HOW COOL ARE THESE TWO? MORE OFTEN THAT NOT THEY ARE MY INSPIRATION FOR WRITING.
“One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.””
Luke 1:8-20 NLT
“Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.””
Matthew 17:1-5 NLT
Do you do that with God? Just talk, talk, talk, and don’t listen, listen, listen? If you do join the club, and guess what we are not alone. Great pillars of our faith have forged that path before us. As we see in those verses, Peter and Zechariah are guilty also.
I will tell you two people who I love to listen to ramble on. My grandsons, Asher and Lucas. Some days I get to pick them up from school. Getting them buckled in and the drive home is probably going to go down as some of the best memories of my life. I love to listen to their incessant chatter about their day at school. I have had drives when seriously I don’t think they stopped to take a breath even. Literally a continual sentence from school to home. And when they are both buckled in the backseat it is like they are jockeying for conversation time. My daughter has been given the gift of listening to two completey different conversations at the same time and actually following the chain of events of two different episodes. I am trying to hone that skill. It takes great concentration. Their chatter is a pleasant sound to my ears. They are both very gifted storytellers. I wouldn’t even dream of trying to carry on a conversation of my own with my daughter at the same time. Their prattle is to precious to me. I don’t want to miss a single word.
I wonder if that is how God feels about me? I definitely have the gift of talking incessantly at God. I do know He does love to hear my converstion also, but He wants it to be a two way street. I contemplate the sentence I just wrote. Two words seem highlighted – “AT GOD” Sometimes my prayers are a onesided convo. I am talking “At God” not “to Him.” It is like I am trying to counsel Him on how to best handle my situation. It is like I am the wisest one in this relationship. UUUM, I realize I am just like Zechariah and Peter. There is a T-shirt out that was made especially for each of us. The front says, “Help I’m talking and I can’t shut up.” God spoke to Peter, “This is my dearly loved Son who brings me great joy. LISTEN TO HIM!”
As Zechariah stepped behind the first curtain and walked into the Holy Place, he would have kept walking right up to the curtain that seperated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holy Place, for the Alter of Incense was placed right in front of this curtain. He would have begun trimming all the lamps. He would have fanned into flame once again the incense of the alter so that its smoke would have continually risen before God. It was here, while he was doing his God appointed mission that the divine appointment happened for Zechariah. At this moment Heaven touched earth on the right side of the Alter of incense. Gabriel, which means strength of God, appeared to Zechariah. God opened Zechariah ‘s eyes to see beyond the thin veil between the physical and the spiritual. That doesn’t happen often to us human folk. I think it is because God knows it scares the beegeebees out of us. When Zechariah saw him, he was strartled and overcome with fear. Again, Gabriel isn’t our picture of a sweet little cherub. The Message bible describes Gabriel as “The Sentinel of God.” The Voice Bible, “The Messenger who inhabits God’s Presence.” In other words the Very Presence of the Lord God Almighty was living inside Gabriel at this moment. God is with Zechariah in this Holy Place at the moment Zechariah was seving Him. When Moses encountered the Presence of God, he had to cover his face because the Glory of God radiated from it. When this Angel appeared in that moment to Zechariah, God’s Glory was overcoming. You bet it bowled over the poor man. I wonder if he worried about a heart attack. He tried to explain to Gabriel the obvious. “I am an old man. How can I know this? Oh and by the way, in case God Creator didn’t realize this, but my wife is beyond child bearing also.” Yep, the obvious. Have you ever done that with God? State all the obvious reasons why this certain situation is occuring, and why all God’s promises can’t possibly apply here? Do you have a tendency to talk non-stop when you are scared? Boy I do. That is what Zechariah was doing at this moment. Talk, Talk, Talk. Stating the obvious over and over again. He is scared.
But Gabriel had had enough prattle from this old priest. Again God’s Word rings out, “NOW LISTEN!” Strong words, strongly spoken. And when Gabriel spoke the next words “You will become silent.” those words were spoken with such power they did take away Zechariah’s speech and most likely his hearing. Literally Zechariah would exit the Holy Place living in “The Sound of Silence.”
I think that that would be a terrible hardship on me not to be able to talk or hear. I couldn’t listen to my grandson’s conversations. That would not be good. That would not be good at all. But what appears to me to be a terrible hardship is a blessing in disguise. God’s discipline is always like that. It appears horrible from out vantage point, but from God’s persective it produces a righteousness in us we cannot attain apart from His discipline.
I wonder did Zechariah try to speak back to the MIGHTY ANGEL? Can you not imagine his feelings of horror as he opened his mouth and no sound came forth? God would have no more talking from this aged priest until the promise was birthed. He wouldn’t allow Zechariah’s perceived facts steal God’s Promise of a child. God definitely wasn’t going to let Zechariah’s doubts infect Elizabeth, the carrier of the promise.
Do you know the greatest Christmas gift I carry away from this story of Zechariah’s silence? My doubts will never negate God’s promises. He will not allow my doubts and fears to steal His Promises He has spoken into my life. I might have to live in silence for a while. I might be struck down with the shingles for a season. But God’s Word will be enacted in my life. God’s Word will never return to Him void.
Amen and Amen. So Be It. And Thank You Lord.