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.”
When Zechariah saw the angel Gabriel he was afraid, as we would all be. Gabriel tells him his prayers are answered and he will have a son - name him John. John means "Yahweh (LORD) is gracious". The promise to Zechariah was based on the last words God had given 400 years before.
1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers...”
It is an awesome task to be a parent. "Parents of Promise" are all of us who believe that we have a covenant with God to raise our children so that they might know they are purposed by God. We have this Zechariah struggles to hear the words:
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.”
It would be easy to smile and say "Oh, poor Zechariah, don't you believe?". But I have been there. Struggling to believe what seems impossible, struggling even to be a wise and good parent.
But, this is our task. We are parents of Promise. To us has been given this monumental task to raise up a generation to know and love God even as we have and do. Is it a given? No. Every generation has to turn their hearts to God. As has often been said: "God has no grandchildren". All of us become Children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, including our children, our grandchildren.
It ends like this: Luke 1:19-20
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.”
It might seem to be a punishment, but that is not the key here. When the prophet Malachi had received those final words, God became silent - 400 years passed before this word to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel. It was as if God had been waiting, and NOW occurred. Zechariah leaves the temple silent...even as God had been silent. In the end, Zechariah leaves the temple duties, goes home, tells Elizabeth what had happened, and she gets pregnant! It's simple, we don't do life with God well...but God always does life with us superbly.