Rev.Angus Stewart, pastor of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N.Ireland, writes more on John the Baptist, this time looking at his godly parents.
Luke 1 tells us that Zacharias and Elisabeth, who would become John the Baptist’s parents, lived “in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea” (5). This Herod was called Herod the Great. From the palace that he had built for himself in Jerusalem, he ruled over Judaea in the south and, indeed, over all of Israel. He also enlarged and enriched the temple in Jerusalem. But King Herod was ungodly and promoted wickedness in state and Sanhedrin. He was an Edomite, not a Jew. He was the one who ordered the slaughter of the infants in and around Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16).
Though Zacharias and Elisabeth lived in a time of religious declension and externalism, they were godly. They were justified by faith alone for “they were both righteous before God” (Luke 1:6), being righteous with the imputed righteousness of the coming Messiah. Zacharias and Elisabeth were faithful and holy, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (6). They obeyed the Word of God out of gratitude to Jehovah their Saviour. They were not unique in this, for there were other godly saints in those dark days, like Simeon and Anna, whom Mary and Joseph met when they went with the baby Jesus to the temple (Luke 2:25-38). But Zacharias and Elisabeth were in a distinct minority.
It was clearly the will of God that John the Baptist be brought up in a model covenant home, for he would be the forerunner of Jesus Christ. What a blessing his faithful parents were to John! How thankful he must have been for them!
John’s godly parents were both of the priestly line, as descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, with Zacharias being a priest of the course of Abijah (1:5). This priestly background of Zacharias and Elisabeth means that “the commandments and ordinances” (6) they observed include those additional laws and precepts laid down for the priests in the Pentateuch. According to Luke 1:39-40, John’s parents lived not in Jerusalem or Jericho, the cities with most priests, but in the hill country of Judah. Zacharias and Elisabeth were not of the highest ranking priestly establishment. Zacharias did not have a place in the Sanhedrin and was not in the line of the high priest.
The biggest personal burden of this godly, priestly couple was that they were childless. They had prayed often and fervently for covenant children, both in their private and family devotions. No doubt, they prayed for a holy seed when they went up to the temple, as Hannah did when she went to the tabernacle (I Sam. 1). But no child came; the years went by; the decades passed. Eventually, no doubt, they stopped praying, not out of despair or anger with God but because Elisabeth was now too old to have children. Elisabeth especially had to bear “reproach among men” for her childlessness (25). That was cruel of the people since Jehovah embraced Zacharias and Elisabeth in His covenant mercy and He was not judging them for some sin. As time passed, the godly, priestly couple concluded—and slowly got used to the idea—that they would never have children as an heritage from the Lord (Ps. 127:3). But then God wrought a wonder, answering their petitions offered decades before by giving them John! Rev. A.Stewart
John the Baptist, the subject of two articles in this issue of the News, features in three box sets of CDs or DVDs by Rev. Stewart available from the CPRC (all prices include P&P): “John the Baptist’s Birth and Preparation” (6 sermons for £8), “John the Baptist’s Public Ministry” (Vol. I) (6 sermons for £8) and “John the Baptist’s Public Ministry” (Vol. II) (12 sermons for £12). Special offer! Buy all three box sets for just £20!
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 16
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851