In my last post, I talked about God’s faithfulness to those who prayerfully believe He is faithful. But what I didn’t include was how our faithfulness to God is tested, especially in the times of our lives when we wonder silently, “Is He going to pull through?” I have to be honest, I can put on a ton of masks each Sunday morning, but there are plenty of times when I simply don’t believe God will be there.
It’s not so much that I don’t believe He’ll be there when I fall; it’s more of I doubt that He wants good things for me. I know Matthew 7:7-11 describes exactly that God wants good things for us. But it’s difficult for me to truly believe that. It might be because my dad was never there or because my mom wasn’t there a lot or some other reason. Whatever the case may be, I have a hard time believing – at least some times – that God wants good things for me.
I wonder if Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, ever felt the same? I’ve been reading through Luke tonight and have been slowing down on each passage by reading a commentary and taking notes. It really helps to retain the stuff much better, you know? Anyhow, during my study, something interested popped out to me within Zechariah’s story. Last time, I highlighted how Gabriel, the angel, said to Zechariah, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and you wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,” 1:13. But what caught my attention wasn’t only Zechariah’s muteness for a lack of faith, but what happened after John had been born; Zechariah was still silent.
“Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. […] And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child,” – vv. 57 & 59a. Zechariah failed the initial test of faith by requesting a sign from Gabriel (“How shall I know this?” v. 18), but Gabriel still said, “You will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place,” v. 20. Since he had only told Zechariah that he would bear a son named John, then “the day that these things take place” should have been the day that John was born, shouldn’t it? At least, that’s what I would think if I were Zechariah.
I can’t imagine that week of silence for Zechariah. Day after day, hand signal after hand signal, he carried on through his life. Luke doesn’t say what happened in that time because to Luke, it probably wasn’t relevant. But I’d have to think that a week is a long enough time to have some doubtful thoughts creep in; “God’s angel said you’d be silent until John was born, didn’t he? So why are you still silent now?” my inner thoughts might say. But there’s more to verse 13; “and you shall call his name John.”
Eight long days for Zechariah brought about a second chance to prove his faithfulness to God’s promise. And when the opportunity of testing came – when the people asked him what he wanted to name his son – he was ready for it. He believed in prayer’s power because he was held speechless for at least nine full months. It wasn’t because he had seen an angel of God or that the angel told him his prayers had been heard; it was because everyday he woke up without the ability to orally communicate with anyone, let alone his wife (now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Elizabeth enjoyed a listening husband ;)).
I don’t know if I’d have the same faith as Zechariah did. I’d like to think so, but when the moment of testing actually arrives, when people ask me what I’m going to name my son, will I remain faithful to God even after He had remained faithful to me? It isn’t good to dwell on this thought, though, because you might actually miss the opportunity entirely. But it is good to think about once in a while, just to keep yourself in check – to keep yourself focused in the faith.
As my readers are fully aware of, I want a wife. It’s something I’ve been praying over for quite some time and while I believe that God is hearing my prayers and will bring someone into my life that could bear with me, I wonder if I’ll recognize the moment of testing for what it is. I wonder if I’ll listen to Gabriel or if I’ll listen to the people around me, telling me what I should do. When it comes time to make a move to ask a girl out, I wonder if I’ll follow God’s guidebook on dating or if I’ll follow my friends’.
I use this only as one example; there are plenty of others. Praying for a new job, a child, a sick friend or family – the list of prayers is seemingly endless. However long that list may be, God is hearing them all and has answered or is in the process of answering them. Our job is not only to remember that, but to prove that we’re faithful to Him by taking that leap of faith in the moment of opportunity; by writing John’s name down instead of Zechariah’s; by completing God’s will instead of our own.
Zechariah appears to have been an old man. If he married young, then that means he and his wife had been praying for a child for a long, long time. For him to request a sign even when an angel tells him God will give him a son goes to show that it’s absolutely critical for us to remain faithful until the very end.
We don’t hear anything from Zechariah after he sings a song of praise, but I believe he didn’t make a habit out of doubting God’s promise. Nine months and one week of silence had to be a hard lesson to learn. I pray I learn from his example.