It had been 400 years since the people of Israel had heard from God when the angel Gabriel appeared to a priest named Zacharias and essentially told him, "God has not forgotten you, Zacharias. He is going to give you a sign."
The name Zacharias meant "God remembers." Zacharias was married to Elizabeth, whose named meant, "My God is an oath." Clearly the parents of Zacharias and Elizabeth had given prayerful thought to the names they gave their children, because they would have such a significant fulfillment. It was as if to say, "God remembers. God is keeping His oath. He is keeping His promise. The Messiah is coming."
The Bible tells us that Zacharias was a godly man and that his wife Elizabeth was godly as well. At this time, there were thousands of priests who worked in Israel. A lottery system actually had been developed to determine which priest would have the opportunity to go into the temple and offer incense on behalf of the people. It was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. It just so happened that Zacharias' turn had finally come, and God had orchestrated events for everything to fall into place on the day of Zacharias' service.
It reminds us that sometimes God speaks to us in the mundane, day-to-day activities of life. While we are waiting for big events to come, we fail to understand that sometimes God will work through the ordinary circumstances of life. Sometimes we are waiting for the earth to shake or the fire to come down from heaven, and meanwhile, God is saying, "I am speaking to you right now if you would just tune in and pay attention."
Here in this set of ordinary events, God was intervening as He often did. When shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks one night, the angels arrived with the wonderful message of the Messiah's arrival. When a man named Elisha was plowing in his field, the call came for him to become the next prophet for Israel. When a man named Gideon was hiding away in secrecy, an angel came to say, "You are going to be God's man."
Today could be like any other day for you. But on the other hand, your life could change today. The supernatural could invade the natural. God could say or do something of great significance in your life.
As Zacharias carried out his priestly duties, the wonderful announcement came that he and Elizabeth would have a child — but not just any child. That is shown by the fact that Gabriel himself came to announce his birth. Whenever Gabriel showed up, you knew that something big was going to happen. It was Gabriel who had given Daniel the schedule of the Messiah's arrival, crucifixion and return. It was Gabriel who would later appear to Mary and then to Joseph. His ministry was directly tied to the announcement of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Gabriel appeared and said to Zacharias, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John" (Luke 1:13 NKJV). In the original language, this verse implies that God heard the prayer Zacharias was praying at that very moment. What he was praying for we don't know exactly, but perhaps Zacharias was praying for a son. Gabriel suddenly appeared and said, "God just heard your prayer."
Maybe you, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, have been praying for someone or something for a long time. Perhaps you are even on the verge of giving up. Or maybe you have already given up praying for that husband or wife to come to faith, for that prodigal son or daughter to return, for that healing to take place, or for that door of ministry to open. Maybe you have concluded that God will never answer your prayer. But maybe it isn't His timing. God generally does not alert us to behind-the-scenes spiritual activity, but if you are praying for something that you believe to be the will of God, then keep praying and don't give up.
The Lord may intervene as He did with Zacharias and Elizabeth. One day you will offer up that prayer you have offered up so many times and an answer will finally come. God will say, "The time is right. Everything is set into motion. I am going to do it."
The Bible tells us that God makes all things perfect in His time. So keep praying.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!