Tuesday, December 9, 2014
The gospel writer Luke uses the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, to set the stage for the birth of Jesus. This couple had lived a long and happy life together seemingly content even though they didn’t have the child they longed for. Elizabeth’s barrenness is seen as a disgrace and the couple endure years of people attempting to dishonor them or shun them. However, they are more concerned about what God thought than what others thought - a good foundation for a marital relationship, by the way!
Then… Gabriel is visited by the angel Gabriel who tells him Elizabeth will bear a son who will be great in the sight of the Lord and who will prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Unfortunately, in the most momentous encounter of his life, Zechariah doubts. As a consequence, he is struck speechless. Luke tells us,
Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” Luke 1: 24-25
For the entire pregnancy Zechariah is speechless. However, he remains faithful to God. After the birth, at the circumcision ceremony, Zechariah confirms the name when he writes it on the tablet. “His name is John.” Instantly, John could speak again. His first words were of praise to God.
Elizabeth and Zechariah serve as heroes of the faith. Zechariah represents those who may doubt God for a moment but are willing to obey. Elizabeth embodies those who remain faithful and praise God even when they don’t understand his workings. Even though they felt hopeless, God was waiting for the right time to encourage them and take away their disgrace. We see through them that God can do great things to anyone who allows God to work within.
This is the most exciting thought for me – God is working behind the scenes on our behalf too even when we don’t realize it. Imagine all the days, months, years of forethought that went in to choosing Elizabeth and Zechariah to give birth to John the Baptist the man who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Imagine all the years people had attempted to bring shame to their name, to dishonor them, to discredit them because they were childless. All along, God was working behind the scenes on their behalf. Elizabeth and Zechariah would have known the words of the prophet Jeremiah: God “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He had a plan and purpose for their lives and when the time came for him to reveal it, they were found faithful.
Elizabeth and Zechariah offer us encouragement when we face doubt or feel hopeless or when people attempt to disgrace us. This righteous couple trusted in God and held on to each other during the times when people must have scorned them. And when the pronouncement came from the angel that Elizabeth would give birth at an old age and then she appeared in public for the first time, I’m sure the naysayers and doubters attempted to stir up a scandal. But through it all Elizabeth praised God and proclaimed, “The Lord has done this for me. How kind the Lord is.”
Let’s remember that God is working behind the scenes on our behalf. God wants us to know our purpose and to live an exceedingly abundant life. When we face doubt or feel hopeless or when people attempt to disgrace us, let’s remember that God is faithful. In order to live in our purpose and enjoy God’s abundance we need to do as Elizabeth did: trust and obey. The old hymn tells us, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus we must trust and obey.”
For more of my lesson on Women of Christmas: Elizabeth, click the audio link below.