We looked at the life of Elisabeth, an elderly woman, who God used to make a big statement of not only His ability but who He is. Her counterpart, Zacharias, also was in timeout. His time out like hers was in the maternity ward but took on another dimension. Elisabeth, praised God for His favor (Luke 1:25) and for the answer to her prayers. Zacharias, the PRIEST, on the other hand, questioned God by asking Gabriel the archangel how was he going to know for sure what he said was true. (Luke 1:18) This strikes me as comical because is a pregnancy not proof enough. I mean it SHOWS when a woman is pregnant! God did not find it at all humorous. Zacharias was placed in a timeout that was a period of correction and it lasted nearly a year!
The enemy has been using the same tactic since the Garden. He takes the obvious and makes us doubt God. Doubt is the opposite of faith. It is faith that pleases God and that He works through. Our doubts leave us fearful and speechless. We say we believe God can, but we doubt He will do it for me!!! Even a priest struggles with faith.
Let’s dig into Zach’s story. We can learn a great deal and hopefully avoid the discipline needed to check our speech before the doubts come flying out. (James 1:8)
Zacharias was “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.” Now that is a commentary of his standing among his peers and his walk with God. Not bad! As a priest he was given the honor to be the priest who entered into the Holy place to offer incense (represents the prayers of the people). While in the Holy place, Gabriel comes to bring a message straight from the throne of God-an answer to a lifetime prayer. (Dec 9, 2015 Angel #1 Fear Not) Gabriel tells Zacharias that his prayer “is heard” — present tense. He tells him the entire answer. (This makes me a bit jealous!) He will have a son. He has a name already and it is John (which means Yahweh is gracious), that he will bring them joy in their old age, and he has a purpose: “he will be great in the sight of the LORD,” with a touch of the Holy Spirit from conception, and he will be the prophet preparing the way of the Messiah! A parent getting an assurance that their child will follow the LORD!
I am struck by the fact that Gabriel addresses Zacharias’ and Elisabeth’s lifetime of deep sorrow at being “barren.” For he said “thou shalt have joy.” Future tense.
Unfortunately, Zacharias doubted this “good news of great joy” because he is old. The response was swift and spoke to the heart issue that came pouring out of Zacharias’ mouth. He was silenced. Given a lengthy time out to evaluate his words that revealed his doubt. Gabriel uses his angelic authority and Zacharias is struck speechless because he did not believe the words of God. The angel told him exactly how long his time out would be: “until the day that these things shall be performed, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
After John is born, he is taken to the temple for the ritual of circumcision and the priests assumed the child would be named for his father. WRONG! Elisabeth spoke up and said, “His name is John.” How did she know this? I can only speculate but the point is she knew the Lord had Himself named this baby. So, to verify, the priest asked Zacharias and he wrote the name John on a tablet and THEN his tongue was loosened and he did what he should have done nine long months before: “He spake and praised God!”
Months of silence had given him much time to ponder his actions, his words, his faith, his God. Elisabeth’s pregnancy was in full view for him to marvel at his great miracle working God. The result: he “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, Bless be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began;…..” (Luke 1:67-79)
There have been times in life when I was speechless. No words came. My mind went to mush. I could not put two syllables together to form a coherent thought. What can I learn from Zacharias time of silence? Were the times I faced in a speechless fog imposed by God to reorient my thinking?
Matthew 21:21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.
Mark 11:23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
One revelation jumps out at me from this story of Elisabeth and Zacharias. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit and so was their child! Belief is the common denominator for when this filling occurred. (Luke 1: 15, 41, 67) Doubt and the filling of the Holy Spirit cannot take place in the same frame regardless of how righteous you are. James 1:6 reminds us: But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
This time out was indeed one of chastisement. We must guard our hearts and minds from doubt or we too will find ourselves in a God imposed time out.
Speechless -Steven Curtis Chapman