Have you ever played charades? You have to mime and people have to guess what you are trying to communicate with them. It can be frustrating and funny for a short while. Zechariah was speechless for over nine months. Having to write things down, make signs, pointing, and so on. After many years of waiting, prayer, disappointment, and social disgrace his wife produced a child. He is holding this baby in his arms, and it is making more noise than he can.
Yet this account is not about a man. It is about God, and the way that he is in control. In the past, the present, and the future.
God in control of the past.
In his song of praise in verses 68-75 Zechariah looks back. He looks back to the covenant that God made with Abraham, verse 73. God took the initiative and revealed himself to Abraham. He made promises to him and kept them. We have a God who reveals himself to mankind. We celebrate this at Christmas. The coming of the baby Jesus was an event promised in the Old Testament. Promised to Abraham. God fulfils his promises. On Sunday April 11th we celebrated Easter Day. When we rejoiced at God's mercy through Jesus' death and resurrection. There is only one more promise that he has to fulfil. That is to send Jesus to earth a second time.
Zechariah also looks back to God showing mercy to the Jews' ancestors in verse 72.
I guess that each one of us here today can look back in our walk with God and testify about the times when God has revealed himself to us and met our needs. God is no man's debtor. He is gracious, merciful, and kind. As we look back to what God has done for us this should give us confidence in God who alone is trustworthy.
Zechariah was a good religious man. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But when he was faced with an angel telling him that Elizabeth his aged wife would have a baby he didn't believe in God. 18 Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
He didn't think of what God had done in the past, he looked to the circumstances he found himself in. He couldn't bring himself to believe that God could change things.
I suppose that we are all guilty of that. Zechariah is a reminder that we should trust in God, and not be let our trust in him be defeated by our circumstances. We only have to look back to our own walk with God to see that he is trustworthy.
Zechariah failed to have faith in God and was judged. Condemned to nine months of silence. When we turn away from God we must take the consequences of this. Zechariah's sin meant he was unable to perform his duties in the temple. Perhaps sin prevents us from serving God in the way that he meant us to. We should not live in the past and become stagnant. We need to reflect upon the past and continue to follow, serve and trust God today and in the future. This leads us to...
God in control of the present.
Zechariah experienced God working in the present. We see this in the birth of this long-awaited son. God miraculously provided this child for a couple who are long past the time that they could have expected children. Even if they had already had some ! God provides this baby and this time Zechariah, and also Elizabeth follow God's way, and declare that his name is John, verse 60. The present tense affirms that there was no debate.
The tradition of the time was to name a son after it's father or grandfather but they go against this. God being in control of the present means that we have to live for him today. When there is a clash between what is normally done in society and what God wants us to do we should put him first. This applies to every aspect of our society. Our society says live for yourself, look after number one. God says live for me, love your neighbour. Society says the most important thing in life is pleasure. God says the most important thing in life is following me. Society says gamble, get rich quick. God says back a certainty, follow me and you will be rewarded eternally. Western society says trust in what you can see and feel. Things. Yet God is spirit, we are called to worship him in spirit and in truth.
The power of God is highlighted by the way that God sets Zechariah free from his silence. 'Immediately his mouth was loosed' verse 64. This was in direct response to Zechariah's obedience to God's revealed will. The first thing that Zechariah did, verse 64 was to praise God. We have a record of his hymn of praise from verses 68-79.
In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress Christian comes to the cross and the burden of his sins falls away. He then gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing. Can you remember the time when you first knew the joy of the forgiveness of your sins ? We should be praising God like that every day for what he has done for us.
'My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.'
Knowing God in the past should lead us to confidence as we live for him.
Knowing God with us in the present should lead us to obedience and praise.
We also have a
God in control of the future
In his praise to God in verses 68-79 Zechariah looks forward to the salvation that God has promised, and to the role of his son, John, in preparing the way for the Saviour.
This future involved the coming of light into a dark world. Darkness can result in fear of the unknown, and being unable to see where we are going, becoming lost. The coming of Jesus, the light, leads to fear being banished and replaced with hope , and guidance being given. Read verses 78-79.
On 25/12/1939 King George VI broadcast to a nation that was facing a long, bloody war: 'I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of Christ. That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way.'
How do you know if someone is trustworthy ? If you don't know them, you can ask someone who knows them better. If you do know them you go on your personal experience.
We can look back to a God who has proven himself to be trustworthy and be confident in him.
God is also with us today and this brings us joy and thanksgiving.
We are to trust in God and have the confident hope that we are in God's hands forever, and that he will guide us and be with us whatever may happen.
May God give us an understanding of our past;
May God grant us joy in our present;
May God grant us hope for the future;
and may the rising sun come to us from heaven,
to shine in our darkness,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.