Nine Months’ Silence
“…An angel of the Lord appeared to him… ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John… He will be great in the sight of the Lord.’”
Luke 1:11-15 (NIV)
When God speaks to you, when he sends you a clear message, when he finally moves to grant your lifelong prayer, you should believe him. Especially if you are a committed servant of God and are actually in the place of worship at the time; especially if the messenger speaks with authority, the message is centred on God’s purpose and it is consistent with scripture.
You hope, if it had been you, that you would have recognised the word of truth and expressed no doubt or suspicion. And yet at the same time you probably feel some sympathy for Zechariah. There are so many well-produced counterfeits, so many people who expect you to jump on board their visions without clarity or corroboration, so many ways in which you have learnt not to trust your own hopes.
Perfect discernment would be a good thing to have, and probably we have all admired those who display total confidence in interpreting and propagating their spiritual experiences. People who yell “Eureka!” are more impressive than those who hang back. But Zechariah erred on the side of over-caution, and his answer even implies, “Too late for you to expect me to believe you now,” which Gabriel apparently found very rude.
What happens to someone who falls into such an error? If the Eureka set are to be believed, the promise will get snatched away and the hesitant will go somewhere hot.
“I am Gabriel,” the messenger reproached Zechariah, “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 the proper time” (Luke 1:19-20).
So—a real personal hardship, but no permanent loss, an opportunity to learn a lesson of faith, a miraculous sign to friends and neighbours, and the promise fulfilled. It would have been an easier journey for Zechariah if his attitude had been more positive and his trust in God stronger, but God did not reject Zechariah; he corrected him.
Father in heaven, teach us to recognise your hand in our lives and your answers to our prayers, and teach us also to follow you in cheerfulness and belief.
Study by Fiona Jones
Worldwide Church of God Perth
Combination of house churches and monthly outreach service and lunch Gillespie Centre, Dunfermline, fortnightly House churches on other Saturdays