Zacharias is a curious personality in the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke begins with his story, and he and his wife are introduced with the words: "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." (1:6).
(1) They were both righteous "before God". There were many, and still are many, who would like to only look (or at least only look) righteous before people. The Pharisees used to wear white robes, stand in public places, and try to show how righteous and godly they were. But, Jesus called them "white washed tombs". They were not righteous in God's sight. But, these were the same persons who called Jesus a blasphemer, a violator of law, and condemned him to the death of the cross. However, Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of divine righteousness. It's not important whether think we are righteous or not. But, it's important what the True and Rightful Judge says about us. To live righteously means to live in perfect accordance with God's will. That is described in the next part of the statement.
(2) They were continually "walking in "all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless". They didn't just obey some commandments and let go the others. They obeyed all the commandments without exception. They also kept all the ordinances (things that God had ordained to carry about, like the offerings, feasts, etc) faithfully. They didn't argue around, rationalize, dilute, compromise, or neglect even one of them. Jesus said that if someone belittles a commandment and treats it slightly, he will also be treated slightly in the kingdom of God; but, he who obeys and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).
(3) God bears testimony about "both" of them. It was not just Zacharias or only Elizabeth. Both of them were God-fearing. Such a testimony was not given even about Job. Here is a man who led his family well. He was truly fit for service in the House of God (1Timothy 3:5). Their exact opposite in the New Testament were Ananias and Sapphira. But, regarding Zacharias and Elizabeth, God could bear witness about both of them.
(4) Finally, the Bible also records that their obedience was "blameless". They could obey because they knew the Word, thought about the word, and took care to obey it. No one could point a finger against them with regard to this. There are a very few people today who could confidently say that they obey "all" the commandments. One reason is because they aren't confident if they really know all the commands. And, the reason of this is generally a neglect of reading and meditating on the Word of God. The lack of God's Word creates darkness. It brings blame. For Zacharias and Elizabeth the Bible was the action manual. Therefore, no one could bring any accusation against them. If one is blameless in the eyes of God, then there's nothing that can condemn that person anymore; for, God is in his/her side.
And, yet despite all this testimony in favor of them, the Bible declares that Elizabeth was barren. That might be reproachful in man's sight. However, in God's sight it is but a small thing, for the fruit of the womb is from Him. Also, delay is not a signal for abandoning hope. We learn that Zacharias was a prayerful man. The angel testified that his prayer was heard (1:13). It might have taken quite a bit of time for the answer to come but, it all came in time well orchestrated by God's Spirit: the falling of the lot for Zacharias' term to get into the Temple, the moment of appearance, the words to be spoken by the angel -- everything!
Not many people heard such a testimony from God that their prayer was heard. God does love everyone, but He will not listen to the prayers of sinners. He tells us in the books of the prophets that we must get things right first in our own lives before we even approach His altar. Jesus told that we must first settle things with each other before bringing an offering before God. He also made it clear that answers to prayers are only for us when we abide in Him and His words abide in us. A prayer of repentance is a different thing; God calls for repentance and honors true repentance. However, the prayers of sinners are hindered (1Peter 3:7). But, the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
1Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
When he saw the angel and heard those words, Zacharias was certainly shocked, surprised, and afraid. He didn't expect such a thing. In fact, this was the first time someone encountered such a thing in the past 400 some years since the Babylonian captivity in the 5th century BC. The angel told him that he's going to have a son through his wife Elizabeth. (I think it's good he mentioned Elizabeth's name, or else, perhaps, the story of Abraham and Hagira would have been repented here.) But, it was still difficult for him to believe. It sometimes happens that people pray but are surprised and filled with incredulity when they see the answer. So, he fearfully asked, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." (1:18). He was asking for a sign, which he shouldn't have done if he knew his roots well and remembered that God gave Abraham a child when he was 100 years old.
God did give Zacharias a sign; however, that sign was quite unique from any other. It was a sign that would remain with Zacharias till the day of his fulfillment. It was a sign that would remind him of God's Word every moment of his life. The sign was that Zacharias would be unable to speak anything till John was born. We don't know how long Zacharias lingered inside. But, we do know that it took a long time before he came out. The account in Luke seems to be condensed and to-the-point version, but, it was clear that the people began to wonder that he didn't come out till then. It must have been a marvelous sight to see him come out and make signs to communicate. But, he did finish all the service before going home. In due time, John was born. And, when, after John's birth, Zacharias confessed through writing on a slate that the boy will be called John, his lips were opened and he began praising God.
ZACHARIAS' THREE FAITH-UTTERANCES
1. ""Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people..." He confessed what God had already done: He has visited and redeemed. He didn't say "He will redeem: but, "He has visited and redeemed." If God is with us, then heaven is here. What God will do is what God has already done.
2. And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began (Luk 1:69-70). He confessed what God was doing, in connection with His covenant. Zacharias confessed that "God remembers". His very name meant "YHWH remembers".. Elizabeth's name meant "God's Oath". God acts with people through His Covenants and His Covenants are perfect and absolute. Delay doesn't mean that God has deserted us. He remembers His Covenant and absolutely knows what to do with our lives. Today, we have the New Covenant of Jesus. If God was so serious to remember the Covenants of the Old Testament, how much more will he not remember us in His Son, Jesus Christ today.
3. Then we see that Zacharias prophesies about his child, John. He speaks very positive words, filled with the Holy Spirit. His words were words of faith, not of doubt. What words of blessing do we speak to our children? To the people of the next generation? Do we speak words of faith into their lives. Remember that Zacharias and Elizabeth too had their responsibility: "he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink." (1:15). Their responsibility towards this child was great. But, Zacharias knew the purpose why John was being born in this world, and he also knew what words to speak about him.
Zacharias not only experienced divine favor in an old age, he experienced a special favor of being the father of a child who was going to be called the greatest of all prophets born till then (Luke 7:28). When God answers a prayer, He usually will give you more than you can ask. But, is your heart blameless before God? That is the question. Let's commit to total obedience and faithfulness to Him!