Can you remember the most significant day in your working life so far? – maybe a graduation or promotion; maybe the completion of a project or the launch of something new; maybe the achievement of attainment of something you have always longed for – an ambition, hope, or dream fulfilled. Such days, by definition, are rare – they are climaxes or pinnacles of achievement and stick in the memory for ever.
Such a day happened in a career of a religious professional in the city of Jerusalem. The single biggest day of his career arrived by a way of him being chosen to perform a task that very, very few ever got to perform, because the opportunity came around so rarely and the candidates were numerous. Nevertheless, this man named Zechariah was chosen to represent his people in the ultimate activity his career could give him. Although it was his day, it had come to him by the choice of others and was due to the fact that it was on his watch.
This privilege was all the more exhilarating for him because he was also carrying a disappointment in his private life. He and his wife wanted children and were unable to have any. This is, of course, painful at any age but in that era it was even more acute due to the high store put on the importance of children to validate the lives of adults. So the beginning day for Zechariah’s ‘in between’ time was the most important day, by a mile, in his working life.
To his surprise, he has a supernatural, spiritual experience at work. If he had been a farmer, builder or carpenter, his surprise might be understandable. The fact is, however, that his whole job is to connect with the supernatural and the spiritual – this is his career path, but when an angel shows up at work, he is terrified. The angel’s message is not primarily work related, at least not as far as he can tell. The message is that his wife will have a son.
The irony of the situation now unfolds because Zechariah manages to blow it on his biggest day. By not really believing what he is hearing, he manages to mess up his amazing opportunity. The result is that he is made mute for the entire pregnancy and only gets his voice back on the naming of his new born.
Zechariah is forced to turn inwards for many months. He can only communicate by writing or signs. His ‘in between’ time is an enforced retreat into himself and his inner world. Here he can give you some insights into the ‘in between’: Firstly, this all happened to him; the choice, the timing, the angel, the announcement and the loss of voice were all done to him. Sometimes you want to overdo your responsibility and take the rap for events that were outside of your control. Even his unbelief was a quick reaction to something overwhelming.
Secondly, the result of these happenings left him literally speechless. He probably couldn’t have explained what was going on even if he could speak. You may find yourself in an ‘in between’ time, where words are of no use; the only sensible course of action is to wait.
In common with other ‘in between’ times, it ends with a birth. Obviously it is the birth of John the Baptist but actually it is the birth of a new Zechariah – a man of trust and faith – his voice comes back, not at the birth itself, but at the naming of his son eight days later. In naming his son, he speaks out his belief and trust and in so doing gives birth to a different man.
So maybe God is wanting you to stop talking. Maybe he has already sent an angel to meet you at work with a message that will affect your whole life. Maybe the biggest challenge is to believe. Don’t forget all this happened to Zechariah – his ‘in between’ time, though, was not just for his benefit; he was being drawn into a drama so large that it would play out on the world stage. For him to get his head in gear he had to be quiet for nine months and learn to praise with the flow, playing his part in the supernatural script.
5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. 8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”19The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20And 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 proper time.” 21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.23When his time of service was completed, he returned home.
57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. 67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68?Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us-
72to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he
appeared publicly to Israel.
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