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Nothing to Say

Luke 1:18-25
Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.’ The angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’ Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.’ (NIVUK)

The angel had announced that a baby boy would be born to a geriatric couple.  At first sight, Zechariah's question seems very reasonable.  He and his wife knew that their biological power of reproduction had gone.  But that was not just a function of their old age; they had never produced any children.  Even though they had prayed for years for a child (Luke 1:13), Zechariah the priest did not believe that God would grant the request.  That is why the angel rebuked Zechariah's unbelief and struck him dumb for nine months.

Compare the old priest's question with that of Mary's, "How will this be ... since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34).  The man was rebuked while the girl was blessed.  Obviously, God knows the motives in every heart, but looking more carefully we can also see Zechariah's problem. He said, "How can I be sure of this?"  He may have been a priest, but he was not prepared to accept God's Word as being true.  When God's ministers doubt God's Word, as far as God is concerned, they have nothing to say.  This is why Zechariah's speech was removed.  It was both a punishment and a sign.  Mary, however, believed the angel's words but was extremely interested to know how God was going to do it!

Zechariah was in the temple for a long time.  Everybody wondered what was going on.  But God was dealing with a religious man who had no faith, a priest who would not believe that God would answer his prayers – even though Zechariah’s name meant ‘God has remembered’.  It seems his parents had more faith than their son was willing to practice.

God's Word is 'true and for you'!  Refusal to believe what God says leaves you with nothing to say which is of any value to God's Kingdom.  Religious leaders who follow Zechariah's example would be better keeping silent rather than obscuring God's wisdom by words without knowledge (Job 38:2).  Jesus called them 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs' and 'a brood of vipers' (Matthew 23:13-26).  Please do not be like them!  If you have any responsibility to lead God's people - in the home, church, community or workplace - be warned: God's Word will always be done, but only those who embrace it can announce it with confidence.

Dear God who speaks today. Thank You for speaking to me through Your Word. Forgive me for disbelieving what You have written in the Bible, leaving me with nothing of spiritual value to communicate in this needy world. Keep me believing what You say, and being willing to put it into practice, so that I have Your blessing when I speak to others in Your Name. For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams