Joseph and Mary, Zacharias and Elisabeth Parents and People
What Can We Learn From the Two Best Sets of Parents in The New Testament? – Joseph and Mary – Zacharias and Elisabeth
What can we learn from the parents of Jesus Christ? What can we learn from the parents of John the Baptist? Surely these two sets of parents are four of Gods greatest children, to be parents of Jesus Christ and John The Baptist.
What Can We Learn From Joseph and Mary?
Let’s look at the story of Mary, the mother of Emmanuel.
The heavenly angel Gabriel was sent from God to appear to Mary, a virgin, espoused to a good and just man named Joseph, from the house of David.
Sensing her uneasiness, Gabriel said “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.” He went on to tell her that she would conceive a man child and carry him to full term and when the son was born, she would name him Jesus.
Gabriel went on to say “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
Mary replied thinking out loud, how can that possible be since I have not been with Joseph or any man for that matter.
The heavenly messenger explained that “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
To help her understand this was possible, Gabriel told her that her cousin Elisabeth had conceived in her old age a son and was six months into her pregnancy. This is the same Elisabeth that was called barren. “ For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Mary, a virtuous woman, was full of incredible faith to submit herself to Heavenly Father in that fashion. She had no doubts, just strong actionable faith on her part. Very few Biblical story’s equal the kind of faith Mary had!
Joseph and Mary were espoused to each other which was a legal issue in their day. They were not married but their espousal was a legal arrangement. During this time of engagement Mary would have lived with family or friends. The only means for Mary and Joseph to communicate with each other was with a friend or a go-between. This situation made it difficult, if not impossible for Joseph and Mary to be together physically.
There could be no personal, one on one communication between Joseph and Mary. Joseph found out about her pregnancy through the go-between. He knew nothing about Mary’s very special role in Gods work.
With no information other than Mary was pregnant, he had to make a choice between a public trial or give her a letter of divorcement. If Mary was found guilty in the public trial there would be a good chance that she would be put to death. Joseph would’ve been legally justified in taking that course of action.
Joseph had a second option which was to sever the marriage contract before witnesses and avoid the public spectacle of a trial. We all know that Joseph opted for the second choice because he didn’t want to make a public example of Mary.
This experience teaches us a lot about Joseph, soon to be the stepfather of the Messiah. The Scriptures bear no record of Joseph being bitter or angry. The Scriptures do tell us that he was a just man and so it was natural that he would take advantage of one of the two options to sever their relationship based on her pregnancy.
Once Joseph had decided to put Mary away privily (he had not gone through with the process yet) he was still deep in thought about the whole situation when an angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream. The angel said “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
LESSONS LEARNED FROM JOSEPH AND MARY:
What good is it to read and understand the stories and teachings of the Bible if we don’t learn from the people in these inspired stories? We need to ask ourselves what can we learn from that teaching or from that proverb or from that parable or from that teaching?
The first thing that comes to my mind is faith and the second thing that comes to my mind is obedience. Mary’s story and Joseph’s story happened as they did because each of these two figures had great faith to begin with and when their faith was tested, they exercised even greater faith and were obedient to the instructions of the heavenly visitor.
It’s one thing to say I have faith, but it is another thing to actually translate that faith into action. I have heard some people say that faith is a verb, or an action word. One cannot say I have faith and then sit back and do nothing. If Joseph said I have faith that what the Angel told me is true, but went ahead and filed for divorce would he really have shown faith?
If Mary was thinking to herself “I do have faith in God,” while Gabriel was speaking to her but then when he got to the part of her bearing a child that wasn’t from Joseph; if she had turned and ran away from the Angel, would that have been real faith?
For faith to be faith, it has to be followed by obedience. Both Joseph and Mary showed their faith by their works, by acting in obedience to the divine instruction they received.
This story of Joseph and Mary also shows a great love that they had toward one another. Both Joseph and Mary honored their love by being loyal to each other. Either one of them, or both of them, could have easily run away and refuse to take part in this wonderful, earth shattering event.
Imagine what their marriage was like with such a great love toward one another as they had, as well as their great love toward Heavenly Father, manifested by their faith and obedience to Him.
ZACHARIAS AND ELISABETH
Zacharias was a righteous and honorable priest, who was married to a righteous and honorable woman known as Elisabeth. It was said of them “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
They both had lived their lives’ faithful according to the teachings of the gospel and were considered old and Elisabeth was barren, thus they never had children.
It is fair to assume that they prayed earnestly to have children through the years and as no children came, perhaps they prayed that they might have just one child, but they were not the thus blessed. Even though their righteous desires of children went unheeded by the Lord they remain true and faithful to the teachings and commandments of the gospel. They each endured to the end.
As a priest, Zacharias had a responsibility to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
At the time of this story, Zacharias had gone into the temple to burn incense while a multitude of people were praying outside of the temple during the time of incense.
While Zacharias was in the temple, near the altar of incense, there appeared an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. A righteous man though he was, Zacharias was a little frightened and fear fell upon him.
The angel said unto the Zacharias “fear not 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.”
The Angel went on by saying that many of the children of Israel will turn to the Lord their God because of the child Elisabeth would conceive and deliver. The son of Zacharias, who would be called John, would go before the Savior in the spirit and power of Elias preparing the way for the short, three year ministry, of The Messiah.
The Angel said “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
To all this Zacharias said to the heavenly messenger “Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” This must have been said with some doubt or disbelief because the angel’s reply was “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
Meanwhile, outside of the temple, the people that were praying while Zacharias was supposed to be burning incense at the altar started to wonder what was taking him so long in the temple? Is he having a vision some wondered?
Finally, Zacharias came out the temple door and could not speak. He attempted to speak to the crowd gathered outside the temple door but could not.
Zacharias was a very diligent man but tripped up while engaging with Gabriel, the heavenly messenger, which lead to the consequence of being struck dumb or speechless for more than nine months. But even while he was in the “dog house” so to speak, he remained at the temple doing his work until the days of his ministration were over at which point he returned to his own home.
It was sometime after that event that his dear wife Elisabeth conceived a child in her old age. However, she hid herself for five months after conception. I don’t know why she hid herself for five months; some say maybe she was unsure about her health and age combined with being pregnant. Some suggest maybe she was ashamed to be known to be old and barren and then suddenly pregnant. Others have suggested that it took her some time to adjust to the idea of being pregnant after a life time of being barren. She now had a new identity that she needed to come to terms with. No one knows for sure.
In the context with which the word “reproach” was used, it means shame for being barren or without children. Now at last she was with child and no longer carried with her the associated stigma of being barren. A great blessing for Elisabeth.
MARY AND ELISABETH
Jesus and John The Baptist knew each other in the Spirit World. Before they would be reunited on earth, the met up with each other while they each resided in their mothers’ womb.
Mary went to stay with Elisabeth for a while. When Mary greeted Elisabeth, the baby John leaped within her womb at the presence of the Savior in Mary’s womb. Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.
While these two elect ladies were talking with each other, Mary expressed her joy to Elisabeth, the one who could understand her situation better than anyone else. She said “my soul doth magnify the Lord.” She went on to say “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
These statements indicate that Mary was learning and coming to terms with what an important role she was involved with and just how important she was to the biggest event in the history of the earth.
THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Mary stayed with Elisabeth for about three months before returning home. Shortly thereafter, Elisabeth gave birth to a healthy baby boy. It was around this time when Elisabeth’s neighbors and cousins had heard how the Lord had blessed her and Zacharias with this new baby boy. It was truly a time of rejoicing and her neighbors and cousins rejoiced with her.
The custom of the day required that the baby boy be circumcised on the eight day and given a name. During the ceremony they called the baby boy Zacharias, after his father, as was also a custom.
But Elisabeth said objected to naming the boy after his father. She said his name will be John.
It was the custom of the day to use a family name when naming a baby boy. Elisabeth’s objection did not make sense to the crowd.
Keep in mind that Zacharias was still mute but some in the crowd went to him to see what Zacharias wanted to call the boy. Zacharias asked for a writing table and wrote a message saying that the boys name is John! As the crowd was marveling at this event, Zacharias’s mouth opened immediately and his tongue was loosed and he spake and praised the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
All the crowds that saw and heard these things were talking and wondering among themselves, some saying what manner of a child will this be? Others were saying that the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zacharias being filled with the Holy Ghost stood up and started to prophesy saying “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant.”
Zacharias went on talking and prophesying a little more before he turned his attention to his son John, when he said “Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
LESSONS LEARNED FROM ZACHARIAS AND ELISABETH
Some of the lessons learned from Zacharias and Elisabeth are very similar to the lessons learned from Joseph and Mary. However there are a few other points worth making as we review the great lessons from Zacharias and Elisabeth.
While Zacharias was in the temple performing his priestly duties, he was visited by Gabriel, a heavenly Angel. Gabriel told Zacharias that the prayers of Zacharias and Elisabeth were going to be answered by Elisabeth conceiving and baring a child and the child’s name would be John.
John expressed a little doubt that this could happen considering how old he and Elisabeth were. This display of doubt resulted in the consequence of Zacharias being stricken speechless. He was told that he would not be able to speak until their baby was born. At this time Elisabeth was not pregnant which implies that Zacharias was mute more than nine months.
Zacharias is an interesting character in the Bible. He was a very righteous man and a man of great faith. When put to a test of his faith, he faltered a little (similar to Peter faltering when walking on the water toward Jesus). What I find interesting about this is that it shows that even good, strong, and righteous people make mistakes. This is something we should all be able to relate to without judging.
Another point worth making about Zacharias was that even though he was struck dumb he continued his service in the temple until the event was over. Even after he was punished for his lack of faith, he didn’t just run away and feel sorry for himself, but rather he took his punishment and continued his Temple service. This is a good lesson for us to understand.
This same issue also points to the fact that Zacharias was a regular guy, a very righteous man, but was subject to mistakes and foibles just like we are. That concept gives me great hope, I make mistakes and I’m far from perfect, but I can be blessed by the Lord, and I can be used by the Lord according to his will.
Zacharias and Elisabeth had prayed to have children throughout their married life, but they never received their righteous desire. Elisabeth was beyond the years of bearing a child, which to us means that she was past menopause. For whatever reasons, Elisabeth felt a sense of shame for being barren throughout her adult life.
For however long they were married they were seeking a righteous desire to have children which were denied them. They were good righteous people, does that seem like a just reward, denying these two good people the blessing of children?
Throughout the Scriptures the same theme is taught over and over that if you ask in faith nothing wavering or if you have righteous desires and pray with faith that you will receive and finally the Scriptures teach that with God all things are possible.
So why didn’t Zacharias and Elisabeth have the children they desired? The moral to the story is that things happen in the Lord’s time frame, not our type frame. When they were allowed to have a child, they were blessed with one of the greatest prophets the earth has ever known. So when we are looking to God for blessings, we need to remember that often the answer will be in His time frame and not ours. We need to ask with faith, nothing wavering and with great patience.
Learning lessons from the lives of Joseph, Mary, Zacharias, and Elisabeth could fill a book with worthwhile teachings and analysis. Don’t let this short paper lead you to believe that that’s all there is to learn from these four great people.
Prayerfully read for yourself, the first chapter of Matthew and the first chapter of Luke, and ask yourself what you can learn from these great stories and consider what you might learn from these experiences that can improve your personal discipleship and increase your faith.
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