They Were Rewarded for Walking Blamelessly
JEHOVAH blesses and rewards his faithful servants. They may have to wait for some time to see the outworking of God’s purposes, but what a delight it is when his blessing is experienced!
This was well illustrated some two thousand years ago in the case of the Jewish priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, both of Aaron’s family. God had promised to bless the Israelites with offspring if they served him faithfully. He said that children are a reward. (Leviticus 26:9; Psalm 127:3) However, Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless and well along in years.—Luke 1:1-7.
The Scriptures say that Zechariah and Elizabeth “both were righteous before God because of walking blamelessly in accord with all the commandments and legal requirements of Jehovah.” (Luke 1:6) They loved God so much that it was no burden for them to pursue a righteous course and keep his commandments.—1 John 5:3.
Let us return to the late spring or early summer of the year 3 B.C.E. Herod the Great is ruling as king in Judea. One day, the priest Zechariah enters the Holy of the temple in Jerusalem. While the people are gathered in prayer outside the sanctuary, he burns incense on the golden altar. Probably considered the most honorable of daily services, this is done after the sacrifice is offered. A priest may have had this privilege only once in his lifetime.
Zechariah cannot believe his eyes. Why, Jehovah’s angel is standing at the right side of the incense altar! The aged priest becomes troubled and fearful. But the angel says: “Have no fear, Zechariah, because your supplication has been favorably heard, and your wife Elizabeth will become mother to a son to you, and you are to call his name John.” Yes, Jehovah has heard the earnest prayers of Elizabeth and Zechariah.—Luke 1:8-13.
The angel adds: “You will have joy and great gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth; for he will be great before Jehovah. But he must drink no wine and strong drink at all, and he will be filled with holy spirit right from his mother’s womb.” John will be a lifelong Nazirite filled with God’s holy spirit. The angel continues: “Many of the sons of Israel will he turn back to Jehovah their God. Also, he will go before him with Elijah’s spirit and power, to turn back the hearts of fathers to children and the disobedient ones to the practical wisdom of righteous ones, to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.”—Luke 1:14-17.
Zechariah asks: “How am I to be sure of this? For I am aged and my wife is well along in years.” The angel replies: “I am Gabriel, who stands near before God, and I was sent forth to speak with you and declare the good news of these things to you. But, look! you will be silent and not able to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their appointed time.” When Zechariah emerges from the sanctuary, he cannot speak, and the people perceive that he has seen a supernatural sight. All he can do is make signs, using gestures to convey his thoughts. When his public service is over, he returns home.—Luke 1:18-23.
Cause for Joy
True to the promise, Elizabeth soon has reason to rejoice. She becomes pregnant, removing the reproach of barrenness. Her relative Mary also becomes joyful, for the same angel, Gabriel, tells her: “Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.” Mary is willing to play the role of “Jehovah’s slave girl.”—Luke 1:24-38.
Mary hastens to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth in a city of the Judean mountainous country. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaps. Under the influence of God’s holy spirit, Elizabeth loudly cries out: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! So how is it that this privilege is mine, to have the mother of my Lord come to me? For, look! as the sound of your greeting fell upon my ears, the infant in my womb leaped with great gladness. Happy too is she that believed, because there will be a complete performance of those things spoken to her from Jehovah.” Mary responds with great joy. Her stay with Elizabeth lasts about three months.—Luke 1:39-56.
John Is Born
In due time a son is born to aged Elizabeth and Zechariah. On the eighth day, the infant is circumcised. Relatives want to call the boy Zechariah, but Elizabeth says: “No, indeed! but he shall be called John.” Does her still speechless husband agree? On a tablet he writes: “John is its name.” Instantly, Zechariah’s tongue is loosed, and he begins to speak, blessing Jehovah.—Luke 1:57-66.
Filled with holy spirit, the joyful priest prophesies. He speaks as if the promised Deliverer—‘the horn of salvation in David’s house’—has already been raised up in harmony with the Abrahamic covenant about a Seed of blessing for all nations. (Genesis 22:15-18) As the Messiah’s forerunner, Zechariah’s own miraculously born son will ‘go in advance before Jehovah to give people knowledge of salvation.’ As the years passed, John kept growing and becoming strong in spirit.—Luke 1:67-80.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were fine examples of faith and patience. They continued to serve Jehovah faithfully even though they had to wait on God, and their greatest blessings came only when they were well advanced in years.
Yet, what blessings Elizabeth and Zechariah enjoyed! Under the influence of God’s spirit, both of them prophesied. They were privileged to become the parents and instructors of the Messiah’s forerunner, John the Baptizer. Moreover, God viewed them as righteous. Likewise, those who today pursue a godly course can have a righteous standing with God and will receive many blessed rewards for walking blamelessly in the commandments of Jehovah.