We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Do You Believe?

Many lives were radically altered prior to the birth of Christ. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in his old age, announcing the coming birth of John. Then there was the miraculous pregnancy of two women–one past childbearing and barren and the other a young virgin. Each character faced challenging circumstances that would alter their lives forever.

The angel’s words of consolation to Zechariah reveal that he was a praying man. His elderly wife even bears a child because of his prayers! Regrettably, however, his prayer life was stronger than his faith. Learning that his prayers had been answered, he questions the angel by saying, “How shall I know this?” We are not given much information concerning Elizabeth’s response to the news of her pregnancy.

Mary’s response seems, in English, the same as Zechariah’s. She says to the angel Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Note the responses:

Zechariah – “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

Mary – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Though the responses seem similar, the Greek words for “how” are completely different. Zechariah’s “how” is a combination of two Greek words which frequently denotes opposition or intensity. Zechariah skeptically asks the angel, “How can I be sure?” The angel Gabriel restricts Zechariah from speaking until his son is born, because he “did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

In contrast, the word “how” that Mary uses expresses exclamation as “how much” or “in what way” will this be accomplished. Zechariah answers the angel from a heart of disbelief; Mary embraces the word of the angel by faith. What a rebuke for Zechariah as he heard these words fall from the lips of his wife: “. . . blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Trusting in the promises of God is no easy task when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God.