Definition: To punish - 'to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior
Scripture: Luke 1: 5-38
When the angel told Zechariah about Elizabeth's pregnancy and described the characteristics of his son, Zechariah replied, "How shall I know this is so? I am an old man and my wife is old also?"
The angel interpreted Zechariah's question as disbelief and punished him by removing his ability to speak until his son, John, was born.
A few verses later, the angel tells Mary, "God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus." Mary, too, replies with a question, "I am a virgin. How can this be?"
Mary, however, is not punished as the angel offers additional details about Jesus' conception in the verses that follow.
What is Zechariah punished and Mary is not?
Zechariah was known as a good person, who obeyed fully all the laws and commands. He was a priest completing tasks in the temple with love and devotion.
Perhaps Zechariah needed an extended period of time to reflect on God's goodness as he and Elizabeth awaited the birth of their son. During these days of silence, God moved in and through Zechariah's heart so after John's birth, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he spoke with deep insight about the nature of his son's life and the coming of Jesus.
Are we ever silenced by God? When life's circumstances are overwhelming we are often "left without speech" as we attempt to understand and restore order and equilibrium. We may spend more time with God, praying or reading the Bible, "silencing ourselves" to outside distractions and activities. Just like Zechariah, we too can come to a place where we can again praise God and sing about God's goodness.
Prayer: God, when you come to us, help our unbelief. When we question your direction or guidance, "silence" our minds so our hearts can open through spending time with you. Deepen our understanding and open acceptance for unexpected messages from you. Amen.