I’m thinking of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. I’m thinking of space, the kind of space that helps you believe.
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s the Coles’ Notes: Zechariah encounters an angel who foretells the birth of a son to this aged couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah is instructed to name the child John. But Zechariah reacts in disbelief on the grounds of the couples’ advanced years. So a sign is given Zechariah: he will be mute until the birth of his son.
“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Then true to prophecy, Elizabeth is with child. When the child is born and the naming day comes, the relations balk at the name given by Elizabeth, John.
“Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.”
The forty some verses tell us much about Elizabeth and Mary and the birth of Jesus. But little of Zechariah. We are given the trail-head and the summit of the hike, but not the journey. What motions of the soul had to take place for Zechariah to move from disbelief to praise and belief? Or am I reading too much into it? Did he just sit back and watch it happen?
The way he praises God as soon as his tongue is loosed suggests something more profound is happening in his soul than a ‘let it happen’ attitude. And while we are not given the map of the route he traversed, I believe we are given his mode of transit: silence.
Speech is a gift, but it can get in the way. A chat with a friend right about now would be great but how many times do you get home from the coffee shop and wish you could take back what you said. Sometimes it’s hurtful. Sometimes it’s just plain stupid.
“…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
I’ve always read Zechariah’s muteness as a curse for his disbelief. But how can you rightly call something a curse that leads you to a place of faith in God? Maybe isolation can be that for you.
“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”“
Lord, we wait on you.