15th December – Luke 1:18-25
I have a lot of sympathy for Zechariah!
It must have been unthinkable that after all these years he would be blessed with a child in his old age. Asking how he could be sure of this crazy-sounding news, my bet is he didn’t expect that the proof of the angel’s words would be the loss of his power of speech. Why this particular sign of proof I wonder? The angel was sent to ‘speak’ and to ‘tell’, and Zechariah was ‘silenced’ so he could not ‘speak’ until the ‘Word’ of God came to pass.
Could it be that there is a link between our words and our hearts? Often, we express in words what we believe, or even our disbelief and doubt. We speak to affirm our belief and we speak to express our thoughts. According to modern neuroscience, our speech and actions even have the power to inform and shape our beliefs and our worldview. Speech and belief are therefore closely intertwined.
Zechariah’s silence then. Was it a punishment, a gagging order, a silencing of impertinent questions? I think it was much more likely that God provided the sign and proof that was requested in a way which was appropriate to the problem – Zechariah could no longer voice his unbelief. God’s word here leaves no space for human doubt. Every time Zechariah was frustrated about his inability to express himself, the words of Gabriel would sound again in his head, informing his disbelief and shaping his faith. ‘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.’
What a statement to ponder through months of watching his wife grow and bloom with the pregnancy. Each day nearer to fulfilment and each day a reminder to take God at his word.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for the gift of speech. Thank you for the words you give to us, and thank you for the words we ourselves articulate. Please help us to use this gift for your glory with wisdom and integrity. Help us always to worship you with our lives and our speech.