Elisabeth, Mother of John the Baptist, 235, July 23, 2020

Updated: Jan 17

Post 235 Today's story is from the Book of Luke 1:1-45 This passage tells the story of Elisabeth, a woman of God. From the progeny of Aaron the original High Priest himself, faithful in her generation and position as the wife of a working priest, Zacharias, and righteous before her king and maker, the Lord God Almighty. As we have seen so far, a number of faithful women have cried the tears of barrenness, simply praying, "why me, Lord? Why me?" Barrenness was a blight on one's life. For a woman not to have children, which should be as natural as breathing air, was taken as a deficiency. As we have seen with Hannah and Rachel, it greatly impacted their emotional and social lives. Quite differently, I feel Elisabeth, due to her position as a priest’s wife, would have only wept in secret. Like a Pastor's wife now, she would have always needed to show the life of the faithful, to give hope to the lost and downtrodden women, to bring words of peace and comfort to those who had little of each, always speaking of the mightiness of her God.  Despite the stoic disposition, her pains to have a child would have been as real as the others. Now, her time to seek God for a child seems over. Her body is withering inside, and her hope for a child has waned to a resigned smile of, “Oh, well, I guess God didn't want me to have children?” Sometimes God takes us through experiences so we can appreciate the pain, suffering and anxieties of others. He needs us to understand the depths of agony, not just in words, but in our hearts. Through her barrenness and her position, Elisabeth would have been able to walk the distance of others’ sufferings, understanding those lacking healing or physical blessing, but still being able to paint the picture of a wonderful creator for her listeners.  Our own tragedies can often be someone else’s fullness.    A priest was called to live a righteous life before God, that is, according to God’s righteousness, not a recreated or watered-down version of their own righteousness. However, biblical history shows us that the continuing priesthood of Aaron was dotted with priests who preferred to follow other spiritual pathways, one’s of reward, right up to the persecution of Christ whom they knew immediately but would not acknowledge.   Hundreds of years earlier, Jeremiah the prophet called the wayward priesthood back to God and to obedience to him alone. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (Jer 6:16) Zacharias chose the old paths wherein was contained the righteousness of God. But we see Elizabeth alongside him taking her marriage vows to the degree of God's original intentions, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh(Gen 2:24) If her husband was called to be righteous, then she thought, "so am I." They were one in life and ministry.  Matthew 7:13-14 calls all believers to "enter in at the strait gate...because narrow is the way which leadeth unto life." Zacharias and Elisabeth imposed the straitened life of righteousness upon themselves to effectively enjoy the relationship with God on his terms. They believed the Law and prophetical promises, living them out in daily ministrations as well as hope for the future of Israel.    Our story begins with Zacharias within the Temple Holy Place, where the Altar of Incense stood. He was to burn the incense as worshippers prayed outside.  On this day, amidst these duties which he has performed so many times over the years, he was met by the Angel Gabriel. Fear struck him. To enter that area, a priest needed to examine himself before entering. I'm sure the first thing Zacharias thought then was "what have I forgotten to do?" Gabriel immediately calmed him down. Gabriel states in verse 13, "Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John." Prayer This is where an interesting nugget on prayer enters our story.  As a priest, Zacharias had petitioned God many times on behalf of Elisabeth, not only as her husband but her spiritual intercessor. Yet, Zacharias questioned Gabriel, more or less saying, "Well, how do I know that'll come to pass?" The response seems harmless enough, and something all of us would have at least thought after so long praying. To us, it seems only a blip on a radar, but to God, hearing his intercessor talk like that needed reproving. I don't think it was what he said so much as how he said it. God wants all of us ever-ready. Prayer is not only our communications device directly to God but part of our armour in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" Zacharias was to watch on Elisabeth's behalf for this answer.  Q. Did his prayer become so repetitious that he forgot to believe for it?  Did he forget to stand watch, waiting for God’s messenger? I think we've all done that at some stage?   As obvious as Miriam’s leprosy, Zacharias’s punishment was for God to remove the voice that uttered the faithlessness. For nine months he was struck mute for a time of reflection. This mouthpiece of God has been silenced to now only display the salvation of his creator by his actions, but not the words with it.  After all the time of not having a son, of being the kind uncle and grandad to so many others, of counselling the bereft of hope, he realised the hope for this particular outcome had waned within himself. Gabriel informed him of this one-and-only son he was about to have, but it took a while to register; just long enough for Zacharias to get punished. Put yourself in his position. He is the intercessor, the one with the answers, always on-call to present the wisdom and faith of God to others. Being ever-ready is a tough job.  This desperately yearned for son was to bring 

  • Joy and gladness

  • Many shall rejoice at his birth

  • He shall be great in the sight of the Lord

  • He shall not require alcohol, as he will be filled with the Holy Ghost from birth

  • He shall turn children to their God

  • He shall turn the hearts of fathers to their children 

  • The disobedient to wisdom

  • And prepare people for the coming of the prophesied Lord

What a time that would be? Imagine for a moment the changes from the dearth hanging over Israel. Israel's sun was blanketed out by layers of thick evil.  the top layer was of Roman rule and the second layer of a despotic greedy priesthood who had sealed up the way to God so nobody could enter. No light shone from God's leaders, but the light was coming, and Zacharias & Elisabeth’s son came to prepare Israel for that light.    What was Elisabeth’s response to the news? Verse 25 says, "Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." Often, it takes years to rid ourselves of emotional baggage. Elisabeth, even in her old age, still seemed to feel the stigma. This one child, like Hannah’s Samuel, healed her instantly, and she praised God giving him all the glory.  SUMMARY That precious elderly angel became a great source of comfort and wisdom for the mother of the coming King Jesus, and I feel her general ministry would have increased as John was growing. Can you imagine some of the conversations around that household?  We should never forget to praise God for faithful followers such as Zacharias and Elisabeth. They were like salmon swimming upstream and dodging the bears. Other priests, long-forgotten now, preferred the modern gospel and would have tried to swing them over to enjoy a more lucrative life, but these two staunch God-fearers stayed their course against the opposition, to become the parents of he who prepared the way of the Lord. 

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