There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
– Luke 1:5-7
Luke records a very dramatic scene for us concerning the birth of John the Baptist in the first chapter of his gospel. After a short introduction to the gospel, we are introduced to an elderly couple, Zacharias and Elisabeth.
Luke tells us these events occurred during the reign of Herod the Great so this story happened about 7 BC. The story begins with a beautiful, yet tragic description of this couple. They are described as both righteous and blameless in their service to God. This is not to say in any way that they gained eternal glory by their works. Luke is simply telling us that these two were faithful and they had been for a long time. However, there is also a tragic element to their lives. They have no children. Jewish tradition tells us that a man is old when he is in his sixties. The description of these two is “well stricken in years.” I think we can assume that much like Abraham and Sarai, they were well passed child bearing years. They were probably nearly ninety years old.
We will learn later, that they had prayed for children. They possibly could have been praying for children for over seventy years! And yet they had none. Elisabeth was mocked and ridiculed by her friends. These women no doubt accused her of some sin that was causing God to curse her with no children. But that is simply not the case.
Luke records how their lives progressed. They were righteous. They were doing the best they could. So why did they have no children? At this point in the story, we do not know the reason. We will see later that the Lord had a blessing prepared for them. But, all we know is that these are good people and something bad has happened to them.
I think this is the very reason it is recorded this way. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. We do not know all the circumstances of someone else’s life, therefore we should not assume the worst! Elisabeth had done nothing wrong. Therefore, the reproach she received was lies.
As we continue through this story, we are going to see a much larger principal of patience in prayer. But for now, we have learned that we need to continue faithfully in God’s service even when we don’t understand why bad things happen to us.