When we’ve done wrong and want back into God’s good graces, the only thing we want to know is, “What is this going to cost me–emotionally, physically, financially.  How much discipline will I have to stand under?” “When will ‘this’ be over?”  “What will God include in His ‘this?’”  The particular “this” under consideration is in Luke 1:20:

 “And now you [Zechariah the priest] will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens . . .”

In judgment, Zechariah had been struck dumb for failure to believe the Lord about the birth of a son.  The angel Gabriel predicted eight things about the yet-to-be conceived John the Baptist that would need to happen before Zechariah would be able to speak again.  That’s the “this.”  What was Zechariah–now unable to speak (dumb)–thinking about these predictions?

What do we think about when we’ve seriously failed God?  We think, “How much spiritual discipline is God going to put me through?  Am I going to have to spirit-ually work a second job for six months to get this thing behind me? How many spiritual laps am I going to have to run around Mt. Sinai?”  (Yes, that is legalism and false doctrine and a works-based forgiveness, but being the fallen sinners we are, we tend to think this way.)

Zechariah may have been thinking, “How long will it take ‘until the day this’ is behind me?”  Let’s track with him and imagine what he was thinking, because there’s an encouraging thought for us.

First, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (1:13).  “Wonderful” thought Zech, “but that means I’ll be unable to speak for nine months and who knows how long conception will take!”

Second, “. . . you are to give him the name John” (1:13).  “That’s not a family name, but okay.  At least it doesn’t add anything to the time I’ll be doing.”

Third, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice . . .” (1:14).  “Fine.  I’m still at nine months plus conception time.”

Fourth, “He will be great” (1:15).  “For an older couple like us, just having a baby would be great.  And no extra time tacked on by this prediction.”

Fifth, “He is never to take wine or other fermented drink” (1:15).  “Uh-oh.  Since Elizabeth and I would never give our young child alcohol, this must mean he has to grow up enough to reject strong drink himself.  Oh no!  That means I’m up to conception time, plus nine months, plus ten years minimum!”

Sixth, “Many of the people of Israel will be brought back to the Lord” (1:16). “This means our son would have to reach adult age before this could be God’s servant to do this. Oh, no”

Seventh, “He will go before the Lord . . . to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.” This is a vague statement,  but it showed again that adulthood would have to be reached before this was likely to happen.   

Eighth, “He will prepare a people to respond to God” (1:17).  “Wow!  My son is going to introduce the Messiah.  Awesome.  But unless our boy becomes a boy-preacher, I could be dumb for 30+ years!  That’s heavy!” Believer, it is encouraging to notice that God drew the line on the this in a gracious spot.  He could have included the fulfillment time for all eight predictions, but He didn’t.  Luke 1:64 says that immediately after the infant was named, God restored Zechariah’s speech.  God will be gracious to you also.  Let’s trust Him.  Enjoy Him.  Obey Him.  Merry Christmas!