Luke 1:7
A very beautiful picture, though on a very small canvas, is here painted; it is a picture of domestic piety. As we think of Zacharias and Elisabeth spending their long life together in the service of Jehovah, attached to one another and held in honor by all their kindred and friends, we feel that we have before our eyes a view of human life which has in it all the elements of an excellent completeness.

I. THE DOMESTIC BOND. Here we have conjugal relationship in its true form; established in mutual respect; justified and beautified by mutual affection; made permanently happy by common affinities and common aims; elevated and consecrated by the presence of another and still nobler bond - that of a strong and immovable attachment to God. A human life is quite incomplete without such tender ties of God's own binding, and these ties are immeasurably short of what they were meant to be if they are not enlarged and ennobled by the sanctities of religion.

II. HUMAN AND DIVINE ESTIMATION. These two godly souls enjoyed the favor of their Divine Father and of their human friends and neighbors: "They were both righteous before God," and they were "blameless" in the sight of men. God accepted them, and man approved them. He to whom they were responsible for all they were and did saw in them, as he sees in all his children, the imperfections which belong to our erring and struggling humanity; but he accepted their reverence and their endeavor to please and to obey him, forgiving their shortcomings. And their kindred and their friends recognized in them those who were regulating their life by God's holy will, and they yielded to them their fullest measure of esteem. No human life is complete without the possession of these two things:

(1) the favor of the living God; and

(2) the esteem of those amongst whom we live.

To walk in the shadow of conscious estrangement from God, to miss the sweet sunshine of his heavenly favor, - this is to darken our life with a continual curse, this is to bereave ourselves of our purest joy and most desirable heritage. And while some of the very noblest of our race, following thus in the footsteps of the Master himself, have borne, in calm and heroic patience, the obloquy of the ignorant and the malice of the evil-minded, yet it is our duty, and it should be our desire and aspiration, so to walk in rectitude and in kindness that men will bless us in their hearts, will esteem us for our integrity, will hold us in their affection. The man who "wears the white flower of a blameless life" is the man who will be a power for good in the circles in which he moves.

III. SACRED SERVICE. It may be questionable whether any distinction is intended between "ordinances" and "commandments;" but there can be no question at all that both together cover religious observances and moral obligations. The Law which these two faithful souls obeyed enjoined the one as well as the other. And no human life is complete which does not include both these elements of piety.

1. The worship of God, in private prayer, in family devotion, in public exercises, is a serious and important part of a good man's experience.

2. And certainly not less so is the regulating of conduct by the revealed will of God; the walking, day by day, in uprightness and integrity, in sobriety and purity, in truth and in love. Beautifully complete, fashioned in spiritual symmetry, attractive and influential, is that human life which is spent in the home of hallowed love, which is bright with the favor of God and man, and which is crowned with the sovereign excellences of piety and virtue. - C.

And they had no child.
Observe here —

I. This holy pair, Zacharias and Elisabeth, were fruitful in holy obedience, but barren in children; a fruitful soul and a barren womb are consistent, and often meet together. This religious couple made no less progress in virtue than in age, and yet their virtue did not make their age fruitful.

II. Elisabeth was barren in the flower of her age, but much more so in old age. Here was a double obstacle, and consequently a double instance of Divine power in the birth of John the Baptist, showing him to be a prophet very extraordinary, and miraculously sent by God.

III. When Almighty God in old time did long delay to give the blessing of children to holy women, He rewarded their expectation with the birth of some eminent and extraordinary person. Thus Sarah, after long barrenness, brought forth an Isaac; Rebecca, a Jacob; Rachel, a Joseph; Hannah, a Samuel; and Elisabeth, St. John Baptist. When God makes His people wait long for a particular mercy, if He sees it good for them, He gives it at last with a double reward for their expectation.

(W. Burkitt, M. A.)

— A just soul and a barren womb may well agree together. Among the Jews barrenness was not a defect only, but a reproach; yet, while this good woman was fruitful of holy obedience, she was barren of children; as John, who was miraculously conceived by man, was a fit forerunner of Him that was conceived by the Holy Ghost, so a barren matron was meet to make way for a virgin.

(Bishop Hall.)Here was desolation without murmuring. Blessings long withheld are more intensely prized.

(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)

We are all brought nearer to Christ through childhood. Dr. Arnold used to say that no one could continue long in a healthy religious state unless his heart was kept tender by mingling with children, or by frequent intercourse with the poor and the suffering.

But, notwithstanding all the satisfaction and inward peace of innocent and godly lives, in spite of the natural pride they, doubtless, felt in the consideration that must have been shown them, as born of a priestly ancestry, stretching back through fifteen hundred years, and though they must have had round them the comforts of a modest competency, there was a secret grief in the heart of both. Elisabeth had no child, and what this meant to a Hebrew wife it is hard for us to fancy. Rachel's words, "Give me children, or else I die," were the burden of every childless woman's heart in Israel. The birth of a child was the removal of a reproach. Hannah's prayer for a son was that of all Jewish wives in the same position. To have no child was regarded as a heavy punishment from the hand of God. How bitter the thought that his name should perish was for a Jew to bear, was seen in the law which required that a childless widow should be, forthwith, married by a dead husband's brother, that children might be raised up to preserve the memory of the childless man, by being accounted his. Nor was it enough that one brother of a number acted thus: in the imaginary instance given by the Sadducees to our Lord, seven brothers, in succession, took a dead brother's wife, for this object. The birth of a child was therefore a special blessing, as a security that the name of his father "should not be cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place," and that it should not be "put out of Israel." Ancient nations, generally, seem to have had this feeling, and it is still so strong among Orientals, that after the birth of a first-born son, a father and a mother are no longer known by their own names, but as the father and mother of the child. There was, besides, a higher thought of possible relations, however distant, to the great-expected Messiah, by the birth of children; but Zacharias and Elisabeth had reason enough to sorrow at their childless home, even on the humbler ground of natural sentiments. They had grieved over their misfortune, and had made it the burden of many prayers, but years passed, and they had both grown elderly, and yet no child had been vouchsafed them.

(Dr. Geikie.)

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