25 Days of Christmas – Hold Your Tongue – Elizabeth and Zechariah continued
Yesterday we left Zechariah the priest in the temple performing his priestly duties. Lets pick up from there…
Luke 1:11-13 states, “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 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.” Why is it that every time an angel appears in the bible it is followed by “Do not be afraid”? The answer is simply that angels are not the cute, cuddly cherubs we envision. They are strong, scary warriors. So put yourself in Zechariah’s sandals. You are an old man. You have waited your whole life for this special opportunity to serve in the temple. You’re prayers for a son have not been favorably answered. It’s eaten up your wife that she is barren. You want to trust God but believe that this is your lot in life. You will die without a child. Now God sends an angel to talk to you. In the temple no less. You’re supposed to speak a blessing to the people when you leave!
You’re scared of this angel. I mean, he is pretty big. No one has heard from God in over 400 years since Malachi the prophet. Why you? Why now? What did the angel just say? Your wife will bear a son. At her age? You snicker. You can’t help it. “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” you utter. Did you really just say this out loud? And down comes the boom. The angel answers, “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.” You stand there, mute. How are you going to talk to the people? How are you going to talk to your wife?
Can this really be? You’re going to have a son. His name will be John and he will be a prophet like Elijah. He we prepare the way for the promised Messiah. Why didn’t you realize God would keep His promise? After all, God gave Abraham a son by Sarah and she was even older than Elizabeth. Now what?
Zechariah has settled for what the reality of his life seemed to be. He forgot for a moment that God doesn’t operate in our reality but in a heavenly reality. What we see as impossible, He sees as possibilities. It was no big deal for Elizabeth to bear a son in God’s eyes. He would answer their prayer, in His time. And what an answer. This would be no ordinary son but a prophet dedicated to God who would point people to the Messiah. Zechariah was struck mute by the angel for not believing. All too often we face the same sort of consequences. We give up hope and just go on doing life. We don’t fully believe. Sometimes we are temporarily incapacitated. There are always consequences.
As far back as 1976 I felt called into ministry to work with youth. I prayed over this decision but things just seemed impossible after graduation. I allowed myself to settle for a different life. I paid the consequences for my actions. It wasn’t until nearly 24 years later that I finally answered that call and it’s been quite the ride since. In effect I was made mute for 24 years until God renewed that call in me. I can only imagine what I would have done with those years had I obeyed in the first place.
Zechariah left the temple unable to speak. He went home to his wife and she conceived. He remained mute until the child was born. Elizabeth was going to name the baby John but the people complained as there were no Johns in the family. Zechariah got a tablet and wrote out that the child would be called John as the angel declared. This act of obedience unlocked his lips and he could speak again. And the first words from his lips were praises to God. My prayer this Christmas is for each of us to believe the Messiah is real; that He came, He died for our sins, He rose again, and He will come back. Let us act in obedience, may our tongue declare Him, and let us speak praises to God as He deserves. I know I can no longer be silent!