In the gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zechariah and told him that he and his wife were to give birth to the one who would be known as John the Baptist, the herald of Christ. But Zechariah and Elizabeth were old, so Zechariah expressed doubt. Here is Gabriel’s reply:
19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
20 And behold, 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 1:19-20
Basically, his answer was that this message was the very word of God, and since Zechariah doubted God Himself, he would be made mute. But why? There are probably many layers to the answer, but here are three.
First, this is discipline. Zechariah had sinned against God by not believing Him, despite Zechariah’s knowledge of God’s omnipotence and perfect track record of accomplishing His promises. Since God loves Zechariah, it was right for Him to discipline him as His son.
Second, this is mercy. The punishment due sin is death and eternal suffering, but instead, Zechariah is only made temporarily mute. And it would be a merciful daily reminder to trust in God, to believe His promises.
Third, this is a miracle. The Lord often used miracles to validate His word, and that seems to be what Zechariah’s sudden muteness served to do. Not only would it serve as a sign to himself, but also to all the people outside to whom he would have to make hand signals to explain what had happened, as a testimony to the glory of God.
You know, we might be hard on Zechariah. “Really? How could he doubt an angel of God?” But, sheep, we do it all the time. We have seen mighty works from God and read His mighty word, yet we sometimes doubt His promises. And He continues to be merciful and gracious toward us.