“You will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe My words which will be fulfilled in their own time” Luke 1:20
As we read the Bible it doesn’t take us long to realise that God knows how to make a point when He wants to do so. Sometimes we may wish He would do so more often in order to make our path clearer.
When “Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God,” (v19) told Zacharias that God would answer his prayer and grant him a son (v 13) he didn’t believe him. Perhaps part of the reason for him not believing was that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had been praying for a child for many years without answer and were now past child bearing. Now the time was right and Gabriel made it clear that the child would have a unique role in preparing Israel for the arrival of Messiah. Gabriel even gave Zacharias the name for his son. His name was to be John which means “God is gracious.”
Because Zacharias did not believe God’s messenger God made him mute. He would not speak again until the word of the Lord was fulfilled. Any person who does not believe what God has said is spiritually mute. It was a prophetic word that Zacharias did not believe and there are many who follow his example in our time. Just because we have prayed long or because it seems impossible is no reason to disbelieve the normal literary meaning of God’s word, including the prophetic word (v 37). If we choose not to believe God’s word we are mute so far as understanding what God is doing in the world and unable to bring comfort to those distressed by world events. God is making a point through Zacharias’ experience from which we can learn.
Zacharias’ unbelief was made public at the temple and so his restoration would also be made public at the temple. For nine months he had been speechless although he had obviously been able to communicate by signs and by writing notes.
When Zacharias and Elizabeth brought the baby to the temple for circumcision many relatives came also. Since Zacharias was still mute the relatives apparently stepped in and wanted to name the baby after him but Elizabeth objected saying that he would be called John. Zacharias must have communicated that to her, probably when explaining why he had been made mute. Fearing that the relatives would override his wife Zacharias took a writing tablet and wrote on it, “His name is John” (v 63). He did not write, “His name will be John” but “His name IS John.” We are told that immediately he did this he was able to speak and the first words he spoke were in praise of God (v 64). His praise was not about being able to speak again but because their son was part of God’s program to fulfil the Abrahamic Covenant (vv 67-79).
Certainly God has made His point. When we believe God and take His word in its normal literary sense we will have a valid spiritual voice. If we interpret God’s word to suit our inability to believe what God has actually said or to make His word fit our own theology we will be spiritually mute. The evidence that Zacharias believed the word given him by Gabriel was his obedience to that word. If Zacharias had believed God’s word from the beginning life would have been a much better experience for him and so will it be for us.