So, have you ever been told something that you totally failed to process?
I love watching the TV shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos, where someone is hinting to another person about something really important and they just totally don’t get it.
Like the daughter who is trying to hint to her mom that she is pregnant, but mom is just not tuned in.
All of us have been there at one time or another! We are off in our own little worlds, thinking about something entirely different, without a clue about what is happening right before our eyes.
And then, of course, totally unprepared for what we are about to see and hear.
However, none of us ever had a case of it as bad as Zechariah!
Even though he is in the Holy Place, a place where Zechariah should have known God could and would visit and leave messages, Zechariah is clueless.
Because Zechariah was focused and prepared for what he thought he was supposed to do, not at all prepared for what God was going to do!
Kind of like some of us, who are so totally into Christmas preparations, that we are not prepared for the coming of the Christ!
Unintentionally, Zechariah becomes a striking example of what can go wrong when we take our responsibilities seriously, but don’t see the big picture.
We ought to be asking: What is God doing here? What does God really want? And, most importantly perhaps, what does God want me to be doing as his faithful follower.
Zechariah was a Levite, a descendent of one of the sons of Jacob, whom God made Israel. Levi’s progeny from the time of Moses were to see to the work of worship of Yahweh by the people of Israel.
They watched over the Tabernacle, the holy tent that traveled with Israel in the wilderness and then sat in Shiloh. And then after the Temple was built by Solomon in Jerusalem, were responsible for the sacrifices and the other regular daily rituals and worship activities that when on there.
Every male Levite who was physically able, went to Jerusalem for two weeks to serve in the Temple, with responsibilities both mundane and profound, including the responsibility morning and evening to offer a sacrifice of incense on the incense altar in the Holy part of the Temple, right outside the door to the Holy of Holies.
The incense was a visual and aromatic symbol of the prayers of the people rising up to heaven.
And this time when Zechariah went up to Jerusalem, he was chosen by a lottery to be the one who would burn the incense and then come out and bless all the people gathered.
He was focused, he was prepared, he was going to do his job exactly right. His mind was on the task, a task that most Levites would only perform once in a lifetime, if at all.
And then it all went off the rails. Because God had other plans!
Has that ever happened to you? Is it happening now?
No one expects an angel!
But the angel appeared anyway!
A son would be born to Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, a son God had chosen to be a special messenger to his people Israel.
Now no one knows for sure what Zechariah was thinking, but one has to be suspicious, that Zechariah was completely thrown off track.
He was focused on getting the tasks right, doing the job to the best of his ability, with no thought that in burning the incense, his most fervent prayers would be caught up in the smoke!
It never occurred to Zechariah, that the God he worshipped and longed to serve with his whole heart might right then and right there answer those prayers.
Have you ever been preparing so carefully for something that you end up being unprepared for what really happens?
Have you ever prayed fervently, with your whole heart, never suspecting that God’s answer might come right as you were praying?
We hope for an answer. We long for an answer some day.
But none of us expect an angel!
But there he was, frightening as can be, and in the moment, all Zechariah could think was, “wait, what, not now, I have to get this task done, I have to go back out and bless the people!
Oh jeez, not now, I can’t have a son, a messenger like Elijah, a forerunner of the Messiah, because I have things to do.”
And in that moment, Zechariah, faithful Zechariah, ever so slightly pushes away God’s answer.
But God is not surprised, nor hurt, nor moved.
Instead he seals the deal with the reluctant Zechariah by sealing his lips, so that Zechariah, who for a moment forgot all about the power of prayer, would understand something new about prayer and the God to whom his prayers ascended.
Its as if God touched Zechariah’s lips with a burning coal, just like he did Isaiah’s, burning away the sin of Zechariah’s doubt, but leaving a mark that would remind Zechariah of his encounter with the angel.
Not another spoken prayer, until Zechariah, you understand its power!
Zechariah had prayed for like forever that he and Elizabeth have a child, and that God would fulfill his promise to Israel, but it had simply never occurred to Zechariah that God might be planning to answers his prayers!
How about you?
What are you praying for?
What are you praying about?
Do you really understand the power of prayer?
And, are you really prepared for the one who is coming?