Zacharias - one of the older priests in the church. God viewed he and his wife, Elizabeth, as righteous and blameless because they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. Advanced in years, she was still barren.

One day while he was serving the Lord the lot fell upon him to go into the temple of the Lord to burn the incense. Image the moment... He walks in to accomplish the normal religious routine. Outside the multitude are praying for the act of service. All at once, Zacharias comes face-to-face with an angel...

I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, was sent to speak to you (Zacharias Father of John the Baptist) and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time. Luke 1:19-20

* Please read Luke 1:5-15 and 57-80 to fully understand this next section.

At this point, what thoughts poured into Zacharias' mind? Was he confused? Did he recognize the angel was from God? Together, let's think beyond the obvious into the heart of Zacharias...

Shock and doubt absorb my thoughts. Why in the midst of one of my greatest priesthood moments am I filled with fear? Questions erupt. This must be the angel of death, not an angel of the Lord.

My eyes meet face-to-face with the angel as he says, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for I hear your prayer. Your wife will bear you a son, and you shall name him John." Again doubt escalates. Elizabeth and I prayed for God to bless us with a child, but now we are too advanced in years. Our barren years are over.

He goes on to say, "The Holy Spirit will fill him, even from his mother's womb... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Without thinking I shout, "How shall I know this?" Immediately, remorse fills me. Regret embeds my heart. Looking deep within my soul, the angel of the Lord exclaims, "You will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place because you did not believe My words."

I open my mouth to apologize, but not a word or sound releases. I tried again and again, but nothing. In a moment's notice, the angel vanishes. Now, a heavy burden lay upon my shoulders. Why in the middle of serving the Lord Most High did I doubt His answer to my prayer?

Exiting the Temple, I notice the large crowd of people waiting outside. With all my might, I try to share my experience, but not a peep emerges. A look of confusion forms on their faces. Whispers ripple through the mob. As my eyes meet Elizabeth's, the angel of the Lord's words resound... Your son will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. All of a sudden, in my silence the world around me dissipates.

Frustrated, yet encouraged.

Confused, yet calm.

Fearful, yet humble.

To my surprise within a few days my wife, Elizabeth, conceives a child. For a little over nine months, we didn't leave our home. Still, no word from my mouth. Not a peep. In these days of silence, humbleness overwhelms my heart. God's grace, mercy and love pours upon me. In the quiet, I listen to the voice of the Almighty. A life change stirs deep within my soul. I long to share it with Elizabeth. But how? I trust in God's timing I will be able to use my voice to explain this transformation.

The day finally arrives. Elizabeth brings forth our son. Relatives and friends rejoice with us over this miracle baby. Praises to God echo through the valleys and hills south of Jerusalem. On day eight, when babies are circumcised, the officials ask my wife what name to give the boy. I smile as she boldly says, "John." The authorities begin arguing with her because no one in our family carried that name. Turning to me they motion for me to write the name down. I open my mouth and shout, "His name shall be called John!"

Amazement overwhelms me. Again the angel of the Lord's words surface, 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. Filled with the Holy Spirit, I drop to my knees and begin praising God. All in God's perfect timing. Praise releases. Humbleness flows. Love ignites.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK... Notice how all this happened to Zacharias while he was serving the Lord. How many times do we question or doubt God in the midst of serving Him? How often do we allow fear to overtake us as God is answering our prayers? It is in the silent times that we learn to listen. Are you experiencing the silence? Are you listening? Hidden in the word SILENT is the word LISTEN. Scramble the letters to find both. Hmm... Like Zacharias we can all learn something from this little assignment.

From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

Founder of Reflective Life Ministries