And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
It all seemed too good to be true, too impossible to be true. And Zacharias did what we commonly do when God reveals something like this in our lives. He looked at himself, at what he was, what he was not, and therefore he did not believe. He was filled with doubt, but not so much about who the child would become, not the greatness of this John who would be born and would go before Messiah, but in Zacharias’ eyes, it was impossible to have a child in the first place. In his mind, he could never get to that other place because he knew that first and necessary step could never happen—not for him.
But there was a time prepared for this miraculous event. God had ordained it. And if Zacharias had looked at who God was instead of who he was, he would have seen that nothing is impossible. He would have known so surely in his heart that the giver of life could bring life from a dead place. He would have trusted an almighty God to supply what he lacked. He would have known that God always tells the truth, and he would have trusted those promises to come in their time even though it made no sense to him.
But perhaps Zacharias, a faithful priest who had dedicated his life to God, believed wholeheartedly in the promises but just struggled to believe when it involved something so personal to him, something he had wanted so much for so long that went unfulfilled for almost a lifetime. God’s promises are always sure and true, and often, we can believe Him for a lot of things. But sometimes those personal things, those painful places within us where we’ve lost hope, can be the places where we are susceptible to doubt.
In the end, Zacharias would be a silent witness as all these things came to pass, and then he was able to believe. He realized how wrong he was to doubt. He learned some important lessons about faith and about who God is as he watched his wife grow great with child and then give birth to a precious son, truly a gift from God, truly a miracle unfolding before his eyes. We don’t have to doubt God, but the truth is that sometimes we do. We are imperfect, limited, finite humans who cannot always understand God. We can’t always see beyond the barriers we’ve built in our own minds about what is possible. But may we learn from those moments of weakness to look at God and not ourselves, to believe in God’s unlimited power, and to trust His Word when He speaks to us.