Commemoration of Zacharias and Elizabeth
September 5, 2012
The Lord be with you
Zecharias and Elizabeth are remembered on our calendar on September 5. They were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). One should be clear about what the New Testament means by being “righteous before God.” The NT teaches that we are righteous before God by grace through faith in Jesus (Romans 1:17; 3:22; etc.). They lived in light of this gift of righteousness. We also should not interpret the phrase “walking blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord” to mean that they were somehow now completely sinless. Their very story in Luke 1 reveals doubt on the part of Zecharias. Like all of humanity, Zecharias and Elizabeth were sinners in need of daily forgiveness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-9; etc.). What we have in Zecharias and Elizabeth is a couple who believed in the OT promises concerning the Messiah, as such they were saved by grace through faith in the Messiah, and who live in that grace, receiving forgiveness for their daily sins and, in gratitude, sought to live their lives guided by the word of God.
One day Zecharias, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zecharias and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially, Zecharias did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief, Zecharias became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named their son John, as directed by Gabriel (Luke 1:13). When the neighbors objected, because no one in the family had been named John before, Zecharias confirmed the choice by writing on a tablet. When he did this, his speech was restored. In response, he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and a prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1:68-79). The Benedictus is still commonly used in the historic prayer service, Matins. It is also part of the newer service, Morning Prayer, in our hymnal. Zecharias and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety.
Prayer: O God, who alone knits all infants in the womb, You chose improbable servants—old and childless—to conceive and parent the forerunner of Christ and, in so doing, demonstrated again Your strength in weakness. Grant us, who are as unlikely and unworthy as Zecharias and Elizabeth, the opportunity to love and serve You according to Your good and gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Other prayers that Zecharias and Elizabeth might inspire:
- For the aged
- For children
- That we may be open to the improbable ways God continues to work through the Church
- For the Jewish people, that they may recognize the Messiah
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert