God’s angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias while performing his priestly duties in the Holy of Holies in the temple to inform him that, after a long childless life, he and his wife Elizabeth would soon have a baby boy. Having prayed so long without result for this very thing, Zacharias could scarcely believe it. In fact, he didn’t believe it. Especially after being told that their child would fulfill Malachi’s final prophecy and come in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the nation for Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. The old priest knew well of the angel Gabriel from the book of Daniel, and all of the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to this important herald of the coming Messiah. But here was Gabriel in person, and it all sounded just too good to be true. At this point, this righteous and faithful old priest, chosen to become the father of John the Baptist, became filled with spiritual doubt.
18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. Luke 1:18-22 (HCSB)
Because of his unbelief, Zacharias was unable to speak at all until the child would be born. Nevertheless, he faithfully completed his time of service in the temple, and then returned home with Elizabeth. Shortly afterwards, to their great joy, the words of the angel came true, and Elizabeth conceived.
When the child was born, Elizabeth informed their relatives that they were planning to name the boy John, per Gabriel’s specific instructions. The relatives questioned this decision.
61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote:
HIS NAME IS JOHN.
And they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Luke 1:61-64 (HCSB)
Zacharias’ first words after almost a year of silence were those of praise and gratitude towards God. He had had plenty of time to meditate upon the goodness of the Lord, and he was not going to waste this opportunity to express his true feelings and the joy within his heart.
The Lord poured out His Holy Spirit upon Zacharias, and as he prayed, the Lord gave him prophetic words to speak about the Messiah and his newborn son, John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Lord.
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
70 just as He spoke by the mouth
of His holy prophets in ancient times;
76 And child, you will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare His ways,
77 to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. Luke 1:67-70,76-77 (HCSB)
Difficult as it was, Zacharias’ imposed silence and restoration was a further testimony to the power and presence of a miracle working God.
Several years ago, a pastor came to our church to share his testimony about losing his once-strong speaking voice due to vocal cord damage from a flu virus. He sought countless specialists to get his voice back, but no one could help him. The best sound he could produce, only with the greatest effort, sounded like a very weak and distorted laryngitis.
After three years of desperate but failed attempts at healing and a resulting deep depression, the pastor came very close to losing his faith and committing suicide.
Pressed into service the following Sunday morning to teach a Bible class on Psalm 103, the pastor was struggling through a reading of the assigned text, insisting all throughout it that God still does heal today even if He does not heal everyone, including himself. Though speaking these truths and these verses, in his heart, he barely had the faith to believe it.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion… Psalm 103:1-4 (NIV)
As the paster quoted the final verse about being redeemed from the pit, suddenly, after three years, his voice began to be restored. This miracle of God was recorded on tape and can be heard through the linked story at around the 4:30 mark of its enclosed video.
God is good, is very real, and is here with us today. Let us rejoice and give Him thanks and praise as He is working even now to restore all of our lives.
Lord, in Your great goodness You restore us wherever we have been broken. We rely upon You and Your care to see us through all of the challenges we face. You have never abandoned us, even in our darkest hour, and You never will. We come to You, the Great Physician, for complete restoration and healing. We thank You and praise You, lifting our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.