a child, for life instead of barrenness, would be answered in Christ. He was their answer, and he remains our answer and everyone’s answer. Zechariah lived to see the Lord respond to his longings. He knew that the God of his ancestors answered prayer and moved among his people. Little did Zechariah know that God Almighty had chosen him and Elizabeth to bring about his purposes and plans. We must beware of unbelief when the Lord answers our prayers.