Unbelievable Promises

Luke 1: 5-20

by Ellis M. West

All births are miraculous, but some are more miraculous than others, and I’m referring not just to Jesus’ birth. The Bible tells of several: Sarah was barren all her life, but God told her at age ninety that she would have a son–Isaac. The mothers of both Samson and Samuel were old and childless until God “opened their wombs.” Today’s Scripture begins the story of the birth of John to Zechariah and Elizabeth, who also was barren and old.

Artwork by Zachary S.

What is most significant about some of these miraculous births is how persons reacted to God’s promise of a son and how God responded to them in turn. Sarah, for example, laughed in disbelief when God told her that she would bear a son. God was merely puzzled: “Why did Sarah laugh . . . .? Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” However, when Zechariah reacted with disbelief to Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, God was apparently angered, for Gabriel silenced Zechariah—at least temporarily.

Jesus, of course, often chastised his disciples because of their lack of faith, but he was more disappointed than angered. Why, then, did God get so upset with Zechariah? Because he was a priest? Because he had actually been praying for a child? Or because God wanted to teach Mary and Joseph how to respond to another of His unbelievable promises?

Whatever the answer, I am left wondering how God feels when I sometimes doubt his promises, and hoping, that if it’s anger, it won’t be permanent.

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