The story of Zechariah the priest and his childless wife Elizabeth is usually one we reserve for Christmas. It is, after all, the prequel to the Christmas story of Luke 2.
But there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Zechariah was a priest during one of the most corrupt periods ever for Jewish clergy. Ever wonder why there seem to be two high priests dealing with Jesus during his illegal trials? Because Annas had been disposed by the Romans and his son-in-law Caiaphas had been given the position (see John 18:13-14) by the occupying powers.
The question begs an answer. Why were the pagan Romans controlling who would lead the Jewish faithful?
The answer? It was all about money. There were bribes and payoffs, back-room meetings and political shenanigans that had nothing to do with biblical values.
Go to the Old City of Jerusalem today, head for the Jewish Quarter and look for signs to the Wohl Museum of Archeology. The remains of six enormous houses are below the museum, and all of them belonged to priests during the generation of Jesus.
In order to understand the size of these mansions, you’ll need to tour the rest of Israel first. The homes of regular families were so small, you’ll find yourself wondering if there would even be room to stretch out for a good night’s sleep as you look at the ruins. And yet the houses you’ll find in what is called the “Herodian Quarter” are massive! Some have multiple stories. All have the finest mosaic tile. The jars of wine once held the most expensive wines the empire had to offer.
These were the Sadducees. They were in bed with the Romans and they cashed in on their power. Even the office of the high priest could be bought. All a man had to do was be the highest bidder for the job, and the golden calf was his!
What a tragedy that these godless men led God’s people in worship!
The priesthood had never been more corrupt than when Luke’s Gospel opens its story.
But into the story comes a man named Zechariah. We know little about him except for an embarrassing negative.
He and his wife had never been able to have children.
Then again, we know one more thing. Zechariah was a righteous man. In a sea of corruption stood this island of purity. In the business of religion, Zechariah and Elizabeth had managed a purity of faith. They lived nowhere near the corrupt neighborhoods of the Herodian Quarter.
God chose this couple to kick off the most amazing story the world has ever known. The child Elizabeth would soon bear was named John, and he would become Israel’s foremost prophet. He called for sinners to change their ways and be baptized as a sign of their commitment to holiness.
As you probably know, it was John who baptized Jesus, who was only a few months younger than he was.
So now the question: How can you achieve the desire of your heart? What will you have to do if your dream is to come true?
Follow the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
In a corrupt culture, keep your relationship with God pure. Do not compromise on your personal purity. Do not go along with the crowd, even if the crowd happens to be going to church. Stay totally and completely committed to the Lord.
In difficult circumstances, be patient. Zechariah and Elizabeth waited a lifetime for their dream. Though their first priority was loving God, all they wanted from life was a child. In time, God granted their hearts’ desire.
The waiting wasn’t easy. It involved years of tears. It involved resignation that things would never change. It was a process that repeated itself with every 24-hour rotation of the earth. No matter how life might disappoint them, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to love God completely.
By the end of their lives, they saw the value of patience and purity. By the end of their lives, they knew God had used them to make an impact on the world. They had never owned one of Jerusalem’s mansions. But they had a place in God’s story, and that made the waiting all worthwhile.
Wherever you are in this process, stay pure and be patient.
And in time, God will use you to make an incredible difference in the lives of countless people.