Waiting In Silence
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
Luke 1:83 – 23
Today we are going to journey with Zechariah as he waits in silence for his son to be born. Typically, we read Zechariah’s season of silence as God’s discipline for his doubt, and to be sure, some of the silence was discipline. But what if something more was going on?
After all, Zechariah was just doing what people do when they receive a miraculous word from God. He was seeking confirmation. Gideon did this by laying out a fleece. Abraham did this when he wondered how God would keep his promises to him. David did this repeatedly in the Psalms. Even Mary did this when Gabriel came to her. So why does Zechariah get singled out with a season of silence?
I don’t think it’s going too far to wonder if the silence was something more than discipline. Perhaps it was also a gracious gift and a surprising invitation.
Consider for a moment that in taking away Zechariah’s voice, God gave him time to wait quietly with the good news that the Messiah was coming. So, for nine months, Zechariah got to ponder God’s promises to him. Essentially, God carved out space for quiet and contemplation because Zechariah could not keep pushing on with life as usual. He would have to slow down. He would have to be more still and silent than he had been for years, maybe than he had been for his entire life.
And in the stillness and silence, the seed of hope that God had planted would be given space to grow. God’s word wouldn’t have to compete with all of Zechariah’s words. So maybe, just maybe, part of Zechariah’s silence was to give him a gracious retreat to dwell more deeply on God’s word to him.
In our world of countless words and activity, we are rarely, if ever, taught the value of silence and solitude. Even when we go on a retreat, we expect an agenda of speakers and activities that fill the day. Most of us can’t imagine a day of total silence, let alone nine months.
Carving out space for silence and solitude is an important practice as we wait for Jesus to return because it invites God to speak into our lives and it gives God’s word space to expand in our souls. Silence and solitude allow us to perceive and receive what God is doing and saying as we wait for Jesus to come again.
So in light of Zechariah’s nine months of silence, I’d like to encourage you to find some time today to sit still and reflect on God’s word given to you.