Hold on to 'Who'
I started a yearly Bible reading plan for 2018. Each day there’s a reading from the first 5 books of the Bible; from the prophets; from Psalms and Proverbs; and from the New Testament. This morning I was reading from Luke how the angel Gabriel appeared to both Zechariah and to Mary. He let Zechariah know that his wife Elizabeth was going to conceive a child that they’d name John. Of course, to Mary the angel told her about Jesus. What struck me was the response from Zechariah and from Mary. Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
At first glance it looks like they're both asking a similar question. However, the angel's response shows the heart behind their questions is very different. Do you know what happened to Zechariah? The angel struck him with muteness. He was punished and unable to speak for the next 9 months while his wife Elizabeth carried their baby. The reason he was made silent is made explicitly clear in the text: “you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, BECAUSE you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:20).
Both Zechariah and Mary asked the angel a question, but Mary’s question was basically, “How is God going to give me a baby when I’ve never slept with a man?” She believed God WOULD do it, she just didn’t know how He would do it. So, in response to her question, Gabriel tells her the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive. In contrast to Mary, Zechariah DOES NOT BELIEVE and his question is really just a veiled statement of unbelief. It’s really like he’s saying: “That can’t happen! Me and my wife are too old to have kids.” That’s why the angel strikes him with silence.
God knows our weaknesses, frailties, and doubts. Graciously he gives us room to ask questions. But, He wants those questions to be asked from the foundation of faith. He knows we struggle and will throw our hands up and say, “How can this be?” What’s important for our hearts is to know that with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. We certainly might not know the “hows” of it all, but we must hold on to the “who” of it all.
When Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth (Zechariah’s wife) and walks in, Elizabeth said to her, “…blessed is she WHO BELIEVED that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Mary didn’t know “how” God would do it, but believed that HE would do it! That’s what we must hold on to. We have to hold on to the WHO even when we don’t know the HOW.