Zacharias and Elisabeth: Zacharias Did Not Believe

Last week we began our series on Elisabeth and Zacharias in our Eyewitness to Christmas series.  We discovered that God was about to accomplish the impossible in their lives.

Luke 1:8-23 (ASV)
8  Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,

Zacharias was a priest.   He served God.

Lots were cast to determine who would enter holy of holies

9  according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

“there were many duties in the temple service, and the priests in each course daily drew lots for these duties.”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

Entering into the holy of holies was a special honor that most priests were lucky if they were given the opportunity once in their lifetime.

10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense.

Zacharias began to burn the incense

Incense is “Made of a mixture of sweet spices. The temple incense was made of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, in equal parts, beaten very small—Ex 30:7-8, 34-38.”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

“Burned on the altar of incense in the Holy Place morning and evening. To burn the incense was an office held so honorable that no one was allowed to perform it twice, since it brought the offering priest nearer the divine presence in the Holy of Holies than any other priestly act, and carried with it the richest blessing from on high, which all ought to have a chance of thus obtaining.”  {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

“We cannot expect an interest therein if we do not pray, and pray with our spirits, and are not earnest in prayer. Nor can we expect that the best of our prayers should gain

An angel appeared

acceptance, and bring an answer of peace, but through the mediation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession. The prayers Zacharias often made, received an answer of peace. Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten. Prayers made when we were young and entering into the world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the world.”   {Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.}

11  And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of altar of incense.

Zacharias had entered the private sanctum of the holy of holies to fulfill his duties.  From nowhere an angel of the Lord appeared.  This was highly unexpected and we can only imagine the shock, disbelief and fear Zacharias must have experienced.

Zacharias did not believe

12  And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.

“This is the first messenger of the New Dispensation.”   {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

“There had been no appearance of an angel for about four hundred years…{the right side} is a place of honor and dignity {mentioned in Acts 7:56}.”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

13  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

This passage tells us that not only had Elisabeth prayed for offspring and beseeched the Lord, but so had Zacharias.  The couple had been praying for decades.  In their old age, had they continued to pray?  The scripture seems to indicate that may have been the case.

Zacharias was left mute

That supplication is where “The childless old priest had prayed for offspring.”  {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

“The name John means “the Lord is gracious,” or “the Lord is merciful.””  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

14  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

Not only would Zacharias and Elisabeth be blessed by this child and rejoice, but so would many others.


Zacharias before the angel

15  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

This is reminiscent of when Samson’s mother was visited by an angel.  As a Nazarene, she was told not to cut his hair.

“the stimulation of the Spirit is elsewhere thus contrasted with alcoholic stimulants—Acts 2:15-18; Eph 5:18.”   {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

“No kind of intoxicant. Like the Nazarites.”   {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament}

16  And many of the children of Israel shall be turn unto the Lord their God.

Zacharias before the angel

“Zacharias shall have a son in his old age, who shall be instrumental in the conversion of many souls to God, and preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. He shall go before Him with courage, zeal, holiness, and a mind dead to earthly interests and pleasures. The disobedient and rebellious would be brought back to the wisdom of their righteous forefathers, or rather, brought to attend to the wisdom of that Just One who was coming among them.”  {Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.}

17  And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.

“This was his mission, but it was only partially successful. The common people, who heard him gladly, received with gladness the Messiah; the scribes and Pharisees, who rejected the forerunner, rejected also the King.”  {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

Zacharias was rendered mute

“the face of Messiah, who is also the Lord God—Mal 3:1… And thus in fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah should come again… John showed the spirit of Elijah in his ascetic dress and life (2 Kings 1:8; Matt 3:4) and in his message of repentance—1 Kings 18:21-40…{the term to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children} are the last words of the Old Testament, there used by a prophet; here expounded by an angel; there concluding the law; here beginning the gospel.” The phrase may mean: 1. John will restore unity to the families of Israel, now divided into political factions, as Herodians or friends of Rome, and zealots or patriots; and into religious factions, as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.; or more likely it may mean, 2. That John would restore the broken relationship between the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their degenerate descendants—Isa 29:22-23; 63:16; John 8:37-40].”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

the other priest did not know what to think

18  And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

Notice that Zacharias wanted a sign.

“His question in the original is in four words. Four faithless words cost him forty weeks of silence.”
{The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

If he thought back to his forebearer, Abraham, he was also an old man with a wife well in years when their son Isaac was born.


An angel appeared

19  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.

“This name means “hero, or mighty one, of God.” Gabriel announced to Daniel the time of Christ’s birth and death, and the overthrow and final restoration of the Jewish nation (Dan 7-12.). He also announced the birth of Jesus to Mary (verse 26). The Bible gives the name of but one other angel; viz.: Michael, meaning “Who is like God?” Since Gabriel was the messenger who announced God’s merciful and gracious purposes, and Michael the one who executed his decrees and punishments, the Jews had a beautiful saying that “Gabriel flew with two wings, and Michael with only one.”… One who stands in the presence of God should be believed by men without approving signs.”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

20  And behold, thou shalt be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou believedst not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

the people wondered what happened to Zacharias

“In striking him dumb, God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God’s word. We may admire the patience of God towards us. God dealt kindly with him, for thus he prevented his speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith.”  {Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.}

21  And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marvelled while he tarried in the temple.

The people waited for Zacharias.  They were probably anxious for him to appear and share his experience while in the inner sanctum of the Lord.

Zecharias had to tell Elisabeth

22  And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: and he continued making signs unto them, and remained dumb.

Imagine the surprise of the people, when Zacharias appeared and could not speak.  He must have been motioning wildly trying to make them understand, because he could not find the words.  You can imagine someone must have frantically searched for a tablet on which he could write.

23  And it came to pass, when the days of his ministration were fulfilled, he departed unto his house.

“Some guess that he lived at Hebron, others at Jutta, five miles south of Hebron, others at Ain Karim, four miles west of Jerusalem, but no one knows.”  {The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.}

Zacharias must have been eager to rush home and relate to Elisabeth all that had

Zacharias and Elisabeth:


Zacharias did not believe what the angel said and he was struck mute for this.  There are so many times when God speaks to us in a variety of ways, but we refuse to listen or heed what we are told, the same as Zacharias.

I know there are many times when I have not heeded the Lord’s warnings or have resisted in what He has commanded me to do.  Zacharias made me wonder what would happen if God struck me mute for my resistance and disbelief.

Is there an area of your life where you struggle with resistance or disbelief?


The angel appeared to Zecharias but he did not believe Share on X

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