Andrew Borland of Scotland, Editor of The Believer’s Magazine, is well-known to our reader family. This is the second article dealing with three noble women of the New Testament. The articles have bee selected from “Wholesome Words,” a bi-monthly paper received from New Zealand.
The second woman of the trio under present consideration is Elisabeth, of whom only Luke makes any mention. The beloved doctor, according to the introduction to his gospel narrative, had consulted current accounts and enquired of eye-witnesses, so that readers would be assured of the reliability and accuracy of his record. Much of the information he presents is complementary to that given by Mark and Matthew, and includes much that otherwise later generations would not have had.
Elisabeth, as has been noted, was beyond middle age, for she was well-stricken in years, married to a man who was “a priest, of the course of Abia,” whose duty in the service of God took him from the hill country to serve in the temple in Jerusalem. Very little is written about Elisabeth, but Luke’s characterization is masterly. What he writes about her is sufficient to make a deep impression on the mind of a careful reader.
1. Elisabeth was an elderly married woman with a deep disappointment in life. It was the expectation of every Jewish woman that she would be the mother of a man-child who might be in the Messianic line, might even be the Messiah. To Elisabeth marriage had not fulfilled that expectation, and she felt her barrenness as “my reproach among men” (1:25). The worthy couple, anxious as they were, had no child whose laughter had cheered their home, and whom they could have nurtured in the fear of God. However, disappointment had mellowed her character. Evidently she had come to accept the situation, and was beyond the period of expectation. Her disappointment had not soured her disposition, as disappointment often does. The cure for such a reaction is submission to and confidence in the will of God. Perhaps the quiet life in the hill country, and the fact that her husband Zecharias was of the priestly order, may have contributed to the serenity of her attitude to life.
2. Elisabeth, during a considerable number of years, had shared with her husband the business of building a God-fearing home. Luke may have learned something of the character of that home from conversation with neighbours who had vivid recollections of the worthy couple. Elisabeth had gladly cooperated with her husband in creating an impression which never left the neighbourhood. Home-building was for both a serious business, husband and wife contributing to the success of the effort. Is it not true that many a partnership in home-building has been wrecked by the vanity and ambition of a worldly-minded woman? The partnership, begun happily when aspirations were nobly fostered, can so easily assume a different aspect when material prosperity provokes a sense of self-gratulation and induces an attitude of independence. Spiritual assets come to be at a discount, and the simple dependence upon God disappears in the constant round of social engagements. Husband and wife disagree, but, although the disagreement does not voice itself, an appreciative tension builds up and destroys the deeper harmony which existed in earlier years.
What was the nature of the home of the pious pair? Husband and wife were equally yoked together. Both belonged to priestly families. The husband is described as “a certain priest named Zecharias, of the course of Abia,” while his partner was one “of the daughters of Aaron” (1:5). Naturally they had common interests and looked forward to the time when the husband would be called upon to discharge his duties as an attendant in the temple. Whatever were the religious duties Zecharias might have had to perform in his village community we are not informed, but it is easy to infer that Elisabeth concurred and assisted where and when it was necessary. Happy is that home where the woman makes it easy for her husband to serve his heavenly Master.
3. An insight is given into that home in Judea. Simple, but revealing statements are made. God was honoured by the obedience of each. They were both righteous before God. That, in all probability, was the estimate of those who knew them intimately. Their lives were conspicuously upright. They both walked in all the commandments. They knew the demands of the Word of God, and were exemplary in respecting what that Word taught. They both kept the ordinances. In public as well as in private they demonstrated their obedience, setting an example to the entire community. They both reached the same high level of moral attainment, they were blameless, that is, their lives were above reproach. Thus they had preserved the sanctity of their home through many years; and Elisabeth shares the honour with her husband. What an asset to any community is a home like that! And how highly respected should be every Christian woman who in any measure resembles the godly Elisabeth!
4. Their home had been sanctified by prayer. That fact is learned from the divine comment to Zecharias when he was ministering in the temple. The prayer-life contributed to the stability of that home. And it always does. Family prayer is a splendid bulwark to a home, especially if the woman of the home encourages the atmosphere in which it is easy for the husband to pray.
5. Elisabeth was a woman who was willing to endure loneliness to allow her husband to discharge divinely appointed duties in Jerusalem. How long he was absent is not disclosed, but during his absence Elisabeth had no immediate solace in the home. How she would long for the termination of the service, when she would welcome him back! And it is not easily forgotten that the wives of itinerant preachers have many a lonely wait while their husbands are away in their Master’s service. There’s many a modern Elisabeth.
What a responsibility elderly couples have to set a godly example before others! Wives have a considerable part to play in the preservation of such an example.