As a parent, one of the disciplinary tools I’m very familiar with is “Time-Out.” Whenever I sent my children to time-out, it was because they chose to disobey. When they were toddlers, they usually went kicking and screaming. In their minds, my wife and I were sending them because we didn’t love them, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. We disciplined them because we loved them and wanted them to grow up to be responsible adults who understand the consequences of their behavior. In today’s passage, God sent Zechariah to a time-out of silence for his unbelief. 

  • What are some of the promises of God that are hard to believe? What circumstances are causing you to doubt him?


In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 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.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What biographical information do we learn about Elizabeth and Zechariah (vss. 5-8)? Based on this, what can you surmise about their faith?
  2. Put yourself in Zechariah’s shoes. What faith hurdles would you have to overcome to believe Gabriel’s message?
  3. In what ways do you see God’s promises as impossibilities? Do you see your difficult circumstances as barriers or as opportunities for God’s power to be on display?
  4. Make a list of any situations that are causing you to doubt God’s work in your life. What are the fears, emotions, and obstacles you face in believing him? 


Zechariah should have recalled the birth of Isaac to elderly Abraham and Sarah and believed the message of the Lord. Instead, he chose to question God’s abilities. God lovingly disciplined Zechariah for his unbelief so he would have silence to meditate on his own heart and further trust God’s work. This story reminds us that God is working out his purposes in the world, and that he invites us to walk with him, often through difficult times that invite us to trust him more.

  • Confess the ways you lack faith in God’s ability to work beyond what you think is humanly possible.
  • Thank God that he is strong and mighty, able to work out the impossible for his purposes.