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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 answered, "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 proper 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." (NIV)

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. Yet 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?" (see 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, then in God's eyes they have nothing to say. So Zechariah's speech was removed. That was both a punishment and a sign. Mary, however, believed the angel's words but was very interested to know how God was going to do it!

God's Word is 'true and for you'! Refusal to believe that 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, than obscuring God's wisdom by words without knowledge (see Job 38:2): Jesus called them 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs' and 'a brood of vipers' (see Matthew chapter 23). Don't 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.

Prayer 
Dear Father God. Thank You for speaking to me through Your Word. 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

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