Suggested reading: Luke 1. 39-80
One of the noteworthy features of these remarkable times was the harmony that existed between Zacharias and Elisabeth, who were to become John’s parents. Naturally speaking, many things conspired against any prospect of the long-term survival of their partnership. A key factor that bound them together was their deep longing for many years that God would grant them the gift of a child. However, as the years passed by, it appeared as if they were not going to receive the answer to their prayers that they longed for. This immense disappointment would have driven less spiritual couples apart from each other; however, Zacharias and Elisabeth remained devoted to each other and faithful to the Lord! Their example lives on and inspires Christian couples of all ages to remain faithful to the Lord, even if He sees fit at times to take them in a direction that they would prefer to avoid. They encourage us to examine the strength of our relationships within our families, including with our children. Genuine unity does not come easily or overnight, but it develops on the bedrock of true love and a healthy prayer life together.
There is abundant evidence in the scriptures that children were viewed, particularly by godly women, as a gift from God:
‘You must support the weak’, Acts 20. 35 NKJV - this clear command was given by Paul to the elders in the church at Ephesus during the first century. Although it was given in a different context, it is equally applicable in many contexts today. Elders who fail to grasp the importance of support for the members of the local assembly fellowship for which they have a care, particularly those who are weak in their faith and understanding of the word of God, will never see it grow strong spiritually and reach its true potential for the Lord. Even the seemingly strongest servant of the Lord will feel the need for support from time to time. When King David, the mighty warrior king of Israel, was confronted by his enemies, he wrote in one of his many songs,
With these thoughts in mind, we turn the spotlight again on Zacharias and Elisabeth. Zacharias had to face God’s hand of discipline, when he was made dumb by the Lord for doubting His word concerning the birth of John. It says a great deal about his spirituality that he did not complain about it or consider it to be unjust. It is also of interest to note that there is no hint of him receiving a reprimand, publicly or privately, from his wife for his unwise words and actions. Their harmonious relationship remained secure throughout. Elisabeth’s loyalty to him would, no doubt, have been a great support at this time. It is so easy for us to be censorious and unsupportive of those who are guilty of making an unintentional error of judgement, when they primarily need our encouragement and support.
We cannot begin to imagine the pressure Elisabeth endured or the level of support she would have required at this time. Her advanced age was just one of the burdens she bore. The support that she received from God would have exceeded her expectations. When she was six months pregnant, she received a totally unexpected visitor in the person of Mary. She had been told by Gabriel that she would conceive and bring forth a son, who would be called Jesus. The presence of Mary in the house of Zacharias for about three months must have been a stimulating time, full of expectancy, prayer, worship, and mutual support.
Amazingly, this time of great rejoicing was also entered into by the two unborn children, Jesus and John. If there was any doubt as to the unique relationship between the two children, it would have been dispelled from the moment Mary entered the house of Zacharias. Indeed, all she had to do was to speak and the atmosphere changed immediately to match the nature of the occasion. Although many commentators would point to the customs of the day to confirm the unusual nature of what took place in the house, it is clear that all that happened had been planned and brought about by God. The presence of Mary and the sound of her greeting caused the unborn John to leap in Elisabeth’s womb. Some would suggest that he was already filled with the Spirit at this stage, as had been promised by Gabriel earlier to Zacharias. It most certainly left an indelible mark on Elisabeth and led her to acknowledge that Mary was ‘the mother of my Lord’, v. 43.
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