Day 22 - December 24, 2017

Zechariah Learns God is Gracious

As we close our look at Zechariah, we glean from our previous four devotions what we can apply to our lives. The righteous priest had been given a great privilege when he was chosen to burn incense in the Temple, only to doubt the words of the angel Gabriel and to be silenced for nine-months. His speech returned when he affirmed Elizabeth’s declaration that their long-awaited son would be named John, which means “God is gracious.” What can we learn from this behind the scenes lead up to the Christmas story. 

First, Zechariah had no one to blame but himself. I assume he knew that and sought to live for the future rather than dwell in the past. To confess something is our fault is not to continually blame ourselves and pile guilt on ourselves. As C. S. Lewis says, “Any fixing of the mind on old evils beyond what is absolutely necessary for repenting our own sins and forgiving those of others is certainly useless and usually bad for us.”3 God forgives our mistakes and even our guilt. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). God sends our guilt—as well as our sins—away!

Second, don’t allow previous doubting to control your walk with God. Zechariah learned from his mistake with Gabriel that John would be born and to be prepared to carry on when this event happens. Zechariah obediently proclaimed that his son’s name was to be John, a gracious gift to Zechariah and Elizabeth, signifying God’s grace to them and all who believe. 

Third, he modeled wisdom for younger generations: he learned to trust God. Often in trying to help others, especially students, I strive to let them know I didn’t know anymore or even as much at their age or in their situation. We are not born with the wisdom; we acquire it. Often it is hit and miss as seen in Zechariah’s life. This reminds me of Sir Walter Scott who sought to be a soldier but a bout with polio ended that dream. Once he abandoned his dream he began reading old Scottish history and other literature and ended up being a master novelist. But it is reported that an elderly man said of Scott, “He was makin’ himself a’ the time “but he didna ken [know] maybe what he was about till years had passed.” Although Zechariah’s infliction was self-imposed unlike Scott’s illness, nevertheless, Zechariah would use his remaining days to rejoice in God’s graciousness and to instruct others against the folly of unbelief. 

Prayer
Dear Lord, strengthen us when we are tested, move us when we must step out, forgive us when we fail to believe, and restore us even stronger as with Zechariah. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

3 Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III, Compiled in Yours, Jack.
 
submitted by the Reverend Dr. Rich Menninger, Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

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