Have you ever been utterly speechless? Have you ever been in one of those situations where someone else has just said or done something so profoundly amazing that you feel the need deep inside to respond somehow, but you can't? There simply are no words.

Maybe you were amazed, thrilled, or blessed so much that you couldn't respond with words but only your facial expressions. Or maybe you were so angered, so frustrated, so hurt that you couldn't muster up any words at all. Then again, sometimes we're struck speechless out of sheer bewilderment. Thus was the case with Zach, or Zacharias to be exact.

Remember when Zacharias learned that he and his wife Elizabeth would become parents in their old age? The angel Gabriel left the throne room of God to meet Zacharias in the temple where he was offering up incense as a priest. There he gave him the amazing news that Elizabeth would conceive a child and that child would bring them and many others joy and gladness. That child, to be named John, would be a unique child and grow into an even more unique man. He would pave the way for the Christ by preaching repentance with measurable success, drawing the hearts of people back to where they could hear from God. And oh how the people needed to hear from God!

But when Zacharias, a man of God, a priest from the house of Levi, a servant in the temple of God who was offering incense and prayers for his people, heard this extraordinary prediction, he couldn't believe his ears. He asked for a sign and Gabriel would give him none.

Except he shut his mouth. God shut Zacharias' mouth, that is. From that day until the day baby John was circumcised and given his God-ordained name, Zacharias couldn't utter a word. Why? Ah, that's always an awfully good question to ask yourself as you read God's Word. Read the answer for yourself:

But behold, 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.
(Luke 1:20)

Now at first glance it may appear that Zacharias' speechlessness is a sort of curse from God, a punishment. But the more I meditated on this passage and put that little nugget in context, I decided this wasn't a punishment so much as it was a protection.

You see, Zacharias, this man of God, this priest, this temple servant, had not believed the Word of the Lord. He didn't have any faith. And something really big was about to happen. God had big plans, the biggest He'd revealed in years. In fact, this is the first time anyone has heard from God or a messenger from God in over 400 years when He had last spoken through His prophet Malachi. 

Now God was speaking and His servant Zacharias wasn't listening. Instead of answering the way Mary and Joseph would respond to their messages from God in the following days with a hearty "Yes! I'm in!", Zacharias was sputtering doubt and demands of proof. If God couldn't trust Zacharias to exit that temple and shout with joy that God had spoken and was about to unwrap His plan for redemption that He had ordained before the foundation of the earth, then He would have to shut his mouth.

And He did.

And I suppose Zacharias had plenty of time to think about things and wrap his finite brain around this amazing message and event, because the next thing we hear out of Zacharias' mouth is just the opposite of skepticism.

And he asked for a writing tablet,
and wrote, saying,
"His name is John."
So they all marveled.
Immediately his mouth was opened 
and his tongue loosed,
and he spoke, praising God.
(Luke 1:63-64)

The next time Zacharias was allowed to speak, he let loose a slew of praises that had undoubtedly bottled up in his mouth all the way down to his heart over the preceding months of Elizabeth's pregnancy. No more doubt. No more skepticism. No more faithless questions. Just praises galore.

Today I'm praying that if anything is on the tip of my tongue that does not honor God, does not edify His people, does not convey truth, or does not demonstrate faith, then God would simply zip my lips shut. Not that I'd give the silent treatment, mind you. I'm not talking about using my lack of faith or zeal for the things of God as a manipulative tool to put others in their place. I'm talking about asking God to keep me from hindering His work in any way. 

And I'm praying that everything that comes out of my mouth, on the other hand, would honor God, praise His works, and bless His holy name.