Unbelief vs Belief

In Luke 1, we see a contrast between two people who are presented with a revelation from God. The first one was Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The second one was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Both of them had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had presented them news of a child that would be born to them.

In Zechariah’s situation, Gabriel spoke to him as he went into the temple to burn incense. He was there to serve God as a priest, to offer worship to Him. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had been barren and without children and had been praying for a child. Yet as Gabriel came to tell him that they would have a child, Zechariah didn’t believe what Gabriel had come to tell him. He prayed and wanted what God was now giving him, but he couldn’t believe that it was actually true because both he and his wife were old.

Because Zechariah didn’t believe, Gabriel said that he wouldn’t be able to speak until his words were fulfilled. Until the day that Elizabeth would give birth, Zechariah would be silent.

On the other hand, Gabriel also came to Mary. As far as we know, she had not necessarily been praying for a child. She was young. In fact, she was a virgin, so it truly would have been impossible for her to have a child. She asked a similar question to Gabriel as did Zechariah: How can this be? But Gabriel responds to Mary in a different way than he did to Zechariah. He explains that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, that God’s power would overshadow her and she would become pregnant.

Clearly, there was something different in the question of Mary than that of Zechariah. Yes, the words were slightly different, and we can probably draw distinction there, but just the reaction of Gabriel in both circumstances tells us what we need to know: Zechariah did not believe, but Mary did. He wasn’t willing or able to imagine that God could fulfill His word. Mary, on the other hand, believed but didn’t understand.

God wants us to simply believe Him. He wants us to seek understanding, and He will provide it, but first we must believe what He says.

Maybe we might wonder: But when did God ever reveal something to us through an angel?

Yes, right. He may not have come to visit us in a fantastical way, sending an angel appear to us, but He has given us His word, the word of God. We have the Bible. We have the words that God has spoken to us and He wants us to believe them.

And if we will believe them, we will be blessed as Mary was. God will use us, just as He used Mary. Through Mary, the Saviour of the world, the Son of the Most High, was given to us. God used this woman who simply believed, who simply said:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:38

This must be our attitude as well. If we read and seek to understand God’s word, we can see a whole new point of view, a whole new perspective. We can be a people who have a purpose that is well beyond ourselves. We can be a people that can transcend this world. We can make the Saviour and Lord known to our world, making fruit and giving glory to God.

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