Commentary by Walter Albritton


December 16, 2007


God Changes Our Lives So We Can Learn to Praise Him  


Luke 1:57-80


Key Verse: Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. – Luke 1:64


Unbelief sealed Zechariah’s lips. Luke leaves no doubt that this was the reason Zechariah could not speak. Zechariah knew why. The angel Gabriel told him. It was the penalty he had to pay for not believing the good news Gabriel had shared – that his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son.

Faith released Zechariah’s tongue.  When Elizabeth gave birth to a son, as Gabriel had prophesied, Zechariah realized the angel had been right. Zechariah was no fool. He was not about to cross Gabriel a second time. Neighbors and relatives appealed to Zechariah’s ego. They insisted that he follow the custom and name his son Zechariah. But Zechariah remembered Gabriel’s instructions to “give him the name John.” So, still unable to speak, he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”

As Luke makes clear, God’s response to faithful obedience is instant blessing. “Immediately” Zechariah’s punishment was ended. His lips were unlocked. His mouth was opened. His tongue was released. When he began speaking he was not focused on himself but God. He began praising God for he realized God had done a mighty work in his life.

What Zechariah the priest said was incredible. He could not have thought it up on his own. Luke explains Zechariah’s words by telling us that Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” So it was the Spirit of God who made Zechariah of the divine destiny of his son. This was not Zechariah’s pride speaking. This was the eternal God speaking through his servant Zechariah.

Zechariah knew, without any doubt now, that salvation had come to the world through “the house of his servant David” as the “holy prophets” had foretold. The mercy of God was being revealed. God was honoring the covenant made centuries before with “our father Abraham.”

What surely thrilled Zechariah to the core of his being was that his own son John would have a key role in God’s plan for salvation. He would be a prophet who would “go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Imagine a father making such a statement about a newborn son! Such daring vision could have come only from God Himself. The account of the  birth of John the Baptist, as he became known, is no ordinary story. It is a story of God at work. God’s plan became clear to the early church. A man named John was born by the power of the Holy Spirit and sent by the same Spirit to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Christ who “would save his people from their sins.”

The story of John’s birth, and its radical impact upon his father Zechariah, invites us to believe that God works in our lives also. He makes himself known in life-changing events that help us to recognize that “the Lord’s hand” is with us too.

My parents took me to church as an infant. I did not decide to go to church on Sunday. My parents took me. They did not decide every Sunday to attend church. Going to church was what you did on Sunday. It was the Lord ’s Day, and a day of worship.

So I grew up in the church. I was baptized at age 10 and became a member of the church that day in March. But church was routine, often boring, for the first 12 years of my life. Then a pastor, Brother Si Mathison,  took a personal interest in me in my early teen years. Suddenly church was exciting. I wanted to be there. For the first time in my life I had a spiritual mentor who inspired me to want to live as a follower of Jesus Christ.

In my senior year in high school our church held a youth revival. Some of us were praying for other young people to find Christ. I think some did. But on the final night of the revival I felt God’s hand upon my shoulder and went to the altar to pray. There I surrendered to the call to the ministry. Fifty-seven years later I remain sure of that call to preach the gospel.

Two years later my bride and I were married at that same altar. Four years later we returned to that same altar for the funeral of our firstborn son. In the years that followed God gave us four more wonderful sons. Each time we found our way to a church altar to celebrate their birth and have them baptized. The birth of each son was an incredible moment of joy for my wife and me. And we were always aware of Immanuel’s presence. God was with us!

Years later I would look back at those life-changing moments and realize that God was at work in our lives. Like Zechariah we moved from doubt to faith and God graciously opened our mouths to proclaim the good news he had put in our hearts.

Truly God changes our lives so that we can learn to praise him and to testify to others that we too have felt the Lord’s hand with us. Surely there are among us many lips sealed by doubt that God is ready to open in response to faithful obedience.

Wonderful things happened to Zechariah when he believed. Wonderful things will surely happen if you and I will  ask the Lord to “open my eyes, that I may see,” and “open my ears, that I may hear,” and especially when we pray,


“Open my mouth, and let me bear

 gladly the warm truth everywhere;

Open my heart and let me prepare love

with thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see,

Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!”


When the Holy Spirit touches your lips, you will be silent no more! You will find yourself praising God as Zechariah did.


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