When God acts to fulfill his promises, he meets a wide array of needs. After a long period of silence, here God acts in the time of Herod the Great to begin realizing key aspects of his plan. Though he is concerned to fulfill his promises to Israel, God is also meeting the personal needs of a righteous couple.
Luke introduces the parents of John as pious, law-abiding saints. Thus from its very beginning the new movement of God is steeped in righteousness. Yet despite their righteousness, they have suffered the disappointment of barrenness, a condition Elizabeth will later refer to as a disgrace (v. 25). Elizabeth's feelings are perfectly understandable, but to be barren is not an indication of the presence of sin or of condemnation; it may be an opportunity for blessing, whether God grants a child late in life or allows a couple to pursue other opportunities of service. In Scripture, when God allows a woman to be barren, he often has something special in mind for her (Sarah, Gen 18:11; Rebekah, Gen 25:21; Rachel, Gen 29:31; Samson's mother, Judg 13:2, 5; Hannah, 1 Sam 1—2). Aware of this pattern, the rabbis of Judaism argued that when Scripture says, "She has not," God gave a child (Genesis Rabbah 38). So in the case of Elizabeth and Zechariah, God's action parallels the way he often worked among the fathers and mothers of Jewish faith. His word and plan are coming to pass again.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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