“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.” Luke 1:20 (NIV)
“He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.” Luke 1: 63-64 (NIV)
I read Luke 1 a few months ago and God showed me a few truths in there that I had missed when I’d read it previously. This is the story of Gabriel, God’s angel, appearing before Zechariah and informing him that although he and his wife are old and previously were never able to have children, Elizabeth (his wife) will get pregnant with a special son who will have the Holy Spirit living inside of him from the time he’s in her womb. He has a very special role to play in God’s plan and they are the privileged parents of said child. This child is who we later know as John the Baptist and indeed he did have a very significant role to play in history.
Whenever I’ve heard this story I’ve always remembered Zechariah’s answer of doubt which resulted in him becoming mute from that moment until John is born, when he writes on a tablet, “His name will be John” which loosened his tongue, the Bible says and “he began to speak, praising God.” Instead of all the wonderful things Zechariah did in his life that is the event I remember him most for.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been struggling with disobedience this summer, but today I have more compassion for Zechariah. Yes, he deserved the consequence God gave him because of his disbelief. But that’s not what I see today when I think about this story. I see two truths that shed a little more light on the atmosphere.
First, Zechariah’s mistake was focusing on the problem (we are too old to have children) instead of focusing on the Problem Solver (you and your wife will have a son, not just any son, but John the Baptist). I think I especially get that today because I’ve been focusing on the problem (my eating which is out of control and the food I will have to give up if/when I choose to do it God’s way) instead of trusting the Problem Solver (I’m blocking His blessing in my life when I choose to disobey, God has something better for me than being a slave to food my whole life but I have to trust and take that first and second and third step to get there).
I think if we’re honest, we can all admit to being Zechariah at some point in our lives. Focusing on the problem instead of trusting the Problem Solver. The second truth God reminded me of with this particular response was that God is always the God who restores and redeems when we repent. God knew Zechariah’s heart. God described both him and Elizabeth as righteous in His sight, one of the main reasons, I’m assuming that they were chosen to be John the Baptist’s parents. And when Zechariah decided to just trust and do it God’s way, there was no condemnation, no lingering punishment, no “I told you so”… instead the Bible says “immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.”
I’m so thankful for God’s examples from the Bible which show me I’m not too far gone either. I’ve been deliberately disobeying for quite some time now. But my heart is being pulled back to obedience and I have assurance from this example that with true repentance, God will welcome me back too.
© Cheri Swalwell 2017