Unbelief and silence

Here’s another little perspective on the account of Zechariah and the angel.  Sometimes we see the key people in the Gospels in effect acting out or recapitulating Israel’s history.  So, here we have the story of a man who serves God in the Temple, who is a representative of the people and a spokesman for God.  He receives clear revelation from God but chooses not to believe it and so is silenced for a period of time until the fulfilment of the promise.

Now, think about Israel’s history. God had persistently revealed his promise to them. However, his promise was met with hard, unbelieving hearts. The prophets were rejected and even killed, the political and religious leaders were corrupt, unfaithful and faithless. 

Now, many years previously, God had told Isaiah that this would happen, that there would be unbelief and so the people would be subjected to deafness and blindness to God’s Word.

And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people,

‘Listen carefully, but do not understand.
    Watch closely, but learn nothing.’
10 Harden the hearts of these people.
    Plug their ears and shut their eyes.
That way, they will not see with their eyes,
    nor hear with their ears,
nor understand with their hearts
    and turn to me for healing.”[

So, what happens? Well, God sends prophets and the people don’t listen. He sends invading armies and still they don’t listen. Then he sends silence.[1] There is a 400 year gap between the end of the Old Testament and the promise of an Elijah type figure.[2] That’s 400 years when God’s prophets are silenced and his voice is not heard.  It is only with the arrival of the promise and the start of the Gospel that God’s voice is heard again.

We will do well to heed the warning here.  We should guard against unbelief which silences the voice of God. However, more than that there is a great promise here. It is in, and only in the Gospel that we truly hear God’s voice. If we want to speak for God, to share the love of Jesus and see people hearing God speak for the very first time, then we need to tell them the good news about Jesus.

[1] Elijah’s experience at Horeb in 1 Kings 19 of earthquake, wind, fire and silence also seems to capture something of this.

[2] Malachi 4:5-6. 

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