Luke 1:63-64 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.
It has always interested and somewhat amused me that the people around Zechariah assumed that because he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t hear either. However, he had obviously been communicating effectively with Elizabeth, because they were in complete agreement as to the baby’s name. Nine months of muteness had taught Zechariah his lesson! Here he discovers that God is faithful to end training when the lesson is learned, and he praises God. Nothing could be more appropriate as his first words after the silence. God never continues difficult discipline longer than necessary! I am reminded of the story of a missionary, who was encountering strong resistance to the Gospel in a particular village. Suddenly, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the missionary turned to a young girl and said, “Speak!” The girl immediately began praising God eloquently, to the total amazement of all the villagers. What the missionary had not known, but God had, was that this girl had been born mute and had never spoken a word in her life. Needless to say, the kingdom of God saw a great harvest in that village that day! Speech is a vitally important function of being a human being, which is why in some cultures those with speech/hearing difficulties are considered somehow less than human. The Bible has a great deal to say about speech, and makes it clear that Zechariah, and the young girl, made the best possible use of their new-found ability to speak.
Having taught pronunciation and vocal production to budding speech therapists for over 20 years, I am extremely aware of speech from various angles. Clear diction and enunciation are certainly desirable, but the content of our speech is far more important than such niceties. I have been greatly moved by messages I’ve heard from a man with cerebral palsy, for example, and his speech certainly didn’t meet the standards to which I hold my students. It could be said that I earn my living by speaking, since I am a teacher and pastor, so there is all the more scrutiny of what I say. I’m not to punctuate every sentence with “Hallelujah!” but everything I say should point people to God and give Him glory, however obliquely. The words from my mouth are never to tear people down but rather to build them up, even when they are strong words of admonition. I have had the incalculable privilege of God speaking through me many times, so all of my own words need to be in keeping with that, and never cheapen it.
Father, thank You for the opportunity You gave me yesterday to tell the true Christmas story to my nursing students. However, I realized last night that with some other people I said some things that were less than accurate, and were really a form of bragging. It felt really bad to come to that awareness. Help me indeed guard my tongue, as James wrote about in chapter 3. May I speak Your words of life, and nothing less, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!