Bible stories of hope: Zachariah - by James Archer
Bible stories of hope is a series comprising a reading about someone's encounter with God, some notes about how they may have seen it, and a prayer.
Reading – Luke 1:11-20
An angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah, standing on the right side of the incense table. When he saw the angel, Zachariah was startled and frightened. But the angel said to him, “Zachariah, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son, and you will name him John. He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth. John will be a great man for the Lord. He will never drink wine or beer, and even from birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. He will go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah. He will make peace between parents and their children and will bring those who are not obeying God back to the right way of thinking, to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord.”
Zachariah said to the angel, “How do I know what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old too.”
The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand before God, who sent me to talk to you and to tell you this good news. Now listen! You will not be able to speak until the day these things happen, because you did not believe what I told you. But they really will happen.”
It was such an incredible privilege to be chosen as the one person in the year to be allowed into the Holy of Holies, the earthly residence of Almighty God. Not that anyone really believed he lived there – no one in living memory or long before had heard him speak, and anyway he was far too great to be confined to a small area. But at some distant time he would come back and rescue his people.
Zachariah had practised going through the ritual so many times in the last few hours so that the words tripped off his tongue. He’d just finished the first question when he distinctly heard a voice answering. “Concentrate!” he told himself, and carried on. But he hadn’t got much further before something tapped his shoulder. This was getting spooky! He turned round and fell to the ground in terror – for there was a huge, bright shining figure in front of him. Maybe God was offended by his doubts.
“Don’t be afraid, Zachariah! Your wife Elizabeth will give you a son, and you are to call him John.”
What was this? Some ghastly practical joke? They’d given up trying twenty years before, and both of them were well past it. There was lots more information which sounded just like God talking to the prophets of mediaeval times – but that wasn’t the sort of thing that happened these days. How could he explain it to anyone? How did he know it was true?
Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea asking an angel that sort of question. Now he had the proof he’d asked for, but not in the form that he wanted, and he couldn’t explain anything without writing it down or sign language. He couldn’t even open his mouth to finish off the ritual. Time to face the music.
Lord God, give me the faith to believe without proof and the humility to accept what you want to do through me. Amen
Editable and printable Word version