A village in West Africa had saved for years to build a church. Once it was complete, they heard that an urban planning group had decided to build a road that would cut directly through their building. Devastated, the people gathered to fast and pray, asking God to preserve their church. Imagine their joy when the engineer returned, saying his plans had changed and the new road would affect only an outer corner. God answered their prayers!
The angel’s appearance to Zechariah was shocking and unexpected. The angel’s message was even more startling and unexpected because it was good news: Zechariah’s prayers had been heard and answered. The couple’s prayers for a child had not gone unnoticed. The angel said Zechariah and Elizabeth would be given a son that they were to name him “John” (v. 13), and he would have an amazing role to play in setting the stage for the Messiah.
Their son John would be “great” (v. 15), with a life marked by commitment to God. He would proclaim the arrival of the Messiah and lead many in the nation of Israel to the Lord God. In verse 17, the prophet Elijah is mentioned—John would be like him in spirit and power. It is hard to imagine the thoughts that were racing through Zechariah’s mind. He was certainly shocked to see the angel. But to hear that his prayers were answered? After so many years?
Zechariah responded to the angel in verse 18, expressing some doubt. He gave the logical, human perspective on the situation, outlining obstacles: “I am an old man” (v. 18). The angel repeated the authority of God and pronounced that Zechariah, because of his disbelief, would be unable to speak until John was born (v. 20).