I was doing my bible reading yesterday and I read a passage I’ve read many times, and, as frequently happens, God points something out to me that I didn’t notice before. The verses in question were Luke 1:6-7
“They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.”
This passage is talking about the priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, who became the parents of John the Baptist. Everybody knows the story. The verse refers to them as “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” I mean, you really can’t get a better character reference than that. So we know based on verse 6 that they were believers, that they were following the Lord and living their lives for Him. In other words, they were not living in active sin, they were not rejecting the Lord, and they had great faith in Him. And that’s what makes the next five words so striking:
But they had no child.
In Jewish society, barrenness was seen as a curse from God. Sometimes in the Bible it actually was. Leviticus 20:20-21 says (for example) that if an Israelite went to bed with his aunt or his sister-in-law that they would both die childless. The main reason for this view about barrenness is the fact that every Israelite woman hoped to be the one who bore the promised Messiah. It was in this context that Elizabeth and Zacharias, two godly people, were living. They had not done anything to deserve their barrenness, and yet they were barren. God had His reasons (as He always does).
We are introduced to this couple in verse 5, are told about their faith in verse 6, and then learn of their childlessness in verse 7. The following verses tell the well-known tale of how the birth of John the Baptist was foretold and then accomplished. But I think sometimes we rush over the introductory verses without thinking about them. Zechariah and Elizabeth almost certainly got married at a young age, as almost everybody did in those days (many people believe Mary was only a teenager when Jesus was born). Think about Z & E getting married and starting a life together. A year goes by. And then another. Five years. Ten. And still no children. There’s no Clomid. No IVF. Only month after month of “no” from God. Finally Elizabeth goes through menopause. The Bible says they were “advanced in years” (literally “advanced in days”), which is a euphemism for “old.” But no children. The shame must have been overwhelming. A raw pain that gnawed away at her, always in the back of her mind: Why, God? I don’t understand.
We know she felt this way because of verse 25 where she makes a statement after getting pregnant, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” She felt disgraced because she had no children, something we can deduce from the fact that having a child was what took the disgrace away. Finally, she had a child.
But the child came after years and years of disgrace, barrenness, and shame. And it wasn’t her fault. Verse 6 refers to their spiritual state AFTER the decades of shame. They did not let the situation make them bitter or affect their faith in God and His wisdom.
And there’s the application for us. Are you living for God but you still have problems? Is there pain in your life? Sadness? A great hurt that you are carrying around? God knows. He is aware, and He loves you. Sometimes He gives us things that are too much for us to handle so that we learn to rely on Him. So when you’re going through difficulties or struggles, remember that God has a plan, God loves you, and He will work it out in the end. Trust in His love and His wisdom.