A Doubting Response

“How can I be sure of this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)

Zechariah finds himself in the Holy Place in the Temple. In front of him is the Altar of Incense, just behind that is the veil that covers the entrance to the Holy of Holies, and beyond the veil are the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. On his right is the table of shewbread and on his left is the golden lampstand that provides the only light in this sacred space. On top of all that, he stands in the presence of an angel who has just delivered the news that his prayer for a son has been answered. And Zechariah’s response, if I may paraphrase, is this:  I’m going to need a sign – I need some proof -- I’m not sure that’s possible.

“I am Gabriel,” replied the angel. “I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And now you will be silent and unable to speak until the day this comes to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

We can look at this passage and only see the story that Zechariah doubted God’s messenger, and that as a result Zechariah would not be able to speak until the child was born. But there is so much more in this passage than just that story. There is much about this moment of doubt that characterizes the doubt we all face from time to time.

It wasn’t Zechariah’s fear that got him into trouble – it was the doubt that followed the fear. Zechariah looked at the circumstances. Both he and Elizabeth were well advanced in age, and he allowed those circumstances to dictate what he believed God could or would do. We must not view God through the lens of our circumstances; we must view our circumstances through the lens of God’s love and provision for us.

If there is anywhere that Zechariah should have expected to encounter a word from God, it was in his present surroundings. After all, the Israelites viewed the Temple as the dwelling place of God. If Zechariah didn’t expect to encounter God here, in a moment like this, where and when did he expect to encounter God?  That leads me to a final question.

How often have we failed to find God in our circumstances -- not because He wasn’t there, but because we weren’t expecting to find Him there?

By Jesse Smith

Jesse and his wife, Melanie, reside in Lexington, along with their son, Zak.

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