“During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honourably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.” Luke 1:5-7.

Luke’s story beings with simple facts. An elderly priest and his wife, Zachariah and Elizabeth, form the focus of the opening paragraph. Why does Luke make special mention that they were a godly old couple? They lived their lives within the boundaries of God’s law and because of that, they both had a clear conscience before God.

Was it that there were others who were not as careful as they were in being honourable in their lives and service in the temple? It is sad that Luke should even have to comment on their blameless lives, seeing that Zachariah was a genuine Levitical priest of the regiment of Abijah. It should have been a given!

Luke states three simple facts about this couple in his opening paragraph; they elderly, they were godly and they were childless. Each of these facts plays an important part in their story and adds to the ‘wow’ factor that makes their contribution so extraordinary.

Being godly prepared them to be chosen parents for Israel’s greatest prophet, John the Baptist. He was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophetic vision in Isaiah 40:3 – “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’ Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill be made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NIV).

He was to play a brief but crucial role in preparing the way for, and identifying the Messiah. He would be nurtured from birth by faithful parents who would teach him God’s Word and prepare him for his prophetic role.

They were elderly and childless – reminiscent of Israel’s forefather, Abraham, and Sarah, who received the miracle of a child in their old age. Because Zachariah and Elizabeth were beyond the possibility of conceiving a child naturally, they were candidates for God’s miraculous intervention. Why did God choose this way of bringing His ‘Elijah’ into the world? Why not some ordinary village kid whom He could set apart for this ministry?

God had His reasons but it is possible that He would call attention to this special child by allowing him to be conceived miraculously in his parents’ old age. God chose this couple because John needed to be raised by godly parents who would recognise the seriousness of their responsibility.

Luke sets the scene for the entrance of John by describing an impossible situation as the backdrop to the things He was going to do to introduce His Messiah to the world. John’s parents were childless and too old; Jesus’ mother was unmarried. None of these things mattered to God. He would use these very ‘impossibilities’ to enhance the glory of His revelation to the world.

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Luella Campbell

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