18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this is going to happen? My wife and I are both very old.”
19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel, God’s servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. 20 You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.”
21 The crowd was waiting for Zechariah and kept wondering why he was staying so long in the temple. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak, and they knew he had seen a vision. He motioned to them with his hands, but did not say a thing.
23 When Zechariah’s time of service in the temple was over, he went home. 24 Soon after that, his wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself, 25 “What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me.”
When God Actually Shows Up
What happens when we get used to just going through the motions? Zechariah’s been doing the ‘God-thing’ for a long time. First you wash this way, then put on these special clothes that have bells around the bottom (in case God strikes you down dead and someone has to pull you out by the rope you also wear around your ankle), then you say this prayer, then you light the incense burner, then you say this other prayer, then you back out of the space, then you go wash and change, then you go on with your day.
This is the place and the space where the Jews understand God to live – but Zechariah didn’t expect to meet God’s messenger there!
The problem with getting used to ‘the way things are done’ is that sometimes we’re not really prepared for God to break in with something different – even when it’s for something we desperately wanted once, a long time ago. I remember the first day I came to Vox. I was going through the motions because it was the thing I was supposed to do, but I wasn’t really expecting anything. That day – the first in Nathan’s series on Leviticus, of all things – God showed up and started telling me that He loved me, and this was going to be a place where I got to learn what this love looked like and felt like. But I kinda didn’t believe that could be true …
Zechariah doesn’t believe the angel, either. But that doesn’t stop the promise from coming true – it just means that Zechariah is stuck speechless for most of a year. (Thankfully I didn’t suffer this fate!)
It turns out that our willingness to believe that God is up to something isn’t really a prerequisite for God to do what God says He will do. But all the same, Zechariah seems to miss out on all that this experience could have been for him because of his disbelief.
God hasn’t stopped being interested in bringing change to our world. He’s brought each of us in to this community of love and transformation and change because he’s interested in seeing change in us and change in those around us. Over this coming year as we walk slowly through the pages of Luke, we’re going to witness how God showed up ‘back in the day’, but we’re also going to look out for how God is showing up today.
- What ways of living and being have you gotten used to?
- What stories do you tell yourself about your life that might be getting in the way of hearing from God?
- I have to be afraid because …?
- Life never goes my way …?
- I’ll worry about that tomorrow …?
- There’s never enough …?
- This is just the way it has to be …?
- The rules are different for me than they are for everyone else …?
- God’s not really interested in …?
- In what way(s) could you start to carve out mental or physical space in your day to assume that God might show up?
You can find more studies in the book of Luke on our website here.