Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. Gen 17:17-19The Lord's response to Sarah's doubt:
The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh." Gen 18:13-15Yet in the case of Zechariah, the angel took away his ability to speak for a good 9 months.
While we could speculate as to why God treated Zechariah differently, fact is while God is faithful to his promises, His actions are often not predictable. Even considering the contrast between how he dealt with people under the dispensation of the Old Covenant and the of the New, we note that God doesn't always do the same thing the same way. This is a warning for those who presumptuously would say, "God wouldn't do it that way!"2. Take God Seriously
But safe to say that if God explicitly told you something, it's probably a good idea to believe Him. In fact God has told us many things. He has give us many promises in the scriptures, which are validated by miracles as testified to by many eyewitnesses. If we don't take seriously what God said, why should anyone take seriously anything we say. We''d be dumb to not take God's Word seriously.3. Be Patient
God answers prayer, but it may take your whole life (or longer) before something happens. Also there's no retirement in the Christian life. Consider Moses and Abraham. God may wait till we're old before using us effectively.4. Serve God Despite Handicaps
Along the same lines, we note that after being struck dumb, Zechariah continued to serve out his term. Serving God despite handicaps reveals one convictions. And convictions which are thus revealed are likewise invoked in others."The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
What does it say about a society which considers disgraceful that which a person has no control over? It reveals a lack of compassion and empathy. It reveals prejudice.2. Social Status
Is it a virtue to worry about what other people think of you if their judgements are based on prejudice? I don't think it's a virtue. I just think it's human nature. And such seems particularly the case with women regarding barrenness. Seems that the thing most on Elizabeth's mind was not so much the joy and fulfillment of raising a child, but rather to have a child so that other people might think well of her. It's like asking God to make you rich to increase your social status. But God often answers our self-centered prayers just because He's gracious. But there are also strings attached. The virtue Elizabeth demonstrates here was to acknowledge God. Ps 50:15 "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."3. God's Low Expectations
What these facts imply with regards to Elizabeth is that God doesn't have particularly high expectations with regards to the righteous exercising virtues. Much the same could be said of Jabez who prayed a self-centered prayer, but who was nonetheless honored. "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers... Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request." 1Cor 4:9,10 So even if your prayers are self-centered, you'll be honored for praying at all.