Almost 300 years ago, Charles Wesley penned his famous hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” While ten verses were originally composed, only six made their way into most modern hymnals. From my perspective, I am very glad verse six made the cut:
Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosen’d tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
Some might interpret this verse in an eschatological light. Someday, when Jesus returns, believers who are physically deaf, dumb, blind, and crippled are going to be perfect healed in an instant. They will see their Christ, they will be given their new resurrection bodies, and with their renewed senses they will worship like never before.
I prefer to interpret this verse in a present-spiritual manner. In my natural fallen condition, I was deaf, dumb, blind, and crippled; spiritually I could not hear and understand God’s Gospel; I could not confess and profess his name; I was not able to see clearly my true condition and Savior; and I was unable to walk in victory and joy. However, due to God’s atoning work at Calvary and his regenerating work in my soul, I now find myself hearing, believing, confessing, professing, and worshiping with my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
As of late, I am leading my congregation through the Gospel of Luke. Now, as I do so, I can’t help but think of Zechariah’s story when I sing this hymn. Here is why:
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea. (Luke 1:57-65)
Zechariah had been blessed by God, but following his statement of disbelief, he was distressed by God. Through the angel Gabriel, God lovingly and temporarily took away his minister’s ability to hear and speak. However, despite his being disciplined, the Lord was not finished blessing his beloved priest. Zechariah was blessed as he was able to see to his aged wife’s impregnation. He was later blessed with the privilege of worshiping and fellowshiping with the pregnant Mary for three months. Then, after nine months had passed, Zechariah was blessed by being able to see his son safely delivered and his wife faithfully declare, “His name will be John.” However, God had one more fantastic blessing to bestow upon his beloved and disciplined priest; God ended the season of discipline and healed him of his deaf and mute condition. For the first time in at least nine months, God’s pastor could participate in audible and vocal worship. What a privilege! One can only imagine how this priest used his renewed senses for God’s glory and his neighbors edification on that glorious day.
Friends, let us not take for granted our physical senses of hearing and speaking. These are gifts of God that not all people possess.
In addition, let us not take for granted our redeemed ability to hear and speak truth. Regeneration is not a gift of God that all people possess.
Today, with renewed zeal and thankfulness let us pray, sing, worship with the brotherhood, teach, testify, encourage, and spread the Good News. Especially in this Christmas Season, when Gospel proclamation is in vogue and even the lost are participating, let us not be found deaf and dumb. We have been given sensory gifts. We have been given eyes that can see, ears that can hear, and a mouth that can speak forth God’s greatness and grace. We are too often disbelievers like Zechariah who deserve to have our senses dulled. However, God has been gracious today and given us the opportunity to speak and hear. We do not have a “thousand tongues,” but we do have one that we can use to the utmost for God’s glory. Let us employ our loosened tongue.