The Spirit of God provides the whole Biblical biography of this godly couple in the gospel by Luke. At the point we enter their lives, they are “old and well stricken in years,” which in historical Jewish reckoning is well past the age of 80.
The only mention of their walk is found in Luke 1:6, but it is significant in its description. “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” That puts them in excellent company with OT worthies such as Enoch and Abraham who walked with God and pleased Him. In their own way, they were fulfilling the apostolic injunction not yet written, “…that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). The OT proverb aptly describes these two seniors, wearing the unmistakable outward sign, “the hoary head” as “a crown of glory” for they were found in the way of righteousness (Prov 16:31).
The path that they travelled was a simple one of obedience to the Word of God and the will of God as they discerned it through prayer and exercise. They rose daily, had their porridge, read the Scriptures together and, as long as they were able, bowed their knees before the Lord asking for guidance and preservation during the day. There were other times of prayer and study, and many duties to be performed as Zacharias was a priest, and Elisabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, the high priest of old. Their weekly habit was to go to all the meetings at the temple, and they would no more think of missing than they would have skipped brushing their teeth. Zacharias had duties there as well. They kept the Sabbath holy for the Lord, and enjoyed the day, quietly contemplating His goodness and mercy.
The worldly person would say it was pretty dull, but this couple did not perceive it as such. They daily worked out the path of dependence and devotion to the Lord, and it was by no means dry. There were some rough places to walk through, but the Lord made sure they were led by still waters to refresh; seldom did they have to lament like the Psalmist, “my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psa 32:4). Like the Messiah that they waited for, they learned to “drink of the brook in the way” and were able to lift up their heads (Psa 110:7).
Unfortunately, in this computerized modern age things are a bit more complicated, distracted, and stressful. The younger crowd today would laugh and say, “Old Zack and Liz don’t know how to use Facebook or have an E-mail address. I wonder if they even have a computer. How in the world do they get by?” That is true, but, every day, they faced life head on, armed only with God’s Book, and we are still reading of them today in the eternal Facebook. While it’s only a small window, it is an insightful look at what they were doing for God, even in their old age.
Please be clear that the walk and way that they humbly travelled did not just happen. Like Zacharias and Elisabeth, that old couple you encounter at the assembly meetings (he with his limp and she with two hearing aids) were once young and deeply in love. Now they are old and still deeply in love, committed to one another, and trying to keep from making too many blunders for others to see. Try to keep in mind that, before you were born, they were carrying the torch of testimony for God in the assembly. The race that they are now finishing, you are just starting; hopefully putting your shoulder to the wheel, while they, of necessity, withdraw theirs due to the limitations of age. The Scripture has a distinct comment on that scenario in 1 Kings 20:11 that you would do well to read and heed.
Once upon a time, they were setting up a little cottage of their own with Christ as the unseen Head. Elisabeth knew from reading Deuteronomy 6:6-9 that they needed texts on the walls. Maybe she suggested to Zacharias to put up Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” “Good, hang it right by the door for all to see, and we will try to live up to it with God’s help.”
Uppermost in their minds would be children, for they both knew the song of degrees, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord … Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed” (Psa 127:3-5). It was a great reproach for a Hebrew woman to be barren, as she mentions later (Luke 1:25) But, those children never came, although they were prayerful and always exercised before the Lord with regards to this matter. In her heart of hearts, maybe she read of Hannah’s deep bitterness of soul and vowed the same vow with Zacharias unto the Lord, “Oh Lord of Hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid … but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head” (1Sam 1:11).
The instruction from their lives is abundant, but one last point about the angel Gabriel declaring, “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard: and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13). They were clearly not still daily repeating their earnest prayer, else why would Zacharias have raised the question about their age for which he was rebuked and silenced (1:18)?
What then is the lesson? We all need to learn that our wonderful God has a large file labeled PENDING – promises, purposes, even punishments, all pending, waiting His unerring will and time. Remember Martha and Mary in their heartbreaking plaint, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, 32). Please, dear ladies, in a way you didn’t know, He was there. Likewise, Luke 1:14 assured Zacharias and Elisabeth that our great God always runs on time – to the very minute; never early, never late, always working things “after the counsel of His Own will” (Eph 1:11).
So, Zacharias, in God’s great plan, “thy prayer is heard.” “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal 4:4). The time had now arrived for them too. The vow and oft-repeated prayers had been heard and would now be answered. The little child, John, would be born and bring them joy and gladness, and do “exceeding abundantly above all that [they could] ask or think”(Eph 3:20), as he would become the forerunner of the Christ. How glad those senior saints must have been, that they kept to “the old paths, wherein is the good way,” and walked steadily to the end in the right ways of the Lord.