Meditations on Luke
“Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.” Luke 1:21-24, NIV
Gabriel silenced Zachariah. The priest’s unbelief carried consequences. I was struck by a few thoughts as I read through the passage. First, the consequence was immediate. Gabriel did not wait until after the temple ceremony was complete. He did not wait to identify a convenient time to silence Zachariah.
In fact, remember the priest was in the middle of performing God’s work when all this transpired. “Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them.
Although God’s correction may not occur with the same speed as it did Zachariah, it often occurs when we consider it to be most inconvenient. However inconvenienced, we can trust it comes at the exact moment we need it most. We can also trust that it is undergirded by the love of God.
I am also reminded how God can ask us to step out in faith, obey, or trust at other seemingly inconvenient times. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” We are reminded that God’s ways are not our ways. Even though it may not seem like it sometimes, God’s timing is perfect. Yet, we do not need to understand His timing or ways. Instead, all we need is to trust, obey, and believe…something that Zachariah did not do. As a result, the priest’s price for not believing was almost a year of silence.
Second, like a father who disciplines his child out of love, God chastens us. This chastening can be private or visible for the world to see. Zachariah’s sin was hidden. No one could see into his heart to see his unbelief except God. God sees our very heart. He sees our most hidden sins.
I find it ironic that Zachariah’s sin was hidden yet the consequences of it were on display for all to see. Moreover, this chastening occurred not just before his household, neighbors, or his town, but all of Israel. The people of Israel. Talk about humble pie! This consequence was immediate and public. All eyes were on him. The people of Israel were waiting and wondering. The very tongue which was silenced due to unbelief could not give voice to the angelic encounter.
Finally, as a person with a disability, one final thought stood out to me. Zachariah still carried out the work of the Lord despite his impediment. “When his time of service was completed, he returned home.” Becoming disabled on the job is often a valid reason to cease and desist from responsibilities. Trust me, with a degenerative eye disease, I know!
What struck me is that Zachariah, though inconvenienced and with reason to disengage from God’s work due to his new disability, chose otherwise. Why is this? For starters, I can only surmise the impact of all that had just happened to him. He saw the Angel of the Lord, heard of his wife’s miraculous impending pregnancy, and was made mute. These occurrences would not have left him indifferent. Surely, their impact upon Zachariah would have resulted in newfound belief as well as a greater fear and awe of the Lord.
Here is the bottom line. When we stand in the presence of the Living God, it is transformational. Our lives cannot help but be changed. For the believer, it ignites a profound devotion and adoration of our God. It causes us to yearn for more of Him. It also fosters a desire to abide more in His presence. This may have been the underlying reason why Zachariah completed his time of service. Regardless the reason, we too should be daily transformed as we stand in the presence of God through our daily reading of the Word, constant communion, and seeking out of His Will. Our hearts should come away with deeper devotion, adoration, thanksgiving, and praise. Like Zachariah, we too, should come away changed.
And guess what? Just as the Angel of the Lord said, Elizabeth conceived and became pregnant!