Poor old Zechariah. It’s easy to give him a roasting. All those years waiting hopefully and serving faithfully, and when his big moment comes…
But I wonder if Zechariah is not somewhat more like us than we care to admit. One of the great pointers to the truthfulness of the bible is that the characters are so much like us. There’s no massaging of egos or marketing jingo. The human characters are very… human. We can see ourselves in them – which reminds us that the God of the bible is a God for people like us.
People like Gideon, the mighty warrior who hides in the shed. Or Peter, the Rock who blows his mouth off and then runs away. Or, as here, Zechariah who doubted an angel, and temporarily lost his voice because he temporarily lost his trust.
Never is God’s love and mercy more greatly shown than in the people he chooses to use. Ordinary people, people who mess up and let him down. People that God gives a second chance to; and a third, and a fourth…
There is redemption in this story for Zechariah – just as there is for you and me. That’s who God is – and we’ll see Zechariah come good in a few days’ time.
But let’s also celebrate the faithfulness of Elizabeth today – one of the great unsung heroes of the bible. Mother of the Baptist, woman of faith – and encourager of Mary, who only sings after Elizabeth has welcomed her and prophesied over her. She may only get half a chapter, but her unique contribution alters the course of history: just as it has been for many people of faith through the ages. Her ‘appointed time’ was brief but brilliant.
Our God is the God of second chances: for Elizabeth, long after her childbearing years were over; for Zechariah, when their son was born; for us too, whatever falls, foibles, faults and failures we’ve had along the way.
God shows his favour to those who don’t deserve it. People like us. Give thanks for that beautiful truth today – and may it cause your heart to sing.