Saturday, October 17, 2009

10/19 Luke 1:21-25 Blessing of Children

(Birth of John the Baptist Artemisia Gentileschi c. 1635)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Luke 1:21-25
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Calvin abridged: Luke relates that the people were witnesses of this vision. Zechariah had stayed later in the temple than usual. This led some to suppose that he had something uncommon happen to him. When he comes out, he makes known by looks and gestures that he has been struck dumb. True, there were few or no visions in that time, but the people remembered the stories of the former appearances of God. 23- “He returned home”- priests lived in the temple during their terms of service in order to keep themselves pure. Some say this is a reason for celibacy, but if so, they should also keep the commands for priests to abstain from wine or strong drink (Ezek. 44:21), or to exclude themselves from the people.
Zechariah was married, and marriage is honorable in all (Heb. 13:4). 24- “Remained in seclusion” – Some think she was ashamed of God’s blessing, or was uncertain of the upcoming birth. But I think, in light of Zechariah’s punishment, she was fully convinced of the certainty of the birth. She said, “The Lord has done this for me”- out of belief. She may have delayed going out in public because the world talks irreverently about the things of God; or that if people saw herself fully pregnant they might be more apt to praise God than if they saw her gradually grow with child. She praises God in private for His goodness, until the time is ripe for making this known publicly. “Taken away my disgrace”- She assigns her barrenness to the withdrawal of God’s favor. If animals having offspring is a blessing, how much more having our own children (Psalm 127:3). There is a universal sense of the blessing of having children, but there is a particular blessing designated to Abraham to have children (Gen. 13:15,16; 15:5). Let parents, then, be thankful to God for their children which he has given them, and let those who have no offspring acknowledge that God has humbled them in this matter. Elizabeth speaks of barrenness as a reproach among human beings. It is a temporary chastisement, which doesn’t take away any blessings in heaven.
Thought: Calvin and his wife had at least three miscarriages, and their young son died a few weeks after birth. No doubt Calvin felt the pain of being without children. One of his famous sayings was that he had a son… but he has today many children in the faith. I have often thought about how those who cannot have children look at this passage as well as that of Abraham and Sarah’s conception. Calvin indicated that it is humbling to not have children, yet he recognized that in heaven such reproaches would be taken away. He probably looked forward to that. Children are a blessing. In our busy world, some see kids as a secondary part of life after work. But children are more our legacy than our work. The Bible speaks a lot more about the importance of passing our faith down to our children, than passing our craft or abilities down to the next generation/

Prayer: Lord, thank you for children, especially among the godly. Help us to welcome them as you did.

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