August 27, 2010

When God Is Silent (Zechariah, the ending)

God had been silent for 400 hundred years from the last prophet of the old testament, Malachi, until the opening of the New Testament with the appearance and announcement of an angel to Zechariah.

  "The Silence " as it is often referred to was when God's inspired writers did not write.  God was not absent, He was still at work. 

It has been around 500 hundred years since a recorded angelic visitation.  Now, angels are bursting on the scene in the 1st chapter of Luke.  The first visitation was with Zechariah (the second to Mary).

Here is this old, faithful priest entering in from the east and walking towards the far west end of the temple.  The golden incense altar stood just outside the veil of the Holy of Holies.  This was as close to the presence of God that anyone could get (except the high priest once a year).

A priest usually did his duty quickly and went out from the temple as soon as possible.  Zechariah probably was experiencing more fear than usual due to the cultural view of childlessness at this time (read post 2 for clarification).

So how did Zechariah react when an angel suddenly appeared?

Luke 1:11-12
Then angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
500 years of no recorded angelic appearances, 400 "Silent Years" and the weight of his own childlessness on him.  His fear was paralyzing.

I know we are all familiar with the promise of a child, the birth of John the Baptist but I want to focus on a "smaller picture" here.

The duty of the priest at the altar of incense was to pray and intercede for the people.  The fragrant smoke was symbolic of the prayers wafting up to heaven.

Revelation 8:3-4 (New International Version)

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand

In Luke 1:13 the angel turns to the praying priest,
"But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. "
The prayers for the people?  No, verse 13 goes on to say "your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John."

Some commentaries put Zechariah between the age of 60-80.  At this point I am pretty sure that a prayer for a child is a dream that has passed him by.  Yet the ache would still be there.

Do you feel that your "dream" has passed you by?  God still may desire to bring it to pass as he did with this faithful couple. (a dream of things that God has put within you, a prayer no longer prayed).

Do you feel that God has been silent?  He is not absent, He is at work in your life and circumstance.

"Recognize that God can be silent. There is no obligation for God to answer you, inform you or let you know anything. "God is said to be absolutely free," says A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy, "because no one and no thing can hinder Him or compel Him or stop Him. He is able to do as He pleases always, everywhere, forever"

There comes a time in the life of every Christian when we are called to acknowledge His sovereignty and to trust Him implicitly in the face of unanswered prayer.

As I shared briefly in the last post, my own life has been touched by infertility.  Those painful, agonizing years ripped at my very soul until one Sunday morning I heard His voice (not audible but inside).  He asked, "Will you acknowledge that I am enough for you?  Will you submit your life trusting in Me even without a child?"

With a soul-wrenching sob I found myself on my knees putting my life, my dreams, my prayers onto the altar of His love.  Lord, you are enough!

Did the pain, the disappointment just disappear, no.  The struggles were there as I avoided Mother's Day, Baby Showers and baby dedications.  Every time, through the tears I would whisper, "Lord, you are enough!"

This was in 1987 and out of the blue in 1993 we received a phone call from a mother asking if we would be parents to her daughter's baby that would be born in 6 weeks. 

Would we?

Absolutely and by the way, 2 weeks later we received another phone call, the baby was born early, we had a son.

God may be silent, but beloved, He is with you and working for you.

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