Thursday, December 08, 2011

Zecharias and Gabriel


Starting with my Christmas posts.

First with Zecharias/Zechariah/Zacharias/Zachariah

In the first two chapters of Luke we are told that Zechariah and his wife are holy but that they didn't have children. Now, they are old. Elizabeth was barren when she was younger and now, older, she is even more barren.

Zechariah is a priest, offering incense to God and who knows what he is thinking about ...maybe about his age, maybe about his lack of children. But suddenly the angel Gabriel appears. (I soooooooo love Gabriel.) Gabriel says, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife will bear a son."

Now this is odd. Has Zechariah, even after all these years been praying for a son? That's some heavy duty faith. It's one thing to pray for a son when your wife is young and barren. But now she is old and barren. And Zechariah has still been holding on, hoping against hope, having faith and consciously --or unconsciously-- praying for this. Has he not been conformed to the world yet? Has he not decided to simply give in? Has he been fervently praying all this time and holding on to something that is now utterly impossible because he knows God is able to do the impossible? Has he been studying the stories of Sarah and Hannah and persevering against all the strongholds of unbelief (It's God's will, Zechariah, that you didn't have a child, etc, yadda yadda.)???

Of course this could be all unconscious praying, a kind of sad wish he's only half-aware of. Or maybe he had prayed a long time ago...and God never forgot the prayer.

Note, though, Zechariah's response to this news that his prayer has been answered. It's pretty much the same response that the early church had when they prayed for Peter to be released and Peter was released. He doesn't quite believe it. Now, in the English version of Zechariah's conversation exchange with Gabriel, Zechariah pretty much asks the same question Mary asks the angel. "How can this be?" I don't know the tone in which he asked, and the King James version translators either didn't know or ignored Greek and Hebrew punctuation so we can't really see the difference. But it's apparent that Gabriel treated the same question differently depending on how it was asked and who asked it.

Gabriel made him immediately dumb and unable to speak his unbelief. I personally don't think that this is Gabriel being antsy. He was putting a bit in his mouth James 1:26 -- as Psalm 32:9 tell us. This is someone taking away the rudder of Zechariah's life. The tongue is the rudder of our life and we can destroy even a miracle by our negative words. Jesus tells us that we will give an account of every idle words Matthew 12:36 we speak. God has given us such wonderful promises to speak, wonderful words of life. So we have to commit to speaking properly. Why? Because as Christians, we do not walk in the dark. We know how the world operates. We do not stumble in the dark as those who have no light.

I often wish I would have a bit put in my mouth Psalm 39:1 so I won't say anything negative about my life and put the ship on the wrong path. James 3:2 James 3:4

It's tough but God has asked us to be mature and grown and to be adult about our authority, our power, our use of words.

So, no matter what I will watch my words. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so Psalm 107:2and stop talking negatively or affirming the pathological truth.

Oh God, set a watch before my lips.Psalm 141:3

The Lord had prepared a blessing for the world, yet even in such a great situation there was the possibility that Zechariah's speaking lack of faith would cause the blessing to be destroyed. We Christians work in collaboration with God. God works with us, never without us. Speaking the word and not having a mouth that  speaks sweetness and bitterness is important. The Bible says the people marveled that Zechariah delayed. So, here is the situation. The time came for Zechariah to come out from behind the curtain and I imagine he's been practicing speaking and begging God to return his voice to him and telling God "Lord, I promise. I will speak faith." And then he realized God wasn't gonna return his faithless voice to him. So now he's stuck with the problem of going outside to the congregation without being able to speak. What will he say? What will they think? Will they think he's evil and was struck by God for some sin? God hasn't taken away his ability to write so he can write about what happened. Writing takes time. One can't just slip out everything when one writes. And he doesn't get his voice back until John is named. Then he can affirm with his own voice what God said to him.

I think of the Wise woman in the Bible whose son died. Folks kept asking how her son was. She didn't tell them the matter. I think of Jesus who told his disciples that Satan was nearby and he was going to be careful with what he said. I think of the angel Gabriel who shut up Zacharias' mouth so Zacharias' negativity and unbelief wouldn't affect Elizabeth's pregnancy. I think of Joshua leading the people of Israel around silence..because God told them he had already won the victory. (If they had spoken, would they have been asking themselves doubtful questions?) I think of Jesus who did his best not to say "Lazarus is dead" when his disciples asked him how Lazarus was. Also when Jesus healed the man outside of Bethsaida and told him not to go back inside the town because hanging around folks who didn't believe in healing wouldn't have been good for the man. I think about the time Jesus said to his disciples, "The time is coming for me to die soon and I won't be talking any more about this because the prince of this world comes." All he needed was for more and more of his disciples to be talking about "Crucifixion shall never happen to you." There is a whole lot of careful speaking and careful non-speaking in the Bible. There are also situations where God shows us that we should call those things that be not as though they were. God called Gideon, "Though mighty man of God" when Gideon was pretty wimpy. He renamed Simon (reed) "Peter" (a rock) because -- let's face it!-- Reed is a pretty wimpy name. (Although Peter was always wimpy and even after Jesus renamed him and prayed for him, Peter would go back to being reedlike. Heck, who gets a vision of God saying he loves Gentiles as much as Jews, then later turns against that very same vision and starts not hanging out with Gentiles? Peter, that's who.)

Anyways, Death and Life are in the power of the tongue, and we should learn to call those things that be not as though they were. And yeah, Jesus wasn't EVEN kidding when he said we would have to account for every idle word.

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