devotion 11-6-14

Good Morning! It is a beautiful day – enjoy it!

Luke 1:21 – 25

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

The people waiting outside the temple begin to wonder – what has delayed the priest? Perhaps they worried that something had happened to him. When the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, he wore a rope around his waist so that he could be pulled out if something happened – this would not be the case with Zechariah, who was not in the Holy of Holies, but in the incense area before it, but it would have broken temple rules for anyone other than the one who was chosen to burn incense to go inside at the time. Eventually, Zechariah did come out – but he could not talk! What the angel had said had indeed happened; he was unable to speak. He made signs to the people indicating a vision – that he had seen an angel, but, of course, he could not tell them what the angel had said.

Zechariah finished his service, and returned home to his wife, Elizabeth. Can’t you imagine how much he wanted to tell her what the angel had said? And how he must have tried to do so? He must have somehow conveyed the message to her.

And Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant; she hid herself for 5 months – I always wonder about this. Why did she not immediately run and tell her family and friends? Perhaps at first she did not believe it herself, until she felt the baby move. Perhaps she had miscarried many times and wanted to be sure that this time was different. Whatever her reason, she waited until she was “showing”, until her pregnancy was obvious, before going back out into the community. And then she celebrated, for the Lord had looked upon her with favor, and had taken away her disgrace. In the first century, and in all the Old Testament times, to have a child was considered to be a blessing from God (as of course, children are a blessing from God), but to be “barren” was a disgrace. It was a woman’s role to bear children; a woman who did not do so was considered a failure in her role. Elizabeth feels that her pregnancy redeems her, returns her to a place of honor in the community. But Elizabeth’s child would be much more – he would be a blessing to all.

The role of women in biblical times was a hard one. They were dependent on husbands and fathers to provide them a home; they could not own property, unless their husband had no relatives, and then only until sons grew to adulthood. For women, their chief role was to bear children, and since at least half of them died before reaching adulthood, that in itself was hard. There was no possibility of work outside the home – we find exceptions as we move into the New Testament, and encounter such women as Lydia, a seller of purple cloth, in Acts. Luke tells more of the story of women than the other gospels do, and we find several women in Acts. We will point out these stories as we go, for they are a perspective fairly unique to Luke.

The photo is a chapel in what is now a suburb of Jerusalem, said to be the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The "saints" on either side of the chancel represent Elizabeth and Zechariah.

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