Day 15 - December 17, 2017

Second Chances

The focus of our devotions, Zechariah, had nine months to ponder his rash reaction to the angel Gabriel. As we concluded our last piece on Zechariah, he had refused to believe Gabriel’s message that his wife Elizabeth and he would become parents of the child John after having passed their childbearing years. As a result, the aged priest was struck speechless until the birth of John. 

But the day did come and shortly following the birth, it came time to give the child a name. The people thought that boy should also be named Zechariah but Elizabeth—speaking because Zechariah couldn’t! —surprised everyone by telling them, “He is to be called John” (1:60). Unsure whether to believe her, they required Zechariah to write down the boy’s name and he confirmed his wife’s declaration and wrote, “His name is John” (1:63).

No doubt Zechariah had pictured this event in his mind daily. If anything, his imposed silence had offered him the opportunity to contemplate both his mistake and God’s goodness on His people Israel. One of the most difficult mindsets is to plough ahead, learning from our mistakes and being ready the next time God answers our prayers, so we will be prepared when He seeks to use us to further His kingdom. When we fail or life overwhelms us, our prayer should be “Okay, if I have to go through this, then give me everything. Teach me everything you want to teach me through this. Don’t let this incredible pain be wasted in my life!”1

The nine-month silence was self-inflicted yet Zechariah and Elizabeth were still to have a son, whose name means “God is gracious.” As we will see in the next devotion, Zechariah shocked the people a second time. The first time was, as we have noted in this devotion, when he surprised the people by suddenly speaking and affirming his son’s name will be John. But this sudden outburst was followed up by a second unexpected outpouring as Zechariah turned prophetic and shared how God was about to bless Israel with the Messiah and his anticipated forerunner who would prepare the Messiah’s way (1:67-79). And this forerunner was none other than Zechariah’s own son.

The downtime had been worth the wait as Zechariah had replayed what he wanted to say in his mind over and over. It may well have been that if he had not doubted and had a lengthy period to ponder on everything, then his prophetic voice may never have developed. A tough way to do it, but God can use even our shortcomings to mold us into the most effective witness we can be. God is a God of second chances, though it may require a period of discipline and rethinking about who God is and who we are before we can be used again.

Father, when we stumble pick us up and get us back into the game as You will. In Jesus’ name, the One who provided second chances for us with His death, amen.

1 Nancy Guthrie, Holding On to Hope (Tyndale, 2002); submitted by Gary Smith, Ft. Myers, Florida
submitted by the Reverend Dr. Richard Menninger, Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

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