Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But 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. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
// Luke 1:18-25
God, it seems, is attracted to the impossible. He chooses the canvas of the most unlikely circumstances and the most unfeasible moments upon which to display his wild, disruptive, irrepressible power. We, on the other hand, think within our finite human logic, informed by our experience and environment, bound by earthly principles – think time, space, gravity, mathematics, fertility…
Faced with Zacharias’ same set of circumstances – an age at which intercourse was but a distant memory and a wife well beyond menopause – we’d most probably blabber a similar response. Zacharias’ spontaneous reaction was to let his doubts in his own ability and the aridity of his wife’s circumstance obstruct the work God had so clearly said He Himself would do. Speaking from a place of inadequacy and pessimism, rather than confidence and faith, Zacharias’ words began to curse the miracle that God was about to orchestrate.
So powerful are words and so potent their power that Gabriel would confiscate Zacharias’ ability to speak for the best part of one year. In Deuteronomy 30:19 God tells us, pertinently, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Could John the Baptist, an imperative player in God’s plan to reach humanity, have been taken out of the equation before he was even conceived had his father continued to verbalize disbelief? If our God speaks to things that are yet to exist and calls them into being, it follows that the converse must also be true: it’s possible to kill things that are yet to exist and scupper their possibility with the power of negative words.
Zacharias, Luke tells us, was a high-powered priest – his ministry, accordingly, flowed from his mouth. So without his ability to speak, Zacharias would have been sidelined from his role in God’s House for the subsequent year, regaining his ability to communicate only once his son was born. No role, position or task, in God’s eyes, could be more important than a stance of unwavering faith in Him that defies all earthly bounds.
May God continue to quiet our words of disbelief, leaving only the silence and space for Him to orchestrate life-transforming wonders and pave the way for His perfect will to enter our lives and the world around us. May we remain expectant for the unexpected, prepared to feel unprepared, open to whatever may come out of left field.