Last week we looked at the shortest of the four carols sung at the first Christmas. Today, I want us to look at the longest: the Song of Zacharias. Not able to speak for nine months Zacharias had a few things to say—he was truly suffering from undelivered speech. Luke tells us:
Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
A. T. Robertson noted that nearly every phrase of Zacharias’ Song can be found in the Old Testament—in either the Psalms or one of the Prophets. Zacharias’ forced silence had provided him with a lot of time to reflect on the Word of God and to spend time in prayer (Luke 1:8-22). We can assume that he felt significant guilt for doubting the angel’s declaration. To make matters worse, we can also assume that those around him were not always silent about their assumption that his inability to speak was a judgment from God for some unspecified sin he committed when he was given the opportunity to minister in the temple. He also had to be concerned about the health of his wife who was carrying a child well beyond her childbearing years. Zacharias had a lot to ponder and nine months filled with sleepless nights in which to do it.
And as God alone can do, in the fullness of time, He erased all of the negative emotions and thoughts. Zacharias’ grief and pain were washed away in a flash flood of joy at the birth of a promised son and by the sudden return of his voice. Zacharias burst forth in song. His song naturally divides itself into two verses and a short chorus:
In verse 1, he speaks of the imminent coming of the long ago promised Messiah (68-73)
In this season when we celebrate His first coming, we also wait expectantly for His second coming—both were prophesied long ago. But our time of waiting is not to be spent pursuing our own agendas—I mentioned that in a recent article on Avoiding Distractions (11/16 and reprinted in the December HCN Newsletter).
Christmas is a time of mixed emotions as our joy and sorrow become mingled as we reflect upon family and friends who are no longer with us. We are reminded of past seasons of our life when words were hard to come by because the challenges or tragedies of life had become overwhelming—kind of like Zacharias did for nine months. When I have had those seasons, I have found comfort, and when needed, correction in the Word of God. My prayer life is deepened and my dependence on God is magnified. The more yielded to God that I become the more I find myself experiencing what Zacharias did. His chorus reflects the heart of a deeply committed servant of God—a fearless (bold) desire to seek a holy and righteous life.
We should note that God used an already yielded couple when He chose Zacharias and Elizabeth as the parents of the Messenger—John the Baptist:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
We should also understand that God didn’t ask Zacharias to be the Messenger, but the father of the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. And He didn’t choose Elizabeth to be the mother of the Messiah, but her cousin Mary. God calls and equips every believer to serve in a unique way in His Kingdom.
This Christmas, in the midst of all the shopping, eating, traveling, gatherings with family and friends, and, for those of you who are pastors, sermon preparations make time for a personal interlude. Stop and reflect in-depth on how God has preserved and prepared you through these last few years of cultural chaos to uniquely serve Him. My prayer is that you too will find yourself suffering from undelivered speech and incapable of not proclaiming the Gospel with renewed boldness and compassion from the brokenness of a humble servant’s heart.
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, AMS
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.
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