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Learning from Zechariah: Devoted to God, Still Growing in Trust

What does God think of us when we struggle to trust him?  What does he do when our faith is weak?

In the Gospel According to Luke, the first characters to whom we are introduced are Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Zechariah is a priest and his wife also comes from a priestly family.  They are also described in this way.

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. (Luke 1:6)

There are many people in the Old Testament who were described as righteous and blameless, but what does the bible mean by that?  For Zechariah and Elizabeth, it means they had a loving and trusting relationship with God shown in their obedience to him.  They were totally faithful to him.  It doesn’t mean they were perfect or sinless.  But it means they were devoted to God.  Zechariah and Elizabeth put God first in their lives.

Which makes verse 7 surprising:

7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:7)

They are doing everything right. And yet, they haven’t been able to get pregnant. For us and for many people in their day, we don’t understand this. Why would God not give good things to good people? Why would this bad thing happen to such a good couple? These verses can serve as a comfort to us because sometimes when we go through hard things in life, we immediately start wondering what we did wrong for which God is punishing us. This verse tells you that the hardships in your life aren’t always punishment, but are part of God’s bigger plan.

A few verses later, a messenger of God shows up while Zechariah is attending to his priestly duties in the temple.  He is shocked by the angel's presence and even more shocked by his message.  The angel, Gabriel, tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son and he is going to play a special part in God's plans.  Zechariah's immediate response shows a lack of faith.  He has heard this amazing news, but his first question is: "How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."  Zechariah is only focused their inability.  God sends a message specifically to Zechariah by one of his top angels and Zechariah barely hears it.  He only responds with doubt.

The angel gives Zechariah a sign: he will be unable to speak until everything happens.  God doesn't take away the blessing because of Zechariah's doubt.  

Everything happens as Gabriel said it would.  Elizabeth becomes pregnant and after nine months gives birth to a boy whom they name John - the name God gave him.  At the moment John confirms the name using a writing tablet, he is able to speak again and his first words are praise to God.  That is followed by a song of thanksgiving for the work God is doing for his people.

Over his nine months of silence, Zechariah’s faith grew.  Zechariah needed to learn to trust God more, which should be encouraging to all of us because in 1:6 he is described as righteous and blameless. He is devoted to God and yet his faith needed to grow. Sometimes, God may put us through something so that we can learn to trust him more.

So what do we learn about trusting God from Zechariah?

  1. We may be completely devoted to God - righteous before him and walking blamelessly in all his commandments and statutes - and yet not get what we want (Luke 1:6-7).
  2. We may be completely devoted to God and yet still lack trust in certain areas (Luke 1:18).
  3. God may still bless us even if we lack trust (Luke 1:18-20).
  4. God may put us through something in order to grow our trust (Luke 1:20; 1:64).