In a region that was a long way from Rome, in the land of Palestine, the angel Gabriel visits with a Levite priest doing his once in a lifetime duty, burning incense in the Temple. The burning of the incense in the Temple was a representation of the prayers of a nation, but exactly that which was prayed is unknown. Some have thought that Zacharias prayed for him and his wife to have a child; this is possible, but not likely. To pray a selfish prayer in the Temple dedicated to the Almighty and His protective care of the nation seems out of line for the occasion.
Before he retires from his Temple duties and goes out to give what is known as the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), Zacharias is suddenly interrupted and visited by God’s messenger Gabriel. Frighten beyond measure, the Lord’s messenger reassures him and announces to him the Lord has heard his prayer and given him that which he and his wife desired. A child would be born to them in their old age.
Zacharias had doubts about such a promise, and inquired of the Lord’s messenger about how he could be sure of this, being two people past the years of child bearing. The angel gives Zacharias another word of reassurance, and for the remainder of the time of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (and before), the doubting priest would be silent, unable to speak. This silence was 1) punitive, 2) a sign, 3) and a certainty of keeping Zacharias’ joy quiet until the Lord said it was okay to speak (some have called this an apocalyptic secrecy).
When one thinks about this, it seems that Zacharias’ question was not unreasonable. The Lord, however, did not look upon it that way at all, and neither should have the Levite priest. Clearly, Zacharias knew how these things occurred, and he knew that the man’s limitations are not the Lord’s. Zacharias, of course, did learn, but not before he was taught a silent lesson. A lesson for us in all this is? That which the Lord gave to man is sufficient for us to respond to in faith. RT