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Whereby Shall I Know This?

"When God speaks; man should believe; nor can he that "will not" believe escape punishment." - Barnes' Notes
"Many, by giving way to the language of unbelief, have lost the language of praise and thanksgiving for months if not years!" - Adam Clarke
"...though sometimes the people of God are very unbelieving, yet He abides faithful to His Word and promise." - John Gill's Exposition Of The Entire Bible

"It is better not to speak at all than to speak wickedly." 
"The unbelief of man shall not make the promises of God of no effect, they shall be fulfilled in their season..."
- both quotes are from Matthew Henry

"Is not the constant result of unbelief spiritual silence? And the closed heart is followed by the closed lips...'silent...and not able to speak.' "
- Pulpit Commentary - New Testament

"Do not be satisfied with being weak in faith. Let the utter unbeliever tremble. If a good man was struck dumb for unbelief, what will become of you who have no faith at all?"
- Charles Spurgeon

"That tongue which moved the doubt must be tied up. He shall ask no more questions for forty weeks."
- Bishop Hall

"Christians are saying to the world either that God is false to His promises, or that God is true. You dishonuor Him by unbelief. You honour Him by faith, the utmost honour you can give Him."
- Biblical Illustrator - New Testament

There was a man in the Bible who asked God for a sign. The Lord gave him exactly what he asked for. The only problem was - the sign came in the form of a judgment or chastisement. He lost both his hearing and speaking abilities. He was not able to speak again till the day when the promise from God was fulfilled.

Certainly, you would expect this man to be a heathen of some sort - someone who did not know God or was not in covenant with Him.

On the contrary, the man who we are referring to today is Zechariah whom the Apostle Luke described as being - "a certain priest...of the course of Abia" (Luke 1:5). He and his wife Elisabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless"(Luke 1:6). "According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord"(Luke 1:9).

The Scriptures also tell us that he and his wife "had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they both were now well-stricken in years"(Luke 1:7).

As we read on in the account of Zechariah, we discover that he and his wife were praying for a son. This was implied in the words of the angel Gabriel who visited him one day while he was executing his priestly office "at the time of incense"(Luke 1:10).

We have to wonder why they were praying for a son when they already knew that they were "now well-stricken in years." Could it be that they were fully aware of the account of Abraham and Sarah as well as that of Isaac and Rebekah - two couples who also faced impossibilities in having children - due to the fact that the wife was barren or the couple was past the years of childbearing?

When the angel Gabriel showed up, the first words out of his mouth to Zechariah were these - "...Fear not, Zechariah: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John"(Luke 1:13).

Instead of doing cartwheels (or at least feeling like it) out of sheer joy at the answer to a very impossible request from God, he responded with these words - "...Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well-stricken in years"(Luke 1:18).

"Whereby shall I know this?" - These would be words which Zechariah would regret for the rest of his life. His unbelief insisted on a further sign. He sought for something at once supernatural and significant that would help his stumbling faith. He got a sign - such a sign and a most effective one - the sign of dumbness. It came on him as punishment for his rash and unbelieving speech, but it also came on him as a further sign that Gabriel was indeed who he said he was and surely came with a message from God for this priest.

"Whereby shall I know this?"
How can these things be?

Just how many believers reading this message today are guilty - as Zechariah was - of the sin of unbelief? God came to you in a remarkable and supernatural way - announcing the answer to a prayer that you had prayed for for a long time - and you responded with a request for a further sign. You simply could not and would not accept the message nor the manner or method of delivery to you as being from God.

Consequently, today you are suffering from spiritual deafness and dumbness. Because you spoke the language of unbelief, you resultantly are suffering the loss of the language of praise and thanksgiving. You simply lost your joy and song.

It's time to get everything back that you lost. It's time to confess your sin of unbelief before the Lord and then turn from it completely - taking Him at His Word. It's time to lay hold of His promises and believe for your Miracle.

Zechariah's fault was that he looked at the difficulty rather than the sufficiency and power of God.

Are you guilty of the same?

Be encouraged of this one thing - just as Zechariah's hearing and speech were restored and the chastisement surely came to an end, even so will the Lord restore you again to a vibrant walk of faith in Him.

In Luke 1:20, we read the final words of the angel Gabriel to this priest - "...because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." Even though you failed God in unbelief, He will evermore be faithful. In due season, the promise which He gave concerning your situation will be fulfilled. It's season will come.

As we saw in this message, unbelief brings along with it severe punishment. Hence, as Spurgeon was quoted above as saying - "Do not be satisfied with being weak in faith..." Ask God to keep your faith vibrant and strong. Then you will be sure not to encounter spiritual silence - that is, not being able to hear God's voice or speak on His behalf unto others.  

Never forget these words which are found in Barnes' Notes - "There is no sin in the sight of God more aggravating than unbelief."

May God Bless His Word.