Elizabeth – Joyful and Righteous One!
As morning dawned, Elizabeth awoke and gave thanks to the God of Israel for a new day. Today, her husband would arrive home. She was filled with anticipation, wondering what his experience was like at the temple. Was he able to serve Yahweh in the sanctuary? Did he receive the privilege of offering the sacrifice on the altar of incense, on behalf of their people? She knew this was his desire for years.
When ready, she picked up her basket, closed the door, and headed to the market to select Zechariah’s favourite foods, in order to prepare a special meal for him. He had been gone for days, and she missed him.
She had rehearsed the whole day in her mind in the time it took her old bones to carry her only a block. “Oh Elizabeth, get moving old girl. You’ve only got a few hours to prepare,” she thought to herself.
Apricots, olives, cheese, crackers, and lamb were on the menu. They weren’t as hungry these days. Lack of vitality had begun to settle. For the most part, the two of them were okay with that. They had enjoyed their marriage and the blessed privilege of serving the Lord.
But as Elizabeth strolled throughout the market, she couldn’t help but notice all the young mothers with their babies. Deep within her heart, she still longed for her own. Oh, how she desired to feel a baby move within her barren womb. She longed to bond with an infant at her breast. To carry the legacy of her honoured husband. That opportunity had long since past, but something within her never let her give up hope, and strangely, within the last year, the desire again had exemplified. She didn’t dare share that with anyone for fear of sounding senile.
As she purchased the last item on her grocery list, she forced herself to think about Zechariah’s arrival and rehearsed the plans again as she made her way back home.
Footsteps approached outside the door. Zechariah was home! Elizabeth lit the candles, and put the final touches on the table as he entered. He still looked ever so handsome to her after all these years. She greeted him with a kiss, and then stepped back to get a better glimpse of his face. Something was different. He was quiet, with a look of consternation on his brow. He held up a sign to her saying he had met an angel and gone mute.
So many questions immediately filled her mind as she tried to imagine what that experience had looked like, why he was mute, and what had happened! Zechariah continued to hold up notes explaining the encounter as best he could.
As Elizabeth continued to read, her face went white, and a mix of relieved tears, anxiety, and joy filled her face all at once. Could it be, that the Lord would shine His favour upon them and bless them with a son? Had the growing longings in her heart truly been from the Lord? Might she be honoured like that of Abraham’s Sarah?
“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:24-25
Months went by and Elizabeth kept herself from the outside world. A wonderous secret grew within the safety of their sweet home. She couldn’t bring herself to share of the profound blessing the Lord had given them, not yet anyways. Her old body was having an extra difficult time with the adjustments of the pregnancy. Her body ached, her bladder was a challenge, and yet, none of that matter, for God had removed her shame, and she had never been so intimate with her Lord before. Her days were filled with joyous praise for the work of His hands. And each night, she praised the Lord for His faithfulness to help her through another day, and requested He would send someone to help her as the duties around the home were becoming unbearable to maintain.
“In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me.’” Luke 1:39-44
What amazing grace! The Lord had not only delivered a helper, but the mother of the Messiah! A rush of passion and joy overcame Elizabeth as the Spirit filled her and prophecy was placed upon her tongue. Her sweet little boy leaped in her womb, and immediately the confirmation of the words from the angel Gabriel to her dear husband on that lifechanging day he offered sacrifice and prayers in the temple, came to her mind:
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15
What a gift those days were to Elizabeth! It was delightful to teach Mary all about the prophecies leading to John and Jesus’ births, along with the wisdom she had gleaned about marriage and families over the decades. As the days of John’s birth drew closer, women from the neighbourhood came to the home and shared their experiences of their children’s births. Midwives taught the ladies about what to expect and the stages of labour and delivery.
“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son.” Luke 1:57
Then the wonderful day came when Elizabeth went into labour. Mary and the midwives prepared the clothes and water needed to clean Elizabeth and the baby. And, against all odds of age and ability, God gave Elizabeth great strength to deliver her son.
Elizabeth and Mary understood the sting of societal shame; one for her decades of barrenness. The other for the conception of a child out of wedlock. And yet, in this moment, all shame, fear, and doubt melted away at this miraculous birth. The cries of a newborn baby filled the room. All else seemed to stand still as this old woman lay with her desired babe against her breast. He was healthy with a strong assignment awaiting him.
The blessing and protection of the Lord was on both of these women. Elizabeth now held the forerunner for the Messiah, and Mary’s belly began to provide evidence that the Messiah as well would come within the coming months.
“Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her his great mercy, and they rejoiced with her.” Luke 1:58
Elizabeth was blessed with a neighbouring community of friends and relatives who rejoiced at the birth of hers and Zechariah’s son. Though Mary knew she wouldn’t have the privilege of this experience, she was grateful for all the Lord taught her in her time with Elizabeth. Lessons on Scripture, marriage, and birth. Lessons from other women about raising children in the fear of the Lord. Lessons she would treasure in her heart for the day she too would give birth to her Son.
Like these two women, you don’t know for certain the outcome of your earthly future. There are many unknowns. What you do know is that God is faithful. He has been faithful from the beginning of creation, all throughout the Bible, and every generation until now. Therefore, you can be assured that He will continue to remain faithful into eternity with His story and yours.
No matter your age or status, God has a special story for you. Each life is planned and formed by the Creator. Your life is meant to bring glory to God – what an honour. There are times where you could think that God has forgotten you, like Elizabeth may have assumed in her younger years as she longed for a child. You might feel nervous about the hard assignment to which God has called you, like Mary did. Yet, no matter the time or season, the Lord will be with you, and will guide you into His way so that your story will exemplify our Sovereign God.
Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the Lord, and be willing to say, “Yes” to whatever He desires. Though it may seem scary at the time, and not everyone will understand, it will yield His blessings in return, however He seeks to administer that.
“Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”