There’s this story Luke tells about a man named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. The story happens in the first century CE (the Common Era). Now, Zechariah was a Jewish priest. This meant he connected the people to God through sacrifice, and likely instructed the people about the ways of God.
One day, an angel shows up and tells Zechariah he is going to have a son. The angel instructs Zechariah o name his son, John, and that John will prepare the way for The Lord. The problem for Zechariah is that he and Elizabeth combine for more wrinkles than Direct TV has channels. Zechariah knows they are past the time of having babies. He and Elizabeth have never had kids before, so it seemed unlikely for Zechariah at this point. So Zechariah says to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? The wife and I are very old.” This seems like a completely fair question.
The angel, Gabriel, replies by telling Zechariah he won’t be able to speak until the day his son is born. For the next nine months, Zechariah was mute. When I read this, it felt like a bit of an overreaction. It seemed like God was punishing Zechariah for asking a question. That didn’t seem fair.
After thinking about it more, I don’t think God was punishing Zechariah. I think God was preparing Zechariah.
Zechariah had gotten to comfortable with his concept of God, the ways of God, the law of God, the sacrifices to God, and even teaching others about God. In the midst of all of these things that center around God, Zechariah forgot who God is. This is the same God who brought a son to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. This is the Creator of Life, and the God who makes the sun stand still. This is the God whose Word doesn’t fail.
Nine months later, Zechariah and Elizabeth have a son. Everyone in the room wanted to name the baby, Zechariah, after his father. Elizabeth said her son’s name was John. All the people looked to Zechariah for validation of Elizabeth’s words. Zechariah wrote, “His name is John. Immediately, Zechariah began to speak, praising God.”
The last time Zechariah spoke, he was doubting God. The next time Zechariah spoke, he was praising God.
Zechariah had a big responsibility. God called him to raise a baby boy who would become the man to prepare the way for the Son of God. Zechariah wasn’t ready to raise John when he only knew about God. Zechariah needed to know God. Nine months was a long time for Zechariah to wait in silence. He learned to listen. He learned to understand the power of a word from God as his mouth was silenced and his wife’s womb grew with the baby of God’s promise. After nine months, Zechariah had to move from doubt to praise.
I believe some things happen in our lives not because God is punishing us, but because God is preparing us. This is not a blanket statement for all situations, but it may fit a specific area in your life. When God makes you be quiet for a while, learn to listen. Learn to trust, and begin to praise.