Faith Filled Stories – Elizabeth
We discovered Zechariah, from the tribe of the Levites of Israel last week. Now let’s explore his wife Elizabeth. Both of their stories are important and knit together.
It’s interesting to note that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were from the Levitical lineage of Aaron. The fact that it specifically mentions that Elizabeth was from Aaron’s tribe is profound. This couple was truly following the letter of the Law. The tribes of Israel were supposed to marry within their own tribal unit. The Levites were to marry other Levites. In a time where the Israelites were commonly marrying outside of their tribe, and even some outside their nation, this couple truly took their vow to follow God and the Law seriously.
It’s also important to note that they were both living a righteous life. They were walking in unity with God and with each other. Elizabeth was as honourable as Zechariah was. There was just one glitch in this great couple. It says that “Elizabeth could not conceive” (Luke 1:7).
That must have been such a hard burden to bear. I’m sure questions entered their minds. If they were doing everything they could for the Lord and had such a good relationship with Him, why would He hold children back from them?
I’m sure many people in their community told them that they would make great parents. I can imagine the women and men giving all sorts of tips to Zechariah and Elizabeth on things that should help them conceive. But as time went on, those tips turned into questions, doubts, and judgement. “This couple seems great to us, but what sins have they committed that God would withhold a child from them?” “Careful with Elizabeth around the children. There’s a reason God hasn’t opened her womb”. “They are probably cursed from the sins of their fathers”. “Don’t invite that couple over. They can’t relate to us.”
Shame for an infertile couple and embarrassment was huge in that day. The text says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were “well along in years” (vs. 7b). That means that they were beyond the age of child-bearing. The hope and opportunity of giving birth to a child were written off. They were going to live with the disgrace placed on them throughout the rest of their lives.
I wonder though if Elizabeth held onto hope? She knew the story of Abraham and Sarah. She trusted in the Lord. We know that Zechariah doubted, but it doesn’t say how Elizabeth felt. It just says, “When the days of [Zechariah’s] ministry were completed, he went back home.
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.’” (vs. 23-25).
Secluding herself would have been hard, since women lived in community back then making meals together. It doesn’t say why she did it. Whether to make sure the pregnancy would last, to bring louder praise to God when she did reveal herself, or because she had a rough beginning of pregnancy. Either way though, when she did reveal this miracle to everyone, there would have been great amazement.
The Lord was really doing something incredible in this couple. Zechariah went deaf and mute and then his wife went into seclusion for five months. I can imagine the people’s curiosity and wonder at what was going on. No signs or miracles from God in over 400 years and now something was happening. Something big! The community around them started to notice. Then, Elizabeth emerges pregnant! What kind of child was this going to be?
The story continued to escalate. Mary, her cousin came to be with them for the beginning of her pregnancy. As soon as she arrived, Elizabeth’s “baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:
You are the most blessed of 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! She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled” (vs. 41-45).
Wow! Okay, not only was Elizabeth pregnant, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and began prophesying as well! Just like her son would do. This woman was faithful. She sought the Lord and was filled with His Spirit. Zechariah and Elizabeth both had the Holy Spirit fill them. Elizabeth while pregnant and Zechariah after John’s birth. They both prophesied and proclaimed Jesus’ coming, just as they would train John to do.
The Lord had great plans for this couple long before they were born. He designed them to come from Aaron’s family so that they would both know the Word of God and His Law well. They were both filled with the Holy Spirit before and right after the birth of their son. Their son was also filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb. This is why he could recognize and leap for joy when Mary and Jesus (still in His mother’s womb) arrived.
God equipped Zechariah and Elizabeth with what they needed in order to carry through His plans for them and to do them well. They had been faithful to Him with their lives. They had served the Lord well. Now they were being rewarded with a huge blessing. Jesus would exclaim during His time of ministry that John the Baptist was one of the greatest men to ever live.
This story of the New Testament shows that God didn’t keep His powerful miracles of birth to the Old Testament. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Our stories are not revealed to us until we are in the midst of them happening. He reveals everything in His perfect timing. If He told us earlier, we wouldn’t allow Him to develop our characters and strength to where it needs to be in order to handle the task. We would try to accomplish it in our own merit for our own glory, and most likely fail at it.
Know that no time of your life is wasted. Don’t worry or follow the clock of this world. We can often feel the pressure of needing to get pregnant by a certain time or we’ll “dry up”. But with God, none of that matters. If He desires you to have a child, you will. If He doesn’t, it’s because He has something else very important for you to do. Keep your eyes on Jesus, one day at a time, and allow Him to fill the needs and desires of your heart with Himself. That satisfaction will far outweigh the need for children. Just as it did for Zechariah and Elizabeth.