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The Powerful Tongue

The Powerful Tongue

Words of Faith 2-12-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 1

   [18] Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

   [19] The 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. [20] And 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."

   [21] Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. [22] When 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.

   [23] When his time of service was completed, he returned home. [24] After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. [25] "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."


       Okay. Let's be honest here. For some of you ladies this may be the most delightful story in the Bible. A husband who is can't talk… for more than nine months? I know, there are a few would who never notice the change-- but as a preacher I found myself really struggling with this consequence.

     Why did God see fit to close the mouth of Zechariah especially on his big day? Did that not seem a little harsh? After years of faithfulness, his sermon was prepared and ready, and because he asked an honest question he was not allowed to preach? There must be something more to this than an angelic prank.

       Richard Foster, in his book "Celebration of Discipline", says that "the tongue is a thermometer that tells us our spiritual temperature". That was certainly the case with Zechariah. God had a plan. A design. A divine timetable. It was a very important plan and Zechariah was not even warm to it. It was his tongue that revealed his spiritual state and temperature.

       This design of God here was more important than anything Zechariah could imagine. Suddenly Zechariah was speaking seeds of doubt and cynicism that Elizabeth really didn't need to hear. After all, she was the one who would soon be getting morning sickness to go along with her osteoporosis. The plan of the Lord was too important to have a naysayer in the wings. So this was no arbitrary punishment. It was much better that Zechariah not talk at all for a while. It was time to watch and learn.

     Can you imagine the possible response of this doubt-filled husband, Zechariah, to his wife?

       "Honey-- I think I am pregnant!"

       "You! That's a laugh! You're an old woman and I am an old man. How could you possibly be pregnant? What do you know about being pregnant anyway? How would you know how that feels? You've never been pregnant! Who do you think we are, Abraham and Sarah?"

       'Well, now that you mention it..."

     So for this period of time it was better for this husband to be silent and watch.

     Does this mean Zechariah was faithless? Not at all. In fact, he had been very faithful all these years. But like all of us, he had both faith and doubts. The key this time was that he chose to speak the doubt. What we speak in our lives is usually what we feed, and what grows.

     Solomon gave some good advice regarding the tongue. "There is a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). This is good advice not only when your wife is pregnant but all the time. Have you ever noticed that coupled in the very same verse, Solomon notes that "there is a time tear and a time to mend"? We have to admit that the tongue can do both. Sometimes our words tear and sometimes they mend. If we are not sure which we are about to do, we might do well to choose silence. If the tongue is indeed a thermometer of the soul, it seems it can also be an instrument either of hope or despair, faith or doubt, encouragement or discouragement, blessing or cursing.

       James wrote powerfully about the danger of the tongue: "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water" (James 3:1-12).

       The Lord said it so simply through the Psalmist: "Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). There is a time for us simply to listen to God. Hear the angel. Stand in awe. Especially when we see God at work doing something that seems completely impossible. If we are unable to voice our faith, rather than speak our doubts, it is better to simply be still and know that He is God.

       God said it clearly to Job "Listen, Job-- Be still-- stop and consider God's wonders" (Job 37:14).

       If only Zechariah had recently meditated on the words of Solomon! "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words" (Eccles. 5:1-3).

         So what is it that Luke wants us to know? What should we hear as we prepare to get to know this Jesus of Nazareth?

       Have you known the struggle of seemingly unanswered prayer? Hear this good news: God hears and answers prayers, in His time, in his way, and as part of a big plan.

       Have you been frustrated by wondering what God was doing? Hear this good news: God has a plan. He has not fallen asleep at the wheel. God is in charge even when we may feel things are out of control or beyond His reach. Even when He calls us to do things that are seemingly impossible.

       As people expectant of God-- watching for His work, His Messiah and His blessing-- let us be careful with our tongues. Let us speak words of hope, courage, faith, and blessing. And when that is not easy let us choose silence and WATCH the God of the universe unfold His plan.

       LORD, teach us to HEAR with the ears of faith, to SEE with the eyes of faith, and to SPEAK from a heart of faith. Teach me the wonder of silence before You. Teach me the power of waiting for You. In Jesus' name.