Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach from Luke chapter 1 about the experience of Zacharias. Zacharias was a descendant of the priestly line of Aaron. So was his wife Elizabeth. They were extremely devout believers. Luke 1:6 tells us that they lived blameless lives before the law, but more than that…they were found righteous in the eyes of the Lord. This means that their beliefs were more than just a religious practice. They earnestly sought and pursued a relationship with God.
But they were old. And Elizabeth was barren. Talk about a slap in the face. In their culture, to be barren was a sign of being cursed and despised by God. It was a sign of sin. I’m sure Zacharias and Elizabeth had many moments of doubt and confusion. I’m sure that they questioned God. Yet still they pursued him. Still they continued to be righteous and blameless.
In this story, Zacharias was serving his bi-annual week long service to the temple. Incense was to be burned every morning and evening in the Holy Place before the curtain to the Holy of Holies. The priests chose by lot who would perform this duty. To be chosen was an honor. With so many priests, it was unlikely that most would ever get the chance. And no one person was ever allowed to do it twice.
On this day, Zacharias was chosen. As he went in, the others prayed outside. He lit the incense. He said the blessing. And suddenly there was someone standing beside him. No one had followed him…he’d heard no sound behind him and no sound of entry. Standing before the veil, there was only one explanation of this person’s appearance. The person had come from the Holy of Holies.
Zacharias was afraid…and well he should be. But the angel reassured him of his safety and told him his prayers for a son would be answered. And this son would be the prophet that would go before the Messiah.
The Zacharias did something amazing. This devout, blameless, righteous man, who had spent a lifetime pursuing God and serving in the priestly order; this man chosen with the once in a lifetime honor of lighting the incense in the Holy Place; who had no doubt where this stranger had come from, who feared for his life…
This man doubted.
And I wonder how often we do the same thing. We pray and seek God, we do everything right and everything we’re supposed to. But when it comes time for God to bless us we shake our heads with doubt. We cannot see the truth before our very faces.
God doesn’t want us to doubt. He was us to trust. And he will squeeze the doubt out of us if he has to. Zacharias had to spend the next nine months mute…reflecting on his doubt and on God’s faithfulness. In the end he knew his place before the Lord.
And he no longer doubted.