Thursday, December 18, 2008
Speechless. Without audible uttering. Unable to form communicable words with one's tongue. Though for some it may be difficult to believe, I have found myself in this predicament a time or two. The birth of my sons--their slow motion arms and legs stretching skyward and their lifesaver red lips forming tiny ohs as they made their entrance into the world--left me utterly overwhelmed and without words. A yellow topaz ring I had admired for over a year presented in the hands of my husband to me when I thought he hadn't realized how much I loved it also found me unable to form verbal expression. A friend just yesterday told me how her husband had left her sleeping while he crawled from bed blurry eyed and dazed and headed to Wal-Mart for their 5 AM Black Friday sale to pick up their children's Christmas gift. When she realized she had overslept she dashed from bed clamoring to get dressed in hopes there might be a few of the prized items left when her husband casually said, "It's okay. I already got it." Speechless! A husband who braved the insanity of Wal-Mart on black Friday...alone! Wow. My question today is have you ever been left speechless by God? Poor Zechariah and Elizabeth don't get a lot of air time what with Mary and the baby Jesus' story only verses after their own tale of miraculous pregnancy and birth. Here were two righteous and obedient children of God who found themselves unable to bare a child. Scripture doesn't tell us of their emotions about the lack of children, but as a mom, I know that at some point in her life Elizabeth must have groaned and wept into her pillow with the longing for a child. And I wonder if anyone shared with her in her pain. I wonder if at some point she and Zechariah came to the understanding that God was sovereign and remained good despite the reality that He had not blessed them with a child of their own. So often the things withheld from us are not for our pain but for God's later glory and if we can hold onto that truth during the barren season we somehow position ourselves to fully grasp and enjoy the blessings of God when they are poured into our lives. I wonder if Zechariah and Elizabeth understood that. Now Gabriel appeared to Zechariah while he was in the holy place and tells him he is going to have a son. Naturally Zechariah is not a little surprised and certainly has some questions. My pastor pointed out that unlike Mary who when told she will give birth to the prophesied Messiah of her nation simply asked, "How can this be since I've not been with a man," Zechariah asks for some sort of a sign to prove its truth. Interesting comparison. Mary accepted what the angel said as true and simply wondered about the practical "how" God would accomplish this. Zechariah on the other hand wanted proof that what the angel said was in fact true--a sign. So often I still want to ask God for confirmation signs. I won't go there today theologically, but I do want to say that sometimes when I notice a pattern of asking God for confirmation signs it's an indicator that I'm struggling with weak faith. God's Word is clear that living out belief in what we do not tangibly see is a part of the follower of Christ's daily life. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen." (Hebrews11:1) "The righteous shall walk by faith." (Habakkuk 2:4) Jumping ahead a moment, while Zechariah is chatting with Gabriel Luke 2 says "Now the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they began to wonder why he was delayed in the holy place." I love that little sentence. So often when we are meeting our destiny, when we are discovering the greatness of God's plan for our life--people on the outside looking in have no idea what is going on. It's never convenient when God drops in and changes everything, but it's always right. Zechariah was busy doing what he was supposed to do. So often I get caught up in thinking perhaps I need to do something different for God to speak to me. Listen, when God wants to interrupt our daily routine to have a little chat, I can without hesitation promise you He'll have no problem getting our attention. Remember the writing on the wall? The burning bush? The baby floating in a basket down a river? The talking donkey? For busy moms and dads who are just thankful to get ten minutes of quiet time before the Lord a day, the idea of spending a sacred hour or two before the Lord each morning prostrate before Him is almost laughable at times. If you are able to do that regularly, then I commend you. But if you aren't I pray that you know that your God loves you so intensely, so radically, so emphatically that when He's ready to do something major in your life, you'll know it. Our job is to remain faithful with the stewardships God has given us--to obey. And when we do feed our spirits, then we need to make sure that we feed them with the milk and honey of God's Word and not other things. Now backing up again to verses 19 and 20, Gabriel answers Zechariah's request for a sign like this, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God..." It's as though he's saying, "Hello! You may not have noticed I'm an angel! You know that God you are making offerings to right here in the Holy Place? Well, I stand in his presence everyday! Trust me, when I tell you you are going to have a baby. You're gonna have a baby!" Here's the thing--when we do get the burning bush experience we need to respond in faith. Everything that angel told Zechariah lined up with the prophecy of God's Word and Zechariah being of priestly lineage definitely would have known God's Word. We should always test things against the truth of God's Word and when it lines up, we need to line up too and obey in faith. Then Gabriel says to Zechariah, "because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place." And there you have it. God sends an angel to tell Zechariah his life is fixing to be changed forever and Zechariah is so shocked he wants proof that God's really going to do this great thing. I can almost hear God saying, "Zechariah, buddy, I'm God. I can do ALL THINGS. When I move in your life, when I act, it'll leave you speechless." Most theologians agree that he was probably also left deaf because of the fact that later on when asking for the name of the baby, the people made signs to Jon to ask the question. I can't help but wonder if God's whole point in leaving Zechariah deaf and mute was simply this: if we don't listen to the message of God delivered by his servants our hearing is of no use to us. And when our lips utter words of unbelief, they too are of no value. But more than anything, I think Zechariah was left speechless by the power of God at work in his life. Zechariah was a good man. He obeyed God. He served God. And he struggled with believing the unbelievable. I can relate to that. What prayer or petition of your heart is something so impossible that it is difficult to believe God will work in that situation? The answer to that question my friend is likely the very situation where God desires greatly to leave you speechless. Speechless not because you couldn't believe He'd work, but speechless at His power and His might and His faithfulness when He does move. I have a list of barrens--the situations and circumstances in the lives of my friends and family that seem impossible. Trust me, I've got some doosies on that list. I bet you do too. And I am specifically taking those before God and saying, "Lord, leave me speechless. Show your power. Show your might. I don't see how, but I believe, Lord. I believe." Will you pray that with me? "God of wonder, Lord of the barren wastelands in our lives, you see all of these situations. You already know they exist and have a plan that incorporates them in our lives for your glory. God we believe you can work. We believe you are able. Lord, we're not kidding when we say that we believe some of these circumstances are literally impossible, but God with you all things are possible. We stand on that truth today. We line up behind it and we beg of you, leave us speechless. In Jesus' name we ask. Amen."