To read the whole story of Elizabeth and Zacharias, read Luke 1:5-80.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years... (Luke 1:5-8)
Lessons for Wives from Elizabeth
1. Your dreams don’t always come true. Elizabeth was a blessed woman. To begin her list of blessings, she was a daughter of a priest of Israel. She could trace her lineage back to Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. In fact, she bore the name of Aaron’s own wife, Elisheba or Elizabeth, which means “God is my oath.” And she had married a respected priest. Everyone had predicted a long life with many children for this special couple. But sadly, real life hadn’t turned out as predicted. And instead of seeing her as blessed, the religious community saw Elizabeth’s barrenness as a curse from God.
How is life turning out for you? Maybe your dreams are all coming true, or maybe you feel like you’re still waiting for life to get started. Maybe you feel like there’s too much pain and disillusionment to handle. Life has a way of putting detours, roadblocks, and immovable barriers in your path. This was Elizabeth’s story—a life of dashed dreams. But rather than have a pity party, Elizabeth chose to gain spiritual strength from her condition. She refused to allow her sorrow to drag her down. Instead, she reached out to grab hold of God’s strength.
How do you cope with discouragement, disappointment, adversity, and dashed dreams? Take a lesson from Elizabeth, whose name means “God is my oath.” No matter what your situation, look to God for strength each day. A woman after God’s own heart does not look at the day’s problems; she looks at the power of her God to assist her with those problems! Like Elizabeth, cling to God, whatever your circumstance.
2. You can rise above bad circumstances. Proverbs 31:12 tells us that a virtuous wife “does [her husband] good and not evil all the days of her life.” As a woman who was called “blameless” by God, Elizabeth was that virtuous wife. The stigma of barrenness had to have weighed heavily on her. This burden could have affected her personality and attitude. It would have been easy for her to sink into depression, despair, and discouragement. But Elizabeth didn’t. She sought to live a pure life according to the Law, to be a “blameless” wife, to soar in the joy of the Lord in spite of her situation.
Elizabeth’s life response to adversity was a “God thing.” Only God could produce contentment and peace in her life circumstances. When your strength is waning, when you sense sadness or despair creeping into your soul, look to God’s Word. It will give you abundant strength to face discouragement and adversities day by day. God’s Word will light up your dark path of despair and disappointment. There’s no need to get lost in a dark hole of hopelessness. Follow the light to productivity and peace of mind—to hope.
3. It’s always possible to grow spiritually. Elizabeth endured years of scorn from her community. How could she have weathered the ridicule? Luke 1:6 answers that for us: She walked “in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord,” which meant she was blameless. She didn’t succumb to jealousy, or lash out, retaliate, try to defend herself or set the people straight, or spend hours each day thinking of ways to get even with her tormentors. She didn’t blame Zacharias, and she didn’t blame God, walk away from Him, or give up.
No, Elizabeth chose to spend the hours of her day drawing near to God, refusing to worry about what she didn’t have, and focusing on what she did have. She didn’t care what the people were thinking about her, but she sure cared what God thought about her! Her heart was devoted to living for God and according to His Word.
Elizabeth was an amazing woman and a wife after God’s own heart. She matched her husband, the priest, with her own spiritual maturity…which is a good word for all Christian wives! Even in marriage and maybe as a result of marriage, you need to be purposefully growing spiritually.
You cannot control your husband’s growth, but you can control yours. What will that growth produce in you? You will become a wife who walks by the Spirit. A wife filled with God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—His fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). You do your part to be blameless, and pray that your husband will want to follow Zacharias’s example in his walk with God.
4. First things first. Do you realize that the time you spend reading and studying God’s Word and kneeling in devoted prayer are holy times of preparation, not only for yourself, but for ministry to others? And that ministry starts right in your own home. The effectiveness of your ministry to your husband and children and to others will be in direct proportion to the time you spend away from people and with God in a daily quiet time of preparation. Others who need help or encouragement will be drawn to your godly influence.
What kind of others? Maybe others like…Mary! While the angel Gabriel was telling Mary that she would bring the Savior into the world, he informed her that her relative, Elizabeth, was also going to have a baby. With no one around who could help her understand what was happening, Luke 1:39. As a godly “older woman,” Elizabeth would definitely have wisdom to offer Mary, a teenager. Sparks flew as these two blessed, committed-to-the-Lord women sat down together and blessed one another, magnified the Lord, and affirmed their roles in God’s plan.
Lessons for Husbands from Zacharias
1. It’s all about your heart. As a Christian man and husband, you want godliness to be the foremost quality in your life, right? So Zacharias, a man of God, provides clues about how you can be a man and husband after God’s own heart. Here’s how Zacharias’s heart and inner life are described: He was righteous before God, and he was “blameless” (Luke 1:6).
Many husbands appear righteous in the public eye, and especially at church. They play the “church game” extremely well. They profess faith in Christ and display all the outward activities of godliness. But they fail in the sight of God. They are not blameless in their daily life—nor are they even trying to be. Zacharias, however, walked with God on a daily basis—for decades, even well into his senior years…until the day he walked right into heaven!
You might be wondering, How was he able to do this? And if he could do it, why can’t I? What does it take? Am I up for it?
Zacharias shows you what’s needed. He was devoted to obeying God’s Word. The Bible says Zacharias spent his life walking “in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). This man didn’t just carry out some of the laws of God. It says all. Today we would say Zacharias would qualify as a New Testament elder or leader, one who must be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NASB).
So what does it take to be a man after God’s own heart? It takes a working knowledge of God’s Word. It takes studying that Word. And it takes a deep desire to obey that Word. God does not set impossible standards for His people. His Word says a man can be blameless, and Zacharias modeled the standard for you.
2. Marriage is for better or worse. We’ve already noted that Zacharias and Elizabeth experienced the social stigma of having no children, an issue for many of the couples we’ve looked at in this book. These couples teach us that there will always be some kind of trial that weighs a marriage down. There will always be some issue or nagging problem that can cause long-term difficulties. Just one ongoing problem can drain the life and vitality out of your marriage.
But Zacharias and Elizabeth break the mold for us. They carried the emotional burden of infertility for as long as they had been married. And yet amazingly the Bible declares that they were both righteous before God. This couple refused to allow any adverse circumstances to affect their relationship with God and their love for each other.
How about you? Are you a Zacharias, a husband who hangs in there loving his wife, no matter what? “For better or for worse”? You probably thought your wife was practically perfect when you married her, that she would be the ideal life partner for you. So wouldn’t godly love continue to see her as perfect? No matter how long you and your wife have been married, or what happens along the way, you can love her. Righteousness demands your selfless love.
3. Commit to praying for your wife. You would expect a godly husband to pray faithfully for his wife, wouldn’t you? Especially if he knew there was a deep burden she was carrying day after day. Zacharias did. When the angel Gabriel spoke to Zacharias, he said, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). It’s obvious from the angel’s words that Zacharias had prayed for Elizabeth to bear a child. He may have been praying for this very thing for years, and he may have been praying for it while he stood where the angel found him, right there before the altar while tending his priestly duties. Zacharias’s prayers for his wife are a model for your mission as a husband.
Do you want to be a more caring and loving husband? Then your first assignment is to determine the Number One burden, challenge, or heartache your wife is dealing with, and then faithfully pray for her. Maybe you know what it is, and you just haven’t been as faithful as you should be to present her difficult life-situation to God for His help. So now is definitely the time to start. And if you don’t know what her problem is, ask her…and then commit to diligently praying for her regarding this matter. Imagine what it will mean to her to know that you are joining with her to carry her greatest struggle…together. And to top it off, to know that at least one person—the most important person in her life, you!—is faithfully presenting her problem to the loving, all-powerful God of the universe for His help.
4. Be faithful in all things, large and small. Do you ever feel like your job is boring, insignificant, and fruitless? If anyone might have thought their occupation was a little dull, it could have been Zacharias. It is estimated there were at least 1000 priests in each of the 24 divisions that serviced the temple. You do the math—that’s 24,000 priests, and each one served only two weeks per year in the temple. Now for some more math: That means each priest waited around for 50 weeks just to do his job. It was a significant job, and a huge privilege, but with that many priests and all the downtime, some of them might have felt their job was a tad insignificant.
But again, Zacharias was not your typical guy. He realized he was serving God, regardless of what role he was given, regardless of waiting for his date-of-service to roll around. Yet God greatly honored Zacharias’s faithfulness as he was one of the select few who were ever chosen to offer up incense in the Most Holy Place. You can clearly see a powerful model of faithfulness in this humble priest.
Faithfulness is required of you too. Here’s why: You, as God’s servant, are to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). You are to be faithful in word and deed (Colossians 3:17). And faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Bottom line? Faithfulness is a godly quality. So be faithful on your job. But at the same time, don’t neglect to be faithful to nurture your wife and family in the things of God. Be faithful to provide for your family—and be especially faithful to your vows to love, cherish, and honor your wife.
Building a Marriage that Lasts
I have to say that my wife, Elizabeth, truly understands and lives her roles and responsibilities as a wife. And I thank God that she desires to be a woman and wife after God’s own heart. But still, I can’t force her to read her Bible, pray, go to church, or be part of a Bible study. She must make those decisions herself. Sure, I can pray, hint, suggest, and encourage her, but in the end, Elizabeth must have the inner desire to grow.
And the same applies regarding me. Elizabeth can’t make me grow as a Christian man, husband, or spiritual leader. I have to want to grow.
The same applies to you and your wife. Neither of you can make the other grow or want to grow in the things of the Lord. So what can a couple do?
First, talk ! Talk about it. Just as communication is the key to your marriage, it is a key to setting a plan for growth. Talk about what each of you is or isn’t doing in the spiritual growth department. Then talk about what you wish would happen, what you think it would take to grow. Talk about what kinds of materials you could use and tools that would help (maybe a Bible with study notes, a Bible reading plan, a devotional on the names or attributes of God, or the life of Christ, that you can read together). You are a unique couple, so aim for a plan that works well for the two of you.
Your ultimate goal is that both of you—as husband and wife—commit to keep growing spiritually. And this is where the challenge starts. A commitment to grow, and to do it together, is a huge step. So do whatever it takes. Consider making a pact. Maybe you could even write out a pledge to each other.
And factor in a few fun things in your new joint effort! Set up a weekly date to talk about your week, what you learned, where you struggled, changes you’ve seen in yourself and in each other. One couple Elizabeth and I know have gone to a fast-food eatery for a baked potato every Wednesday night—for 30 years! It’s a standing, forever date they both relish. Again, do whatever it takes to solidify and encourage your mutual desire to grow spiritually.
Your decision and commitment to focus on growing in Christ will be a major step that moves you forward in your quest to become a couple after God’s own heart. Without this keen focus on growing in maturity, you’ll have trouble sustaining your walk with God individually and especially as a couple. Everything beyond this starting point with God as the joint focus in your lives and your marriage will then be built on a strong relationship with God. Remember, the theme verse for this chapter stated that Zacharias and Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, [both] walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord [both] blameless” (Luke 1:6).
Jim and Elizabeth George are Christian authors and speakers whose books, combined, have sold more than 8 million copies. Jim is also the author of a husband after god's own heart (a Gold Medal Finalist), and Elizabeth's book a wife after god's own heart has been a longtime bestseller. Jim and Elizabeth have been married more than 40 years, have two married daughters, and are grandparents.
Publication date: March 18, 2013