Zachariah is a good man. Elizabeth is a good gal. They are altogether righteous and blameless in the commandments of God. Zachariah is a priest and Elizabeth is a descendant of Aaron, and they are covenantally faithful (Luke 1:5-6). If you knew them, you would say, “When I grow up, I want to be like Zachariah.” I would imagine that their faithfulness is what Paul talks about when he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
And yet, Elizabeth is barren. They have never had a seed from Yahweh and they longed for Genesis 3:15 to fulfilled. And then one day Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, visits Zachariah and says, “You’re gonna have a son and his name is John!”
Zachariah, giving glory to his wife says, “I’m an old ragged dog, and my wife, ever so graceful, is along in years too. How can we have kids?”
And here is his doubt. The Word of God comes to him: You will have a son and his name is John. And Zachariah says, “Nahhh.” This is doubt because he should have known his story, which is also our story. How many barren women have been visited by God with a promised seed? Sarah, Manaoh’s wife, Hannah, Ruth, and so on. Zachariah had ample proof to look at God’s Word and say, “Oh yeah, that is good news.” But he didn’t. This altogether righteous and blameless man slipped a moment.
And the Father disciplined him. He went to the bedroom and got the rod of discipline and Zachariah is struck mute. Zachariah comes out of the Temple, which is when the priest would give a benediction over the people praying as the incense rose to heaven, and he is silent. He cannot bless, for he didn’t believe. God the Father is spanking His son.
Fast forward nine months. Elizabeth gives birth to a baby boy and all these people want to name this baby Zachariah, you know, after his daddy. Elizabeth says, “Nahhh, we want to name him John.” And the people, not wanting to cut down the family tree, went to Zachariah and made signs to him (apparently his chastisement progressed in such a way that he also lost his hearing). And they get across to him that they are wondering about the baby’s name.
Zachariah gets a writing tablet and writes, “His name is John.” And notice that Zachariah does not say, “We want his name to be John.” He says, “His name IS John.” There is no getting around it. No two-ways about it. John is John (Luke 1:61-63). Zachariah is throwing his hat in with God’s Word and giving his Amen to it.
God named John John, what could Zachariah do but agree? And as soon as he does. As soon as Zachariah gives his Amen to God’s Word his mouth and tongue are loosed (Luke 1:64) and he praises God in song, see Luke 1:67-79.
Now, here is the pattern. A Christian (Zachariah) slips into doubt, is disciplined (spanked, struck mute) by the Father, is restored according to the Word (receives the consequences and gives his Amen to the Word), and sings praise. All through this Zachariah is saved, just like you and me. He is a Christian, set apart by God, chosen and loved and treated as a son. When you die you will give him a hug as you both chat and sing for joy over the glories of the Lamb.
When we slip, we should have the heart of Zachariah. When discipline comes that does not mean you are cut out of the vine, removed from the covenant. Rather, when we receive discipline, receive it in context. A son is not cast out, but stricken to be restored. Receive the consequences, receive restoration, and sing praise. After all, it is our Father in heaven doling out the disciplining rod, and He does it for our good, to grow our faith.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:3-11