A couple is getting married, expecting a family. They won’t have one—for about fifty years. Would you tell them? Heaven didn’t. For an all-powerful God, He sure is quiet.
God graced Zechariah and Elizabeth for special blessings. People interpreted no baby as dis-grace. “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” The next word is “but.” Having children is a good thing. Childlessness was regarded as divine displeasure. Just two of them–a quiet household.
But the neighbors weren’t. Liz was assigned the “B” word, “barren”—unfruitful, sterile, as in “barren land.” And what did God do? Zechariah had prayed for years. It’s not what God did—it’s what He didn’t—answer their prayers or tell them what was happening. The silence of heaven can be hard.
Most likely Zechariah regretted his inappropriate question. He asked for a sign—and got it, a nine-month time-out. Liz went on a silent retreat herself: “After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion” (Luke 1:24). She said, “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people”(25). Elizabeth was discredited, but that was changing. The hide-away produced evidence that quieted brutal tongues.
Then Gabriel was sent eighty miles north to a young girl instead of an old man. What Elizabeth deduced by virtue of pregnancy, the favor of God, Gabriel spoke to Mary: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (28). Gabriel announced what Mary didn’t know: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age…For nothing is impossible with God” (36,37).
God is orchestrating this event. “In the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth” (1:26). Right on schedule. Elizabeth is coming out of seclusion. A month earlier Mary would have missed her. Now she travels south.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’” (41-45).
In place of disgrace–incredible revelation; she received God’s plan for her young relative. Rather than concentrating on herself, she now blessed the life in Mary’s womb and the mother of that Child. She counted herself privileged to be in the company of One to whom she would bow, though that Child was only two centimeters. She dares to call Him “my Lord.” God revealed it in a moment—as quick as a kick. This is the most remarkable encounter of two women to ever.
What can Elizabeth teach us?
We trust God’s unwavering character and sovereign plan when we don’t see it. This is not a time for anger.
We look for miracles masquerading behind impossibilities.
The level of our shame is matched by the level of God’s grace—in the very place of our humiliation.
Suffering, stewarded well, produces sterling character, heightened revelation, and growth in gifting. Sounds good to me!