Text: Luke 1:39-80
More than once I have seen women in my church go to the altar so the guest preacher or my pastor would lift up a special prayer for them because they could not have children. The frustration of not being able to conceive, despite hours of prayer, can drag any woman down in her spiritual life. The Bible says that Elizabeth was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first high priest. Both Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were upright in the sight of God, and Zechariah served in the Temple. One might ask: "Can we be in God's Temple (or church), doing all of the right things, and still not have the desires of our hearts met by God?" Yes. Elizabeth and her husband faithfully obeyed God for many years and yet they did not have children.
So my friend, the next time you go through a difficult time in your life and, like Elizabeth, your heart before God is straight, do not let the Enemy put ideas in your mind that God is upset with you or that you did something wrong. Don't let him condemn you! Elizabeth and Zechariah were of the priestly caste, elite and righteous, and yet they still could not conceive.
After decades of waiting, eventually circumstances changed for this couple and the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah promising the long-hoped-for child. There is something that catches my attention when I read about how the angel Gabriel speaks to Zechariah. "Do not be afraid for your prayer has been heard." Gabriel speaks in the present tense. This reminds me that my prayer goes before God and that He will answer me in His time, not mine. For God, my prayers and His response are always in the present tense.
I don't know how long you have been waiting for something -- maybe you have been waiting for decades. But do not despair or grow weary. He has not forgotten you; your prayers are always before Him and in His perfect time, He will answer. Remember that in all things, even in waiting and in unmet dreams, our Lord works all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
I often love studying the meanings of names in the Bible. Like many cultures around the world, in ancient Jewish culture, children were given names with deep meanings – either in memory of a family member or famous relative, or because of the promises/blessings the parents wanted to bestow on their child. Often these children grew up to become exactly what their names meant!
Names are also very important in the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus. Zechariah’s name means “the LORD remembers” and Elizabeth’s name means “oath of my God” These are truly fascinating names because Zechariah’s parents and Elizabeth’s parents must have both believed that God, in-spite of being “silent” for 400 years, was still going to keep His covenant promises to Israel and bring about the restoration of Israel from her many enemies (like the Greeks and Romans). Despite years of political unrest, changing governments, and even corruption within the Levitical priesthood, these families believed that God would fulfill His promises and bring the Messiah.
So here is Elizabeth, a woman whose very name proclaims her long-enduring faith in a God who keeps His promises, still barren in her old age and waiting faithfully upon the Lord. I can’t imagine what it must have been like when first her husband returns home completely mute and then suddenly waves of morning sickness overtake her aged body. On top of this, when she finally returns from hiding out for five months, she is greeted by her teenage relative, Mary, who is also pregnant . . . and with the promised Messiah! Elizabeth is overcome by joy and filled with the Holy Spirit, and proclaims God’s goodness and promises boldly. She has seen the goodness of God and is bearing witness to a fulfillment of a thousand-year-old promise! Everything Elizabeth is now witnessing is a gift from God – her late pregnancy, the arrival of the angel Gabriel (the same angel who spoke about the Messiah to the prophet Daniel!), the fact that her relative Mary is carrying the promised Messiah, the prophecies concerning her own unborn son, and the overpowering of the Holy Spirit which causes her baby to jump in the womb and Elizabeth to burst into song. Everything is a gift from God, and so this is what Elizabeth and Zechariah name their son – “Gift from the Lord” (Jonathan). Their son will not only be a gift, but He will also be the one who announces the true Gift to our world, his cousin Jesus (whose name means “salvation”).
As women, we have the opportunity to be just like Elizabeth. We can choose to wait on the Lord, even when His promises seem far off. And then when we see His promises being fulfilled, we can accept all of this from the Lord as a wonderful gift to rejoice in. Like Elizabeth, we can proclaim God’s goodness to others and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with words of praise and encouragement. Waiting can often be long, painful, sad, and difficult, but those who wait on the Lord (like Elizabeth) will have their strength renewed; they will run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:13). They will see the Lord’s goodness and proclaim the great deeds He has done. As Elizabeth reminds us, “blessed is she who believe[s]” in the Lord’s promises, because one day all of His promises will come true.