And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.”
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
[Luke 1:14-22 NKJV]
How shall I know this? Despite his faith, and knowing the rituals of the temple; the reality for Zacharias was that he did not believe. He believed that he believed, but his belief was as solid as candyfloss.
Zacharias was a good man but he did not know God; so when he prayed, his prayer was heard, but God had to send Gabriel (man of God) to show him the way, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time. God does not take shortcuts to achieve His purpose. As we know, He often uses unbelievers to accomplish His work — and those people can be the religious who do not understand the reality of God as found through His Holy Spirit. — so religion has to be turned into relationship. In other words, our voice has to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God*, so that it becomes God’s voice that speaks through us and not our own.
Zacharias was rendered speechless until he learned to wait upon The Lord and see for Himself that his prayer was heard. He had to learn patience. His voice was not needed; indeed it had to be silenced. He was a priest in the temple; he had prayed at the altar of incense ... had he? Scripture does not say that; it says his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Is that a prayer? It seems that it is — and Zacharias had to be taken to the place where he realised that this prayer was heard, for he was part of a plan with eternal consequences, that he knew not of.
I have often wondered why Jesus repeatedly asked his disciples and others; those for whom he had performed miracles and wonders in their lives, to say nothing of the matter, to remain silent. This does not seem the act of someone building a following or saving mankind; but then that was not what He came to do. He came to die and proclaim the Kingdom of God. He understood that the healings, the miracles, the ‘signs and wonders’ were really distractions from His true purpose. Such things are a consequence of who He is, not the reason why He is who He is.
Jesus needed no advertising — nothing need be said. He is who He is — and so in His final hours, when Pilate asked Him to justify Himself, He said nothing.
* Romans 12:2 NKJV
In the Cross we see the dimensions of Divine love. The cross is not the cross of a man, but an exhibition of the heart of God. At the back of the wall of the world stands God with His arms outstretched, and every man driven there is driven into the arms of God. The Cross of Jesus is the supreme evidence of the love of God (Romans 8:35-39).