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.
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.(Luke 1:10-25)
The aged priest Zechariah, is standing in the holiest place on earth, in a room which most men would not be qualified to stand in, and doing a task, for which he had been selected by two different lotteries.
There in the house of God, he encounters an Angel, something no other officiating Priest has reported ever to have happened in all of history.
But he asks the Angel how it would be possible for He and his wife to bear a Son, as the Angel reported! This is a Priest of the religion of Abraham and Sarah! The entire Hebrew people came about by the same miracle for with God nothing is too difficult!
The Angel brought this Priest the gospel and the Priest questioned it in doubt and unbelief. Zechariah’s unbelief stuck at the heart of the gospel. In order for Zechariah and his wife to have a son in their old age, death and the decay of their bodies would have to be reversed, by the power of God.
The ultimate program of God, ever since the fall in the garden and the promise of the coming seed of the woman, was to “redeem all of creation from the bondage of corruption” by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If he couldn’t believe the Word of God concerning the birth of his Son the forerunner, how would he be able to believe in the resurrection of the dead for the whole world.
Zechariah’s unbelief struck at the very heart of the gospel, so the Angel struck the Priest dumb!
Remember all of this took place during the morning temple service, and right at the climax of it. The Worshippers were prostrated, waiting for the emergence of Zechariah from the Holy Place, anticipating the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.(Numbers 6:24)
What kind of a blessing can come from a priest who demands an authoritative sign, when spoken by an Angel in the Holy Place? What is there to say, when unbelief in the reversal of death and decay by the power of God surfaces? How many modern ministers of God have been silenced or struck dumb, because of the same unbelief?
The basic principle of Redemption is that “God gives life to the dead and calls those things which be not as though they are”, even reversing the processes of death! .To lose faith in that is to nullify ministry.
Eidersheim’s description of how the service ended “Life and times of Jesus the Messiah” is poignant here,
A period of unusual length had passed, since the signal for incensing had been given. The prayers of the people had been offered, and their anxious gaze was directed towards the Holy Place. At last Zacharias emerged to take his stand on the top of the steps which led from the Porch to the Court of the Priests, waiting to lead in the priestly benediction,36 that preceded the daily meat-offering and the chant of the Psalms of praise, accompanied with joyous sound of music, as the drink-offering was poured out.
But already the sign of Zacharias was to be a sign to all the people. The pieces of the sacrifices had been ranged in due order on the altar of burnt-offering; the priests stood on the steps to the porch, and the people were in waiting. Zacharias essayed to speak the words of benediction, unconscious that the stoke had fallen. But the people knew it by his silence, that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Yet as he stood helpless, trying by signs to indicate it to the awestruck assembly, he remained dumb.
Wondering, they had dispersed – people and priests. The day’s service over, another family of ministrants took the place of those among whom Zacharias had been; and again, at the close of the week’s service, another ‘course’ that of Abia. They returned to their homes – some to Ophel, some to Jericho, some to their quiet dwellings in the country. But God fulfilled the word which He had spoken by His Angel.