Advent 2016: Christ Was Born For This: Day 27

Zechariah Prophesies Over the Infant John

by

Today's Text: Luke 1:67-80

Text: Luke 1:67-80

Four hundred years.

That’s the length of time between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. More importantly, it’s the length of time Israel existed without a prophet. That’s how long God’s people waited for a word from the Lord. Four hundred years of waiting, wondering, doubting, and fearing. Four hundred years of questioning whether God would ever speak again. Was it possible He had abandoned Israel once and for all?

The centuries leading up to Jesus’ birth are sometimes referred to as the “400 Years of Silence,” and it’s a silence Israel would have felt. It’s also the context of Luke’s story. In this opening chapter, he picks up where the last prophets left off, and a chasm of quiet hangs between. The silence is palpable, which is why Zechariah’s silence prior to this passage is no coincidence at all.

An angel of the Lord foretells the birth of Zechariah’s son, John, who would prepare the way for Christ. It was good and wonderful news, but Zechariah doubted. He was old, and so was his wife, and he questioned the power of God. As a consequence of this doubting, the angel sentenced Zechariah to months of silence. Only after John’s birth would Zechariah finally regain his voice.

But Zechariah doesn’t merely start talking again. He doesn’t exhale a muted “Finally!” and then return to life as usual. Instead, Zechariah’s voice returns like a trumpet blast. He bursts into praise, and foretells a plan more marvelous and magnificent than anyone had ever imagined.

The story of Zechariah seems like only a footnote in the larger story of Jesus, but we cannot miss the significance of it. Zechariah’s life is a signpost; both his silence and his singing foreshadow the arc of God’s story. God was about to end the four hundred years of silence with a roar of hope. God was putting an end to the era of no words by sending the Word made flesh.   

That is God’s calling card. He punctuates silence with singing because He always ends oppression with deliverance. After all, this wasn’t the first time the Israelites had endured centuries of silence. The span of time between Genesis and Exodus was roughly four hundred years as well. The Israelites suffered under years of slavery and oppression, but the story ended the same: God sent a deliverer (Exodus 3).

This is God’s pattern. He always shows up. He always saves. We see it in Moses, we see it in Jesus, and we even see it in the life of Zechariah. God is an always-returning God. He is always coming back, and that is never not true, no matter how thick the silence.

Knowing this pattern, we are left with only one question: What will we do in the silence?

Zechariah could have become bitter. He could have nurtured his pride, he could have rebelled against God, and he probably would have felt justified in doing so. But he didn’t. Instead, Zechariah allowed God to change his heart, transforming him into an entirely different man than he was before.

That is the beauty of Zechariah’s story. His life is the story of Christmas writ small. He sings the song of a people delivered from slavery, a people walking in darkness who have seen a great light. His song is the hope of Jesus’ birth, a hope rooted in the promise that the silence will end, the darkness will abate, and Christ is coming back. SRT-Advent16-Instagram27s

Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.

  • Bethpchuck

    Yes!! This was so good! He always delivers!

  • Diane Vincent

    “Because if the tender mercy of our God whereby the sunrise shall visit us from above….” Oh my heart! What joy this brings to me! Jesus is the sunrise of my life. I lived in darkness and despair until He arose in my soul and gave me salvation. He guides me, as the good shepherd, into the paths of peace!

  • April Heather

    I have enjoyed each day of this wonderful study! I have a question though-and this may seem uneducated and if so I apologize. Why was Zachariah struck mute after his question/doubt, when Mary also asked “how can this be since I am a virgin” and she doesn’t appear to have been punished for her doubts. And what does this say about our doubts-are we punished for them? I never felt that way before but having read and compared these stories has me pondering different aspects than I had previously. Any insight is most welcome.❤️

    • Brandi Gross

      I really don’t have any insight but on one of the previous days – maybe the birth foretold days – several of our sisters commented on this and had good information. I’m a day behind so I am getting to see more comments than usual and it’s wonderful! Hope this helps!

    • Shirlie

      Hi April. The First 5 app has been going through Luke too. The way the ladies explained the difference in God’s response to Zechariah and Mary’s questions was this… Mary asked for CLARITY while Zechariah asked for CERTAINITY. We should have faith already that God will carry out what He says He will do, so we should already have certainity. Sometimes we may want God to clarify things. Sometimes He will, but not always, so we shouldn’t expect it.
      I hope this helps you. It made it clearer for me! God Bless!

  • Kelly R Smith

    “He is always coming back, and that is never not true, no matter how thick the silence.” I haven’t been in a period of silence, per se. God is faithful to meet me daily whispering truth into my ear. But my circumstances have been less than ideal. My hope faded a bit each day. It felt like life would be forever be endured instead of enjoyed. Y’all, He met me in the darkness. He breathed life where there was death. His light penetrated the darkness. Life isn’t perfect, but He showed me His faithfulness, and He restored my hope. “The silence will end, the darkness will abate, and Christ is coming back.”

  • Kasey Summers

    Thankful God is always faithful!!

  • Today I am reminded that oftentimes God leads us through periods of intentional “drought” or “silence” so that, just like a tree, our roots for Him will grow down deeper. Oh how He longs for more of me; all of me. And although it is sometimes painful, silence is often the way He chooses to do that; to create a greater longing for more intimacy with Him and to shape me more into the likeness of Christ. I am encouraged because, as our reading reminded us today, “He always ends oppression with deliverance”. “He is always returning”. Love that. May the seasons when God is silent cause me, just like Zechariah, to not remain the same…

    • Kate

      Thank you for this reminder. It’s so easy to get discouraged in the quiet seasons….

    • Amanda

      Thank you for sharing! Loved ready what you got out of today’s devotional! What truth….God allows us to go through silence so we will run to Him. May that be true for me.

  • What a beautiful testimony and proclamation of God’s faithfulness!

  • Wow. So beautiful. Reminds me of a video journal from the lead singer of Twnth Avenue North, Mike Donehey. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ_bXp5BXwU
    Their song Control talks about how God doesn’t need us, but He WANTS us. An amazing mystery and one that I’ll never understand, but so thankful that His promises never fade. Also heard something from Lysa TerKeurst yesterday, how God’s love isn’t based on us, it’s simply placed on us. And we need to live loved. ….Wow. I need to be reminded of that everyday. Live loved. (I’m reading Lysa’s book Uninvited and it’s so good!). In the waiting, live loved. Need this as I figure out where I want to go to college. Excited what God is going to show me in this next year. Love you all, so thankful for SRT!!! Been in the Word almost everyday, and so awesome how God has shown me what I need to hear at the perfect time.

  • The significance of names is the Bible was much more important then than it is now, so I decided to look up the meaning of Zechariah. Here’s what I found: “remembered by the Lord” or Yah remembers”. Just another way Zechariah’s story fits in with the theme of waiting.

  • Wow, I never realized before how we know God in the silence, in the times that he is ever present, but silent. God’s grace to Zechariah in the ways he transformed him through that time of silence to erupt with such extraordinary praise and prophesy! God was surly speaking to Him, in his time of silence. amazing!

  • Christina

    This advent series has really spoken into my heart. I’ve been trying to not be discouraged when I look at my life and it’s not even remotely close to what God had told me it’d be like through the promises he gave me.

    God’s silence is really what I struggle with most. I know he’s there and I know he never abandons me, but it’s so hard to pray and hear nothing back when he had been so communicative in the past.

    Nevertheless, this is only a season, and seasons pass.

    • Katie

      I am with you on that. I think the hardest part of God’s silence is that it’s not necessarily silent around me. The enemy fills that silence with lies and whispers and when God is silent, it’s so hard not to hear everything else around us that isn’t Him.

    • Skigranny1

      Praying Christina that you will not be discouraged but wait in hopeful anticipation. This is a time of preparation.

    • Taylor

      Christina I’ll be praying for you. I know exactly how you feel. God has shown me some things and has been moving painfully slow. In the stretches of long drawn out silence it’s so easy to give up on the promise, wondering how it could ever be redeemed. But God is wonderful, it might not be how we imagined but I know it will be better! I pray that in your time of waiting and silence you would have a renewed hope in God. The blessing is coming, stay the course!

  • The hope we have in Christ, and must hold on to…His promises..life would not be doable without this hope.
    *Mayra- I am praying for you and your son now and will continue to pray. I am so sorry. And praying the Holy Spirit’s presence would be felt strongly by you and your family during the holidays and always.

  • I think this is what it’s all about — not becoming bitter, but instead embracing the season you are in and pursuing God in it all!

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Carrie Rogers

    Wow! There is so much to Zechariah’s story. Thank you for sharing!

  • Close to the fifth year anniversary of my sons death, the holidays are very difficult. Even more difficult is seeing my remaining son not be able to deal with life without his brother. Our home is a Christian home, but it has been filled with so much sadness, hurt, pain, even anger and rage from my son, that I sometimes feel it is too much to bare.
    I constantly pray for Gods silence to end. To understand why have we been chosen to care this burden.
    I ask for your prayers for my son Nick.
    I know there is power in prayer.
    Thank you

    • Jennifer

      Praying for you Mayra, and for your son Nick. Sending love.

    • Sarah

      I’m praying for your family today, Mayra. Praying He will heal the pain and redeem memories for good, and especially for your son’s heart to know peace and hope again. Love to you, sister! You are not alone.

    • Hilary

      Praying for you and your family now, Mayra!

    • Pam

      Mayra I am going to pray for you and your son Nick. I am going to ask for your home to be filled with happiness, joy, love, and understanding. In faith, I’m going to ask for and believe this to be the case from now on and I hope you will believe it also. Get up every day and speak these words over your home and your son and I believe the Lord will honor our request. Rebuke the enemy and he will flee from you. You are on my prayer list.

    • Celeste

      Praying for peace in heart and mind for you and your family.

    • MDonna

      Myra, I pray for Nick that he will let the Holy Spirit into his hurting heart and will be given peace about his brothers death as hard as it is. And I pray for you and the rest of your family for strength from God to see your son and yourselves through this very difficult time.

    • Kendra

      Praying, Mayra.

    • churchmouse

      Praying for you all. So so sorry

    • Sarah_Joy

      Mayra- I cannot imagine the pain and the heart ache your family experiences daily due to this loss. Our pastor lost his son and two grandchildren in a traffic accident. He has shared candidly about his continued pain as he wrestles with the hurt. Here’s the video of the service where he spoke for the first time. There was also a series called “Derailed” that is on the same YouTube channel thay addresses these same hurts. I hope that this may speak to you. https://youtu.be/2t97yL2D2nc

  • I really needed this word today & your comments sisters. Thank you. Praying for your daughter, Christine.

  • Christine DeGarmo

    Sisters, my precious 13 yod is walking through a season of “silence” in her life. I sense her young and tender heart is struggling to trust God and deep pain has surfaced, even some bitterness is sprouting. Please pray for her and for wisdom for us as parents to guide her through.

  • “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4
    Silence is not easy. It is a trial, but through each trail, we gain something! It isn’t that God has left us, but that He is using the hard times to mold us into the person we need to be, so we may not lack anything!
    Something else I love about these verses is that it says, “LET steadfastness have its full effect”. If I walk through trials throwing a pity party for myself, I am not going to gain anything. I have to count it ALL joy!

  • These words today have spoken to my heart so powerfully. The truth that God follows silence with deliverance is a timely reminder for me. Merry Christmas!!

  • churchmouse

    Zachariah reminds us that God is a covenant – keeping God. He, quite simply, always keeps His Word. Always. Forever. I needed this reminder this morning. This gives me hope. The hope I can believe in and trust. The hope that never lets me go.

  • I love that God speaks in the silence. It reminds me of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes I want an answer from the Lord during the hectic noise of my life, when everything feels out of control. But if I’m not seeking him in the silence, when things are calm and mundane, how can I truly trust that He is faithful?

    • CM

      I always try to look back on other times when He was faithful to me, as I wait. Sometimes, oftentimes, I does feel as though He’s not listening and has no intention of answering my prayer. But then I remember a time in the past when He came through, sometimes at the eleventh hour and I remind myself of His faithfulness then. God doesn’t change. If He was faithful before He will be faithful again. When He doesn’t answer right away, and the silence seems deafening, know that He’s still there. I struggle with this too, trusting Him always, it’s not easy.

      • DebbieinAZ

        This is so true. Remembering his faithfulness helps build faith. I once read about someone who journaled all of the times that God came through. Then when she was struggling with her faith or Gods silence, she would pull out this journal and read about His faithfulness. I always thought it was a great idea, and wanted to do it, but never did. Maybe I will start it this Christmas.

        Merry Christmas sisters.

  • I. LOVE! THIS!!! “God was putting an end to the era of no words by sending the Word made flesh”… He “always shows up”! Yes. Yes, He does.

  • I’m new to this website, and I know God brought me here. I was searching, needing to make some changes, wanting to connect with friends and other women. A divine appointment has taken place.
    Love this beautiful insight.

    • Leah❤️️

      Welcome!!!

    • Lynne

      Welcome, Alyson! You will love the SRT studies! God will use these studies to draw you closer to Him! Also, these sisters in Christ will lift you up and pray for you whenever you need it!

    • Kendra

      Hi, Alyson! I’m glad you’re here!

  • “Silence is golden,” is a quote most often shared by a teacher that hopes to inspire a student to pursue a lesson with excellence.

    “Silence is golden,” in the reality of life speaks loud to the person or people group it captivates. The heart of a person is truly revealed in silence, the spoken language has the ability to deter a thought, question, fear, and such. In silence each intentional feeling screams aloud until given it’s rightful attention.

    I have found the most heartfelt prayers I’ve prayed have been those of silence, followed by tears upon my cheek. The beauty of this reading today is timely as we can all be encouraged to carve a space of silence with our Savior. Joy will follow!

  • Beautiful!! This really hit home. Like Marianne I never connected the years of silence, but it adds such meaning to an already meaningful passage. Love, peace and joy to all!!

  • Christina

    It would seem that just before God speaks loudest, He is most silent, and that if we are in the midst of silence, we need to be keeping short accounts with Him in order to be prepared to hear from Him when He does speak. Thank you for the direction, Sharon!

  • Connecting those 400 years of silence with Zechariah´s muteness is an interesting thought! Never saw it this way. What I also realized is Zechariah´s voice didn´t come back the moment his son was born – actually it happened eight days later, when during the circumcision ceremony he was asked for his son´s name. Only when he confirmed the angel´s command and thus showed his obedience, he was granted to speak again. Seems to me that God wanted to know whether Zecariah not only believed but would follow Him …

  • v. 68: “He has visited us and accomplished redemption for his people.” v. 74-75 ” to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”

    We Can serve him with out fear of Satan, we have been rescued from that enemy!

    Zachariah’s silence echoes the silence of God for four hundred years– and when the times of silence was complete (in both cases)– it explodes like a trumpet proclaiming hope and salvation!

  • Alice Carroll

    ….the silence will end, the darkness will abate, and Christ is coming back. This is what I need to hear – the triumph of hope in the darkness. For Asia Bibi, for all our persecuted brothers and sisters, for all who will struggle this Christmas- He will return for us.

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