December 16, 2014
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 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. 20 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.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “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.”
I’ve always been intrigued by this passage- particularly the consequence of Zechariah’s disbelief. God was unwavering in His determination to use Zechariah and Elizabeth to fulfill His purposes despite Zechariah’s doubts. But his resistance was not without repercussions- muteness for nearly a year. Conversations would have to wait. Questions and wonderings remained internal and unexpressed. Even doubts—maybe especially the doubts– would stay tucked away for this season. Sometimes silence is a wonderful teacher. In silence we put our own words on hold and prioritize what we don’t do as well: we listen. For Zechariah that meant listening to the joyous wonder of his wife experiencing the gift of an impossible pregnancy. It meant hours of reflection on God’s words and God’s ways. It meant hearing God in a new way. We shouldn’t forget that Zechariah’s silence was discipline for a lack of belief in God’s clearly expressed words. But even the discipline was a gift. Perhaps a severe mercy, but a mercy nonetheless.
When do you spend time in silence with God? How might this practice help grow your faith and relationship with Jesus?
Talk about how hard (or easy) it is to not talk and instead pay attention to God and others. What are ways you can practice the skill of paying attention to God’s voice?