Today’s Reading: Luke 1:39-45
During his time of silence, Zechariah had plenty of time to consider what the angel had said. He had time to look over the Scriptures and remind himself of all God had promised to the people of Israel. He could take his new piece of the puzzle and fit it into the big picture. But how did all of this affect his wife, Elizabeth? How did more than nine months of silence change their daily life? Okay, get the jokes out of your system…we can laugh about how great it would be to silence your spouse for a few days but we all know we would be worried when it lasted for such a long time.
Zechariah described himself as an “old man” but he was wise in describing his wife as “also well along in years.” It is not clear what her age was but she was apparently past child-bearing years. Luke 1:24 says that Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months after she became pregnant. There is no evidence that this was an Old Testament custom or command so many theologians believe that Elizabeth took time to have a spiritual retreat of sorts to honor God for answering her prayer.
Elizabeth’s experience is one of my favorite stories in the Bible – so much so that I named my first baby girl after her, Elizabeth Kathryn Sherwood. I could relate to Elizabeth’s time of infertility – what she must have felt and how it probably affected her relationships with others in her community. I wonder if people said things to her that hurt her feelings, as was my experience. “Do you not like kids?” or “Just come over to my house, there must be something in the water because I don’t have any trouble getting pregnant.”
Elizabeth’s pain was probably even stronger than mine because now women can choose a career or ministry in place of motherhood. In those days, childbearing was considered the highest calling for a woman. Infertility was often paired with a social stigma or shame, often assuming God was not blessing a woman with a baby because of some kind of sin in her life. But Luke makes it clear that Elizabeth was found righteous in God’s sight.
If I had a quote wall, Elizabeth would be on it twice. Luke‘s interview with Mary, the mother of Jesus, reveals two very profound statements that come from Elizabeth. Let’s look at the first.
“How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” – Luke 1:25
Stop. Slow down and consider with Elizabeth just how kind the Lord has been to you. God is so good and so compassionate and so loving. There is evidence of His kindness all over our lives. What has he taken away from you as an act of kindness?
Shame from a sin committed
Regret from a word spoken
Consequences that could have destroyed you
Loneliness that left you feeling unloved and alone
Pain from an unbearable loss
Sickness or disease that was taking away your life
The list could go on. He is so kind to us. Perhaps He is willing to take something away from you but you are holding on to it instead of clinging to His kindness. Perhaps it is time to offer everything to Him and let Him bless you with His kindness
A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” – Luke 1:39-45
And now it is Elizabeth’s big day! Don’t pass too quickly over the statement that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. There are a few instances in the Old Testament when someone is described as being filled with the spirit of God, but there are only four people that I can find who were described in the gospels as being filled with the Holy Spirit, only one woman – John the Baptist (1:16), Elizabeth (1:41), Zechariah (1:67), and Jesus (4:14). Once more, God pours out His blessing on this very special woman.
Only a few days had passed since the angel came to Mary. Had she told anyone yet of what the angel had spoken? Did her family know yet? Did Joseph know? Now here she is, probably still trying to soak it all in, greeted by Elizabeth, who seems to already know the big news. This greeting was most likely more than Mary had even wished for. As far as we know, Elizabeth had not even been told, yet already knew, that Mary was with child. Mary was not going to be scolded or questioned or accused. Instead, Elizabeth greeted her with a blessing for Mary and for her baby.
And here is my second favorite quote. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke what I believe Mary needed to hear – what God Himself was saying to her through Elizabeth. “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
In August of 1996, I received a promise from the Lord that I would have a baby in one year. Time passed between the promise and the pregnancy. I had a choice to believe God’s promise or spend time worrying whether or not God’s promise would come true.
So here’s a question for you – DO YOU BELIEVE? Is your faith strong enough to believe that God is going to do what He says He will do? Do you see this Prince of Peace, born in a manger, as being kind and faithful? That is what He is. The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay, was born out of the kindness and generosity of our Creator and He loves us with that same kindness today. Will you let him take away what you have been holding on to and leave faith in its place – faith that He will do what He says He will do.