The first parents to consider in the New Testament are Zacharias and Elisabeth. The Divine record of them runs thus: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.” (Luke 1:5-7.)


          Zacharias and Elisabeth lived in the hill country of Judea; but the lot came for Zacharias to burn incense in the temple at Jerusalem, while all the people waited outside. While burning the incense, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, saying: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, …to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17.)


          Zacharias had evidently recognized it was an angel that spoke to him, for he was troubled and fear fell upon him. And yet, he did not believe what the angel told him. “Whereby shall I know this?” he asks the angel. But this is the heart of man: this is the heart of even such an honored man as Zacharias, and one with such a remarkable record: “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” And yet he is not willing to take Gabriel at his word! Are we any better? Are we always ready to take One greater than Gabriel at his word? Alas, most of us say: “O Zacharias, How shall I condemn thee? Thy condemnation, it were but mine own.” Only we are worse, because it is the word of the Lord God Himself, which we so often hesitate to take just as it stands, without a question.


          And yet Zacharias did have faith. He could not have been “righteous before God” had he not had faith: for “that no man is justified be the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11.) Also, it is evident that Zacharias had been praying, asking the Lord for a son: for the angel said: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard.” It must have been faith that caused Zacharias to pray; and it must have been a prayer of some faith for it was heard. I think Zacharias is very much like a lot of us who are really Christians. We do have some faith; and yet, when it comes to the daily things of life: bringing up the children, the daily cares and needs, how often we are tempted to question our Lord!


          I think perhaps the great lesson for us parents in this lovely story is just this: “Have faith in God.” If it was such a grievous thing to question the word of an angel, that it left Zacharias dumb for so long: what must it be to our Lord’s loving heart, that you and I are so slow to “take Him at His word?” Even we human beings love to be trusted: an angel expects to be trusted: shall we, then, doubt Him who is far above angels; doubt Him, when we know it is impossible for Him to lie? But mark the Grace of God. Zacharia’s unbelief costs him the use of his speech for many months: but he does not forfeit the little son for whom he had been praying, and that little son grew up to be such a man that of him his Lord (and ours) said: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28.) And so, it seems to me, the story of John the Baptist and his parents is full of encouragement for us parents; even though it does carry with it a rebuke for most of us. May we humbly accept both, and be more ready to believe our Lord’s words: “which shall be fulfilled in their season.”


          But I think there is another sweet lesson for us in this story. The 4th verse more literally reads: “He shall be to thee joy and gladness.” (See New Translation.) I am sure the Lord would have each of our children to be “joy and gladness” to us. He tells us in Psalm 127, “Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” So I have not a doubt He would have each one “joy and gladness” to us. Know that very often it is not so: but is it not usually, perhaps always, we who are most to blame?