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.
—Luke 1:5

Luke 1:5 begins the story of a miraculous birth that preceded the birth of Jesus: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea.” It’s easy to skip past that phrase. Who was Herod? Herod was the puppet king that Rome had put in place to rule over Palestine. Herod was not a Jew; he was an Edomite. The Edomites hated the Jews. Herod erected pagan temples in Judea and instigated an infanticide against babies two years of age and younger when he found out another king was threatening his rule. These were dark days in Israel. It would be like an Iraqi citizen today saying, “In the days of Saddam Hussein.” Yet it’s against this dark backdrop of distress that God was ready to answer the prayers, not only of one couple but also of an entire nation.

“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” (v. 5). The name Zacharias means “the Lord remembers.” He was a priest from one of the orders of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth, whose name means “oath of God,” was of the priestly line of Aaron. But more important than their vocation and their heritage was their character. Luke 1:6 says of Zacharias and Elizabeth, “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous. The word “righteous” is used two different ways in the Bible. Sometimes “righteous” refers to imputed righteousness–the righteousness we receive when we trust in Christ as our Savior. Imputed righteousness deals with our right standing with God. But there is a second kind of righteousness in the Bible, and that is ethical righteousness. Ethical righteousness refers to how we conduct our lives after we are saved.

Imputed righteousness is our right standing before God. Ethical righteousness is our right acting before God. And that is the kind of righteousness used to describe this couple. “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (v. 6). Does that mean they were perfect? Of course not. They weren’t perfect, but the general direction of their lives moved toward God rather than away from God. That is what it means to walk blamelessly. It means your heart’s desire is to obey God. As we will see, Zacharias had moments of doubt, but the general direction of his life moved toward God rather than away from God.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t judge the totality of our lives by one or two episodes? Instead He looks at the general direction of our lives. He looks into our motivation and says, “Is this a person who really wants to follow Me?” What about your life? Is the general direction of your life moving you toward God or away from God?

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Touched by an Angel” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.