We have perfect peace
Thousands of years ago God had sworn an oath to Abraham (v73):
‘I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 22:17-18).
Ever since, God has been blessing and multiplying but Israel has also been longing for the victory, freedom and blessing that the Messiah will bring; prophets have sung and spoken of the great Rescuer, revealing more and more of what is to come. And there has been silence and waiting. Then a few months ago the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah bursting with incredible news! It was starting to happen and his son was going to play a key role! And at this great and joyous moment Zechariah responded with doubt and cynicism and very human thinking (v18).
But now he gets it! He is filled with the Holy Spirit and faith and great rejoicing, with words of what is about to happen to fulfil all those prophecies and promises. He is bursting with faith, excitement and amazement.
And here we are, a couple of thousand years later, living in the fulfilment of all those words and hopes and dreams. Are we excited?! Do we know how good we’ve got it? These are the truths in Zechariah’s prophecy that are real for us now: God has visited us. We are redeemed. We have been saved, saved from our enemies and those who hate us. God has given us endless mercy and has welcomed us into his people – the blessing promised to Israel has been thrown out to the whole world. We are free from fear before God because we have been made holy and righteous and we can serve Him in this happy state! Our sins are all forgiven. We have been saved from death and darkness into light and life and hope. We have perfect peace.
I for one take this truth for granted and don’t always respond appropriately. Kind of like when Zechariah had an angel standing in front of him in the Holy of Holies giving him great and glorious news, he responded with ‘but we’re old’. There are different possible explanations for Zechariah’s response:
Logic– Despite Zechariah’s knowledge of Scripture, despite the angel, his response was still one of worldly logic. The natural seemed a more logical likelihood than the outrageous promise of God. Life in God’s kingdom is not logical! Not humanly speaking anyway. We can’t work it all out and understand it with our minds (which I find very frustrating!). There comes a point where we just have to believe and enjoy the incredible incomprehensible truth of it all!
Disappointment– Zechariah and Elizabeth were old. They must have gone through years of unanswered prayer, years of people judging them for their lack of children, years of hoping and never having that hope turn into joy. Sometimes when we have been continually disappointed or not seen prayers answered, we defend ourselves by not allowing ourselves to hope. Even if we pray we might not really hope for an answer because it is too painful to even imagine it. But even if we don’t always see it, this salvation and mercy, forgiveness, life and peace is ours, so we can be glad and hopeful.
Lack of faith– This is obvious in Zechariah’s story. We know he had some faith. He was seen by God as righteous and had the faith to follow his commands and ordinances. But his faith had its limits. And our limited faith can stop us from really, really, knowing the truth of what we live in, what God has done for us. The good news is we can grow in faith. One major way is by reading the Bible, so you’re on the right track!
Perspective– When Zechariah first heard the news he heard it from a human perspective. When he praised the Lord and prophesied he did so with God’s insight. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and God was revealing truth to him and giving him understanding that he couldn’t have got with just his human mind. The amazing thing for us is that we can all be filled with the Holy Spirit. We all have his life in us and if we allow Him to reveal truths and realities and mysteries to us beyond what we can see, then we will have a more appropriate reaction to the amazing grace of God that we’re living in!