Zacharias and Elizabeth
Tony Renshaw, Heald Green, Cheshire
Why were Zacharias and Elizabeth so privileged as to be chosen to become the parents of the last and greatest of the prophets of the old covenant period? Luke does not furnish an extensive description of this saintly couple, but he nevertheless supplies ample information to make it clear that the divine choice was certainly not haphazard.
1. Their Partnership. "There was ... a certain priest named Zacharias . . . and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth", I. 5. Years before the narrative begins, Zacharias had sought a partner in the sphere of God's will and choice, and had found one who evidently shared his convictions in the matter. They had avoided the hazards and pitfalls of the unequal yoke. In all probability they never realized at that time what far-reaching consequences were involved as their friendship deepened and was finally consummated in marriage. The implications of this will not be lost to thoughtful young Christians.
2. Their Piety. "They were both righteous . . .", 1. 6. This takes us further. Evidently they were well-matched spiritually, being mutually desirous of pleasing God. Theirs was no one-sided partnership, but each encouraged and strengthened the other in the pursuit of holiness and piety. The young believer who is seeking a companion for life's journey should set a high standard, and should recognize that spiritual devotion counts far more than material prosperity. Luke adds that they were "righteous before God", a highly significant phrase indicating that theirs was far from being the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but rather the sensitive godliness of those who were conscious that they lived under the scrutiny of the living God.
3. Their Pathway, "walking in all the commandments", 1. 6. The Bible sometimes refers to the people of God as standing (e.g. Eph. 6.14), sometimes as running (e.g. Heb. 12.1) and sometimes as walking (as in the present passage). These three words suggest the thoughts of stability, zeal and consistency. Walking, whilst not characterized by speed, certainly involves steady progress towards the desired goal. The couple before us trod a pathway of unspectacular but ever-deepening faithfulness to God which, in the evening of their lives, was rewarded by a rich harvest of blessing.
4. Their Pattern, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless", 1. 6. Here is the secret (and it is an open secret) of the dedicated lives of this honoured pair. They had acquainted themselves with the laws of God (see Deut. 6. 6-9) and lived by them. Observe that their obedience was total, not partial - "all the commandments". Evidently they had acquainted themselves with the entire body of divine truth applicable to their lives, and were seeking to practise it fully. Believers today should ponder such scriptures as John 13. 34 and 1 Corinthians 14. 37 so as to adjust their lives with a view to unreserved obedience to the mind of God in relation to both their individual conduct and their corporate testimony.
5. Their Problem. "And they had no child", 1. 7. Zacharias and Elizabeth had desired to become parents, but their desire remained unfulfilled for many years. It is clear that they had prayed about the matter in earlier years (see v. 13) until the time came when it no longer seemed reasonable to do so. Doubtless this disappointment would be something of a problem to them, since it may have seemed a poor return for their faithfulness to God in days of widespread declension and unbelief. Has the reader some problem in life, some source of grief or disappointment for which no remedy seems likely? Perhaps the most admirable feature in the lives of Zacharias and his wife is that the narrative makes it clear that they did not allow their disappointment to undermine their essential and abiding confidence in God.
6. Their Prayer. As has been mentioned, the words of the angel to Zacharias in the temple indicate that, years earlier, the priest and his wife had prayed for a child until, quite understandably, they ceased doing so. They were of such an advanced age when the angel brought his amazing news that Zacharias frankly disbelieved it, and because of this was accordingly judged by being rendered dumb until the promise was fulfilled. It is abundantly encouraging to observe, however, that God did not withhold the blessing because of the old man's unbelief, but honoured the faith with which earlier prayers had been made. This fact alone should afford us ample incentive to continue in prayer in the face of the most discouraging circumstances. We may not receive an answer for many days, nor even throughout our journey down here; but may yet find the answer waiting for us "on the other side".
7. Their Praise. The long years of allegiance to the Lord were vindicated and rewarded by the birth of John the Baptist to the erstwhile barren Elizabeth, who with her husband was not slow to magnify the Lord for granting such an unexpected and lofty privilege, vv. 25,68-79. Many prominent and widelyesteemed religious leaders in the land were bypassed when the Lord so singularly blessed this worthy pair, who thus proved the truth which has been so often demonstrated down the centuries, that God is no man's debtor.