Breaking Silence with Silence

David Gaunt

“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth…’  Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’  The angel said to him, ‘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.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’”  Luke 1:11-14a, 18-20

The period between the Old and New Testaments is often referred to as the 400 years of silence.  It had been that long since God spoke through a prophet to the Nation of Israel.  Now here at the beginning of the New Testament, Zechariah was in the Temple carrying out his priestly duties.  He was inside burning incense, while all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 

That’s when God broke the silence.  He sent the angel Gabriel to tell Zechariah something very exciting.  His and his wife’s prayers had been answered.  When they had given up hope of ever being parents, God had decided to bless them with a special child.

But Gabriel’s wonderful news wasn’t just to benefit Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth; it would have an impact on many people’s relationship with God.  This child would grow up to be John the Baptist, and he would fulfill the last promise God gave through the last prophet of the Old Testament (Malachi).  God was breaking the silence by revealing his plan and miraculously blessing a righteous couple.  The crowd was just outside ready to hear the great news.

But unfortunately for Zechariah, the silence would continue.  Because of Zechariah’s unbelief, the angel Gabriel took away his ability to speak.  Notice the irony.  The angel came from the presence of God to speak and break the silence from God.  But the man who was in the place of God’s presence (The Holy Place in the Temple) couldn’t believe God’s plan was possible, and therefore came from there unable to speak and with a more noticeable silence. 

Could you imagine being Zechariah?  He had begged God for years to bless him and his wife with a child.  He likely prayed even longer for God to deliver Israel by breaking the silence and sending the Messiah.  Now in one intense time of worship and revelation, God was answering Zechariah’s prayers.  But Zechariah’s first response was unbelief.

Our unbelief will often bring about silence.  When we don’t believe God can use us to effectively impact other people’s relationship with God, we are silent.  When we don’t believe God’s directions for us, and start living by our own rules, God seems silent. 

What is the message God wants you to proclaim boldly this Christmas?  Who is it He wants you to tell?  What is your plan? 

God gave Zechariah another chance, some 9 months later.  Don’t miss this season of opportunities to help those who haven’t heard yet, that God really sent His Son because of His love for them.


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