And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:21-23)
When the angel Gabriel had visited Zechariah and told him that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child, Zechariah responded with doubt. The consequence was being mute until the prophecy of his son’s birth was fulfilled, but he still finished the time of his service.
Zechariah very easily could have been so overcome by the consequence and wallowed in it. He could have sought to go to the familiarity of home and comfort of his wife, but he chose to stay and complete his time of service to the Lord. He stayed to serve the God who had afflicted him.
When we’re afflicted, it’s always one of three things – a consequence of our own sin, a casualty of someone else’s sin, or not any kind of consequence of sin but rather done to bring God glory, just as it was with the man who was born blind:
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2-3)
Our Response Matters
Regardless of the reason of the affliction, our response matters, because it reveals our own hearts in the response.
While we would understand and even sympathize if Zechariah wanted to go home after becoming mute, it would have revealed a heart more concerned with his own feelings than his commitment to serving the LORD. It took a heart of repentance and humility to continue his time of service after God had afflicted him in his unbelief. He was not only accepting of his consequence, but he pressed into the LORD when afflicted instead of run from Him.
This is a beautiful heart and one to learn an example from.
After Zechariah had gone home, he still had months of waiting for the birth of his son, but he now his faith wouldn’t falter when the prophesy came about. Once his son was born, he was adamant that he would be called John (John the Baptist as we call him), as he wrote down “His name is John.” He had learned in those months of not being able to talk to embrace God’s word fully and I can’t help but believe that His relationship with God Almighty was now closer than when he was physically in the temple because of the affliction he had faced.
What is Your Response
What afflictions are you facing? Will you sit before God and take the time to press into Him during this affliction? And will you resolve to continue to serve God through this affliction?
If God is disciplining your sin, rejoice because you’re a child of His. If you’re afflicted as a casualty of someone else’s sin, rejoice because God is with you and using it for your good. If your affliction has no apparent cause, rejoice because you have the opportunity to bring God glory through your suffering. Regardless of the cause, press deeper into your Savior than the depth of your affliction and I promise, the fruit produced will be sweet.
One Final Thought
Once John the Baptist had been born, the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth after his mouth was opened was blessings and prophecy as he was filled with the Holy Spirit. I want to leave you with his beautiful prophetic words of worship and blessings to our great and mighty God:
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
**_for he has visited and redeemed his people_**
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
**_in the house of his servant David,_**
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
**_and from the hand of all who hate us;_**
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
**_and to remember his holy covenant,_**
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
**_that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,_**
might serve him without fear,
**_in holiness and righteousness before him all our days._**
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
**_for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,_**
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
**_in the forgiveness of their sins,_**
because of the tender mercy of our God,
**_whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high_**
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
**_to guide our feet into the way of peace.”_**