“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. … After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
- Wife to Zechariah
- Faithful to the Lord
- End of story…
Upon opening Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story, perhaps the most prominent thing that sticks out from the beginning is that Elizabeth is barren. It almost seems as if she is defined by her barrenness. And in some ways in her culture, it does define her. As a wife, she is responsible for providing children for her husband. Children are a gift from the Lord. In Elizabeth’s culture, being barren only meant one thing. Punishment from the Lord. The view that either Elizabeth or Zechariah were childless because of some offense they committed against the Lord brought them shame. Elizabeth may have felt ashamed. Elizabeth may have felt embarrassed. She may have looked with longing at the women around her who were bearing fruit and multiplying while her nest was still empty. She may have felt like she was not enough for her husband. Surely he would be seen with more respect in the community if she could provide him a son or even a daughter. She may have had to endure snarky glances and gossipy snickers from community members who wondered about her hidden sin, the root of her barrenness. She may have prayed and wondered and questioned if she had in fact done something to offend the Lord regarding why He had withheld the blessing of motherhood. She most likely cried enough tears to last a lifetime from the sorrow she endured from this unmet longing.
Although she was barren, she remained faithful to the Lord, to His statutes and commands and to living a righteous life. She continued to serve the Lord no matter her burden and longing. She continued to seek and pray, but she may have felt as though her prayers were officially in vain since she was past childbearing years anyway. Maybe when she was younger, her prayers had a chance of being answered, but now that she is an old woman, there’s little to no hope. That’s just a fact of life and menopause! Surely God was sovereign, but if He would have wanted her to bear children, surely it would have happened during her prime years.
Well, the Lord had other plans, as we know! He spoke to her husband Zechariah concerning a miracle in her womb! We know the story…he didn’t believe at first and was pretty severely punished (silence until John was born!), but the Lord still kept His promise. Zechariah made up some kind of sign language to communicate with Elizabeth about the angel’s message. Imagine the two of them trying to have this conversation – with Zechariah mute and the reality of pregnancy the last thing on both of their minds!
And, just like that, after all of those years of pleading and waiting, they became pregnant!
What does Scripture record as Elizabeth’s response? Let’s reread verse 25. “After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” She gave glory to the Lord! “The Lord has done this for me!” She immediately focused on the fact that this was the Lord’s doing. What a testimony!
Before we close, let’s look at one more instance of Elizabeth’s faith and trust in the Lord.
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:41-45)
How amazing! Elizabeth was actually filled with the Holy Spirit as she spoke a blessing to Mary, her younger cousin. Elizabeth was filled with great faith. She could only have spoken those words about Mary because of the Holy Spirit’s revelation. Because she was obedient and Spirit-led, she was able to be a blessing to Mary as she confirmed what the angel had spoken to Mary.
ELIZABETH WASN’T DEFINED BY HER BARRENNENSS: Whatever the world or our culture or your past failures have labeled you as (too old, too young, husbandless, childless, jobless, poor, used, abused, wild past with too many regrets and embarrassments, too shy, too weak, unattractive, unqualified, undesirable, rough around the edges, etc.), God is bigger than that. Those things do not define you, and many of them are simply not true! The life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of King Jesus are the things that define you because you are HIS. Because of Him alone, you are worth something. In fact, you’re worth a whole lot because He endured the cross so that you could know Him! Elizabeth’s barrenness did not define her, and whatever your “label” is, it doesn’t define you, either! So, don’t live in defeat; rather live in the victory of Christ!
ELIZABETH REMAINED FAITHFUL: While you are waiting for your prayers to be answered, continue in faithfulness to the Lord. Just as Elizabeth and Zechariah remained faithful in their long and enduring wait, you can, too. No, it probably won’t be easy. Yes, there may be moments and seasons of questions, doubts, intense longings, heartaches, confusion, and pain. But in those moments and seasons, God is with you, teaching you and molding you into His image. Don’t let Satan win during the wait. Rather, choose to trust the Lord even in the hard waiting. Wait expectantly for the Lord to fulfill your heart’s desires, and also pray that the Lord matches your desires to what He wants for your life!
ELIZABETH GAVE GLORY TO GOD: And like Elizabeth, remember that in everything, the Lord is to receive glory! Attribute glory to His name when it is due! Glorify Him in the answered prayers! Glorify Him in the seasons of waiting for prayers to be answered. Praise Him that you are worth something to Him and that your failures do not define you!
ELIZABETH WAS USED BY GOD TO BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS: She believed God’s words. She gave glory to Him. And when the young, virgin Mary came to her, she was used by the Lord to bless and encourage Mary. The indescribable miracle within Elizabeth’s body and her indwelling of the Holy Spirit were a testimony to Mary. This Christmas season, don’t miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others. There is ALWAYS someone around you who needs an encouraging word, a heartfelt prayer, or a relevant Scripture to speak into their life. What if Elizabeth would have kept silent? Mary would not have experienced the confirming blessing of her cousin’s words. During this season when people are celebrating but also hurting, take the time to seek the Lord as to how He wants you to be a blessing to others!