And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. – Luke 1:18-23
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to ask why or how. That’s how Zechariah must have felt when he asked the angel how he would know that what the angel had told him would come to pass. There could have been a more gentle answer: When Elizabeth becomes pregnant. You’ll know then. But that’s not good enough; Zechariah will have to be mute for many months – at least 9 of them; 39 weeks; 270 days; 394,200 minutes – give or take. But who’s counting? I wonder if Zechariah got up morning after morning and checked his voice. No. No vocalizing just yet. Maybe tomorrow.
More important, I wonder if Zechariah reflected on Gabriel’s answer. I wonder if he thought about the name: the angel has a name! Gabriel. That’s the angel that shows up in Daniel 9. He is not Michael (who shows up in Daniel 10 – a harrowing figure to be sure). Gabriel shows up only in Daniel … and now he’s here talking with me!
He stands in the presence of God! Whew! That’s powerful. Sobering. It brings me up sharp. Gabriel was sent from God to Zechariah and is delivering good news…only to be questioned: How will I know that this is true? What was I thinking? Why did I have to ask. He stands in the presence of God. Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh Boy!
Why didn’t I just believe him? I wonder if the words of Gabriel echoed in his mind: “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” Gabriel is a messenger of God who brings infinitely good news. It is dangerous not to believe him.
One thing all this proves is that God is serious about what is unfolding in these events…even these precursors to the main act of Jesus’ birth. I wonder if I too quickly dismiss God’s good news; if I too slowly believe God’s promises; if my attention to God’s messengers is too quickly distracted.
Dear God, please let me continue to speak. Let me speak your word of grace, truth, love, hope, and warning. Give me your Holy Spirit so that I believe your word and courageously share it with others!