Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
There were about 20,000 Levites in the country at this time. They were (according to Old Testament prescription) divided into groups of 1000. When it was their turn to serve, each group would teach, conduct corporate worship, and manage the temple care and upkeep. They would draw lots to determine who would enter the Holy Place to burn incense twice each day. Truly an amazing opportunity. But Zechariah did not yet know just how amazing.
And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth 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 before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will 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, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”
Wow! Stunned. Amazed. His head spinning. He surely had studied the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah and knew there would be a forerunner (Mal. 4:5-6). How long did he consider these things, and his own inability to conceive a child with his also ag-ed wife, before he uttered the words he must have kicked himself for many times…But who knew it would be his son?? His SON!
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 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. 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.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 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. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. Luke 1:8-23 CSB
How many times do we pray, claiming the promises of the impossible, and then finding it almost impossible to believe when it happens? This appears to be Zechariah’s problem also. Giving them a son in their old age would have been impossible, but God did “exceedingly abundantly above” all that they asked or thought! (Eph. 3:20) And so they waited…