Dr. Zach Crook
Have you ever felt like God was silent when you needed Him most? The Israelites certainly felt this way. The last prophet God sent was Malachi; since then, He hadn’t spoken to them for 400 years. It was easy to feel like God had forgotten them or was holding out on them. God’s silence was confusing and bewildering. If you feel similarly, it may be encouraging to look a little deeper into the story of Luke 1, where God speaks for the first time to break His great silence.
If you’ve ever raised a toddler, you know that silence is not a good sign. If a child is silent, they’re usually up to something. When God is silent, He’s generally working behind the scenes too. You may not have insight into why He hasn’t answered you, but you can be confident He’s still working. God breaks his long-lasting silence to the Israelites by speaking to the priest, Zechariah. Through the angel Gabriel, God tells him, “There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” (Luke 1:14-17)
God’s Promises are Always True
After God’s long silence, the first thing that Gabriel says quotes the final words of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.” After centuries of silence, God uses this quote from Malachi to indicate that the time has come. God is showing His people that He never stopped working to fulfill His promises.
Zechariah and Elizabeth have been crying out to God, asking for children for decades. Though God answers their prayer, Zechariah ruins this terrific scene by asking, “How can I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” Zechariah’s initial response is doubt. He doesn’t believe what God said is true.
As you study through the Christmas stories this season, they should prepare your heart for the arrival of your Savior. So as you read these stories from long ago, you may ask, “are these stories really true?” Some people will go around saying it’s all a fable. However, Luke, the author of this gospel, wants you to know that it’s all true. Not only is every word of Scripture inspired by God’s Spirit, but Luke did lots of research to hear eyewitness accounts of the stories he wrote. There is much evidence that Jesus lived, died, and rose again.
When we think about Christmas, sometimes we doubt that God loves us enough to send his Son to die on the cross for our sins and make a way for us to be in right relationship with him. Luke affirms that God loves you and me enough to send his Son. So either we believe and trust in Christ, or we throw out the whole story. There’s no middle ground.
God’s Silence Doesn’t Mean He’s Inactive
Looking at the whole story, you can see that sometimes God moves and works differently than you might expect. While we might want answers right now, God might be refining us amid that trial. Silence from God does not mean inactivity in our lives. We need to trust in Him and His perfect plan, even when we don’t know what the result will be. We have the benefit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. If God is silent in your life, you know that you can open up the Bible and read. We need to know that silence from God doesn’t mean inactivity, and God’s timeline for everything in our lives is correct and purposeful.
For Elizabeth and Zechariah, the ancient near East retirement plan is your children. The Bible says they were righteous and followed God, but they still had no children. In God’s perfect timing, He gives them John the Baptist – the forerunner preparing the way for the Messiah. If there’s anything we can see from this story and so many stories throughout Scripture is that God is sovereign and in control.
This Christmas, we need to make sure that we are ready and prepared to share with people who Jesus is and what He’s done. When Elizabeth heard the good news, she responded differently than Zechariah. She says, “the Lord has done this for me.”
God loves you so much. He left heaven, came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, went to the cross, paid the penalty for your sins, and defeated sin and death. When He rose again on the third day, that’s what we get to celebrate. That is what the Lord has done for us.
When God speaks, we listen and obey. Rather than responding in doubt like Zechariah, we can respond in faith like Elizabeth and tell everyone of the wonderful things God has done for us.
Throughout the Christmas season, you will meet people who are so open and ready for gospel conversations. Don’t be mute like Zechariah. Simply ask somebody what their plans are for Christmas, and that opens doors to share the story of Jesus with them. This Christmas, you can use your voice to share the good news of great joy for all the people!