Passage: Luke 1:67-79
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
We all long for a world invested with meaning and hope, and we are a people hungry for praise. And yet, disappointment with God can shut our mouths to praise. Zechariah’s story, in Luke 1, is a story of how God brings people out of bitter disappointment, and opens their mouths to praise once again.
Zechariah’s story begins with his own disappointment. Zechariah was a priest, and though he and his wife, Elizabeth, were righteous people who served God, they were childless. This was not only a personal cause for sadness, but a condition that in their time brought them great social reproach (1:25). Though Zechariah’s name means “the Lord remembers”, he felt forgotten by God. In some ways, he was even a microcosm for the nation of Israel—a people who had lived under the oppression of foreign powers for generations now, and whose hope of a glorious future was growing dim.
Thus, when an angel of the Lord miraculously appeared to Zechariah, assuring him that his prayers were heard, and that his barren wife would give birth to a great child who would prepare Israel for her Messiah, Zechariah’s unbelief kept him from believing God’s promise. Asking for a sign, he is made “silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my word” (1:20). No matter how miraculous God’s intervention has been in our lives, we, like Zechariah, can doubt the promises of God when we feel disappointed in him—especially when God is not blessing us in the way that we were hoping to be blessed.
And yet God is incredibly gracious. Despite Zechariah’s unbelief, God gives him the gift of a son anyway, John the Baptist (1:57-66). John’s very name means “the Lord gives grace”, and it is upon Zechariah’s acknowledgement of the Lord’s graciousness, that “his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed”, restoring his ability to praise God (1:64). Like Zechariah, it is the people who have truly experienced God’s grace who praise him the most.
Out of Zechariah’s mouth, then, flows lavish praises to God. When we encounter the gift of God, we realize that we’re a part of a greater story, we begin trusting the promises of God, and we embrace how merciful he is. The story ends with Zechariah, who had previously felt forsaken, extolling the “tender mercy of our God” who had not forgotten about him or his people, but had “visited us from on high…to guide our feet into the way of peace” (1:79).
This Advent season, let’s praise our God who is merciful and near, and who won’t stop at anything to open up the mouths of the disappointed to praise.
• Disappointment with God can shut our mouths to praise (1:5-25)
• God’s gift re-opens our mouths to praise (1:57-66)
• The content of restored praise (1:68-78)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Luke 1:67-79
Disappointment with God can shut our mouths to praise (1:5-25)
1) Read Luke 1:5-25, either individually or as a group. What details in the story emphasize the Zechariah and Elizabeth’s righteousness? What details emphasize their disappointment? Why do you think it was so difficult for Zechariah to believe the angel Gabriel?
2) Re-read Luke 1:18-20. Why do you think God silenced Zechariah for his unbelief? What was he trying to show Zechariah, and what was he trying to show the people?
3) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that “disappointment with God can shut our mouths to praise”. Have you ever experienced a time when disappointment shut you off from feeling like you could praise God? What was it like?
4) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said we are often disappointed when God doesn’t bless us in the way we’re wanting or expecting to be blessed. How have you seen this dynamic play out in your life, or the lives of others? What does it reveal about the way we’re relating to God?
God’s gift re-opens our mouths to praise (1:57-66)
5) Re-read 1:57-66. What does Zechariah and Elizabeth’s exchange with their neighbors and relatives reveal about their faith?
6) What does the fact that God gave Zechariah and Elizabeth a baby, despite Zechariah’s unbelief, reveal about God’s character?
7) Where in your life have you been most tangibly experiencing God’s grace? What do you want to praise him for?
The content of restored praise (1:68-78)
8) Re-read Zechariah’s song in 1:67-79. How would you describe the “tone” or “mood” of the song? What surprised you about the song? What encouraged you?
9) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that when we encounter the gift of God, we realize that we are a part of a bigger story. How does Zechariah situate God’s grace to him personally, in the context of a larger story of God showing grace to his people? How might realizing that we’re a part of a larger story serve to increase our own gratitude and praise?
10) When Zechariah’s praise is restored, he expresses renewed trust in the promises of God. At what points in the song do you see Zechariah highlighting God’s faithfulness to keep his promises?
11) Where have you experienced the faithfulness of God recently, and what specific promises of God are you clinging to right now?
12) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that when we encounter the gift of God, we realize how merciful God is. Where do you see Zechariah extolling the mercy of God? Where have you experienced God’s mercy recently?
13) What was your one main takeaway from this sermon, and how do you want it to affect you for the remainder of the Advent season?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.