He Shall Prepare the Way of the Lord
As Zacharias stood before the Altar burning incense and offering up to God prayers and worship, a throng of people were praying in the outer court.
Out of the corner of his eye and through the heavy smoke of Glory in the Holy Place, Zacharias suddenly noticed some movement to the right side of the Altar. He was gripped with fear at the appearance of the angel of the Lord.
The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17, Malachi 4:5-6 NKJV).
The name John, in Hebrew origin, means “Yahweh has favored or Yahweh has graced”.
Zacharias replied, “By what shall I know and be sure of this? (Zacharias was basically saying “What you say is impossible!”) I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years!” (Luke 1:18 AMP)
Then the angel replied, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God and I have been sent to talk to you and to bring you this good news. Now behold, you will be and will continue to be silent and not able to speak till the day when these things take place, because you have not believed what I told you; but my words are of a kind which will be fulfilled in the appointed and proper time” (Luke 1:19-20 AMP). Then Gabriel departed from him.
Zacharias was made mute because of his unbelief and the Lord had to close his mouth so that he would not cancel out, with his own negative and doubt-filled words, what God wanted to do.
Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. The words we speak contain creative power for good or bad. We shall have what we continually say.
Sometimes God has to shut our mouths, so that when we are tempted to say something negative and doubtful concerning promises God has spoken to us, that we just cannot say it.
It is our tongue that gets us into the most trouble in life, and especially in relationships. A tongue of continual complaining and unbelief can cancel out, or delay, many of the good things God wants to do in our lives.
Another reason Zacharias was struck mute is because he doubted Gabriel, thus doubting Yahweh too. The word from the Lord was not delivered in person by a human being (as even the most seasoned of prophets only “see through a glass darkly” and may miss it at times). Gabriel ministers in God’s very Throne Room, face to face with Yahweh.
There are ranks, or levels of authority, among the angelic hosts of Heaven. Gabriel is one of the highest ranking chief archangels in Heaven who serves around God’s Throne taking his orders directly from the Most High God. There is no possibility that he could have made a mistake in hearing from the Lord.
Zacharias had the faith to pray and believe for a child for many years. However, hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Too much time had gone by. His heart became hardened and closed off to receiving.
He had lost all hope many years prior, and now he and Elisabeth were too old to have children. He had come to a place of acceptance—that he and Elisabeth would never have a child. Gabriel’s message stirred up old desires and hopes in Zacharias’ heart, and disappointments, which was painful, because he had already accepted the fact that it would never happen.
Zacharias is a prophetic picture to us. When God first drops a promise in our heart, or gives us a prophetic word, we are filled with joy. But after years of delay, hope deferred makes the heart sick. The temptation is to give up and relinquish the word.
While many have strong faith to believe for a long time for their promise, due to delays, when the promise finally comes they think they have no strength to give birth to the promise. Isaiah 66:9 (NKJV) says, “Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.
Birthing prophetic promises is likened to giving birth in the natural. When the time comes for the promises to be fulfilled, then the labor pains and travail begins. Once the labor begins, the birthing is imminent.
Travail represents intercession. When you intercede, it leads to desires and promises being birthed. Often when a promise comes to pass, it first begins as a seed and then it grows until it is complete. Therefore, when prophetic words come to pass, often it happens over a process in stages.
Often a prophetic word or promise fails to come to pass because of passivity. I used to think that when a word was spoken that if it was truly God, that it would automatically come to pass.
However, I’ve been learning that we have a part to play in prophetic promises coming to pass in our lives. We have to birth the promise in prayer, confess the promise and sow towards whatever it is that we are believing God for.
We have to learn to wait patiently on the Lord. Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV) says, “That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
We have to cooperate with God by taking appropriate steps of action to bring the promise to pass. James 2:20 says that faith without works is dead.
Zacharias was in the Holy Place much longer than usual. The priests outside in the Outer Court waited a long time for Zacharias to come out and began to wonder why he was delayed.
Thoughts raced through their minds. “Why is he taking so long? Is everything okay?” Finally, Zacharias walked out of the Holy Place and remained speechless, unable to talk. Zacharias beckoned to them in gestures and then the priests realized that he must have seen a vision.
When the days of Zacharias’ service in the Temple were complete, he returned home. Shortly thereafter, Elisabeth conceived just as God had said.
They kept the pregnancy quiet for five months before telling their relatives and neighbors the joyful news. Then Elisabeth declared, “The Lord has done this for me! In these days He has shown me His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:25 NIV).
Our God is a good and faithful God who fulfills His promises!