Summary: Jesus Christ or Allah, or any other. There is only one true God.
December 23, 2001
Zechariah had spent nine months unable to speak. It happened because he had acted in unbelief. Nine months prior, an angel had appeared to Zechariah to tell him his prayers had been answered; his wife, Elisabeth, would bear him a son. The conversation went something like, Are you nuts, man? I am like a zillion years old, and my wife’s waaaaay past all that.
Some things never change! Both Abraham and Sarai had laughed when an angel came to tell them her 90 year-old body would produce a son the following year. Zechariah was Abraham’s descendant in more than one way!
I used to think it was rather cruel of God to make Zechariah speechless for nine months just because he asked that question. I’m a lot older, and just a little bit wiser now. I see the point. Zechariah was to be the father of Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist. Zechariah was going to need all the faith available to handle his responsibilities as father of a prophet. He needed nine months to think. When you talk a lot you don’t think much. God shut Zechariah up until the right moment.
When the son was born, Zechariah had come full cycle in faith. Everyone looked to him when Elisabeth wanted to name the child “John”. Zechariah couldn’t speak, so he took chalk and slate in hand and wrote in big bold letters:
His name is JOHN!
And that changed everything. Zechariah’s mouth was opened; and nine month’s worth of the Lord’s rebuke of silence – nine month’s worth of repentance and vows to begin to believe, issued forth in the prophecy and praise of a converted heart!
There is a lesson in that. If you have sinned…even sinned big time, and you sense that you are laboring under the rebuke of God’s punishment – remember Zachariah. Remember the Lord forgives, and even turns our rebuke into reward. He took faithless Zachariah and made him the faithful prophet and father of John the Baptist. So if you are a Zachariah today, remember, you can come home to faith!
What did Zachariah say once his tongue got loose?
76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Zachariah told the Good News!
The prophecy of Zachariah centers around two major facts – and those which separate Christianity from every other religious belief system:
We have a God who showed up in person.
We have a God who forgives by grace.
Zachariah spoke of a God who would give light to them that sit in darkness. He talked about a God who would guide our feet into the way of peace. This is a God who showed up in the person of Jesus Christ. No other faith makes that claim; not Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or any of the New Age faiths. None have a personal God who has taken on the flesh of man and visited us.
But further, we have a God who forgives by grace. Islam and the rest either make doing or achieving the criteria for salvation – or they offer no salvation at all. In Hinduism, for instance, you are to work hard at stockpiling karma through your good deeds in this life. When you die you are reincarnated with your stockpile, to work-out your mistakes. When you have been reincarnated enough times to have accounted for a perfect life, you are released from the reincarnation cycle to a place, or state of Nirvana – a condition of non-existence. You become “one” with all elements – in other words, you go back to dust!
Only in Christ is there the correct understanding that we are lost in darkness. That darkness is sin.
Only in Christ is there the God who forgives our sin by His grace. All the major world religions that even acknowledge man’s sinful state require a man to work his way out of punishment.
Only in Christ has God come and paid the un-payable price – death – so that our sins could be forgiven.
Only in Christ has there been resurrection.
Only in Jesus Christ is there life!
Jesus Christ, a God who shows up, and forgives by grace. That’s Christmas! Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned by Hitler during World War II, writes to his fiancé on one lesson learned from life in prison:
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes,
does various unessential things,