Zechariah and the Angel: Scene 1

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plain.                          

Actually, the Bible does not say the angels were singing, but let’s not quibble. We want our singing angels at Christmas.

My son, Pastor Nick, preached a message recently about Zechariah that got me thinking about the very human responses to the angel of Christmas. What can they teach us?

Scene 1: Zechariah

Even after 430 years of Divine silence, the priests continue in the temple rituals. A faithful priest and devoted husband, Zechariah’s name comes up in the temple service rotation. He is this day performing his duties in the Holy Place with great care.

Suddenly, an angel appears. Four centuries of holy blackout end. An angel! And he’s not singing o’er the plain. He’s standing between the altar of incense and the table of showbread.

 Gabriel. Serious. Artwork by Ron DiCianni

Gabriel. Serious.
Artwork by Ron DiCianni

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this scene. Nor should we underestimate the importance of Zechariah’s response.

Anytime God appoints a human being for a particular task, He takes a great risk. We can always doubt. We can always say no. Or argue. Or try to bargain.

The Angel Speaks

You will notice that when angels appear in the Bible, their first words are, “Do not be afraid.” I need not elaborate.

The angel has a fair amount to say, which you may read for yourself in Luke 1:

  • Your elderly wife will bear a son.
  • You will call his name John.
  • You will be very happy about this, as will many people.
  • He will be a great man, filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.
  • He will prepare the way for Messiah.

How will Zechariah reply? What would I say? What would you say?

Zechariah Responds

Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman. (Msg)

One of my favorite commentaries comments: “There was something evidently blamable in this hesitation on the part of Zacharias to receive the angel’s promise.”


The angel, Gabriel by name, Mighty One of God, special messenger of good news, finds this reply plenty blamable. I see him drawing himself up to his full angel height, boring the priest with his fiery angel eyes, and saying in unmistakable angel terms: “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. But since you seem to have trouble believing it, you will be deaf and mute until the baby is born. Not good, my brother, not good.” (My paraphrase, obviously.)

It is interesting that Abraham and Gideon got away with responses full of doubt. No deafness or muteness or angelic scolding.

Why does Zechariah suffer such consequences?

Perhaps because there is no time for doubt. The clock has run out. Messiah is on the threshold. Doubt must not overtake any of the players in the Unfolding Mystery.

C.S. Lewis suggests that, “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

It is something to think about at this Christmastime.

Thursday: The Angel, No Doubt: Scene 2 (Mary)


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin Smith on December 18, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Wow! And wordmistress does it again! Delivers the truth with a powerful punch wrapped in grace and love! Love me some wordmistress!


  2. Hello Debra, I loved this – Teaching the story this Sunday and looking for images and discovered your lovely writing! Do you have a book in the works? Blessings from France!


    • Glad this post blessed you! I had a look at your website, as well, and will be praying for you and your family and your ministry in France. I do not yet have a book published, but it is a goal.


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