But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
(Luke 1:13 KJV)
A couple weeks ago, the Samaritan woman’s story in Part 2 of the Love Series emphasized that love modeled after Christ breaks barriers.
Society sets up expectations of what success is, what love is, what fulfillment is in ways that are deceitful, fruitless, and contrary to what God defines them as. When we turn to the Bible, we learn that there is no fear in God’s love (1 John 4:18), there is no condemnation (1 John 4:9-11), there are no limits (Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 86:15). When we practice a barrier-breaking, countercultural, and selfless love, we set ourselves and others free.
For the last part in the Love Series, we look at Elizabeth, a woman who loved God in a limitless way–and how He blessed her in a way that surpassed human expectations.
(Reference: Luke 1:5-25)
Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias, a priest in a temple in Jerusalem (v. 5, 8-9). Right away, she seems to be in a desolate circumstance. Elizabeth couldn’t conceive, and perhaps others looked down on her and her husband because they were old had no children. Elizabeth herself probably felt burdened because she was considered “barren.”
Nevertheless, God moved in this hopeless situation.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John (Luke 1:11-13).
An angel approached Zacharias during his usual service in the temple, giving a special message from the Lord–that his wife would conceive a son. Zacharias first responded in fear when he saw the angel, then with doubt. After so many years of being childless, such a message was hard to believe.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (Luke 1:18-19).
Nevertheless, the angel, Gabriel, assured him that this was something from God. It was Zacharias’ own answered prayer (v. 13)–and it would come to pass. Despite Zacharias’ initial unbelief, Elizabeth became pregnant.
The Effects of God’s Love: Hopelessness to Favor
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men (Luke 1:24-25).
God restored Elizabeth, giving her a new beginning. Beyond this miracle, there was something even greater to come–He was about to restore humanity through the birth of Jesus. Just as God brought Elizabeth from sadness to joy, He was about to do the exact same for humanity through a Savior.
Elizabeth had special favor from God. Luke 1:41 tells us that she was filled with the Holy Ghost–and she was the first in the book of Luke to experience this: And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
Because of the presence of the Holy Ghost, Elizabeth and even her unborn son–who stirred in her womb–were the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, while He was still in Mary’s womb.
God brought Elizabeth amazing restoration, and this remarkable moment was one of the many blessings of this restoration. God’s gracious love allowed Elizabeth to go from childlessness to fertility, the impossible to the possible. He is faithful to fulfill promises. Even this moment of recognizing the Messiah was a reminder of that He was about to fulfill another promise, the coming of the Savior who would restore His people.
Another blessing was the child God had blessed Elizabeth and Zacharias with. Their son, John, would become John the Baptist–a forerunner of Jesus. John had a tremendous purpose for the Lord, as He helped prepare people for the coming of the Messiah, encouraging them to turn away from sin and be baptized as a showing of their repentance and new life. So, not only was this child a blessing to the couple, but he would grow up to have a tremendous ministry that would lead many to Christ.
Gabriel gave a special prophesy about John the Baptist.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God (Luke 1:14-16).
Before John was born, Elizabeth and Zacharias were given assurance that this birth would bring great joy–which it did. That John would be filled with the Holy Ghost even in Elizabeth’s womb–which he was. And that many would turn to Christ because of this birth–which they did.
See how God is faithful?
Gabriel also tells Zacharias that he would become mute until everything God had promised concerning the birth of John came to pass. This might seem like a strange promise–but I believe it showed even more that God was working. Even as Zacharias was in the temple with the angel, people outside were aware that something was happening:
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house (Luke 1:21-23).
There were others who were about to witness God’s glory. Now that Zacharias was mute, it could not be ignored that something supernatural, God Himself, was at work. And of course, just as He promised, after Elizabeth gave birth, Zacharias regained his speech.
The First Step: Elizabeth’s Love for God
Now that we’ve looked more into this miracle, let’s look back at Elizabeth. She and Zacharias both had a love for God. It wasn’t a love that was simply lip-service but a love that matched with actions. We see this first by Zacharias’ diligence in his service for the Lord in the temple. This true sacrificial love for God is why they are described as righteous before Him (v. 6).
The fact that the angel Gabriel approached Zacharias and Elizabeth to conceive John the Baptist is also telling of their character. They had to be righteous before God in order to raise such a man who would do wonders for His kingdom! That’s huge to keep in mind. Though there was initial doubt, Elizabeth believed (v. 45). She believed God, and she was used by Him.
Gabriel is the same angel who visited Mary and Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus (v. 35). In verse 36, He even uses Elizabeth’s restoration as an example to comfort Mary: And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. Elizabeth was unlikely to become pregnant, but her testimony showed that God could not be limited–and so, Mary could trust Him.
For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).
I love that both Zacharias and Elizabeth both were God-honoring. They were both Christ-minded. The couple was present before the birth of Jesus and were used as a team during this time to prepare others for His coming (just as their own son, John, would do in the future!) Elizabeth was used as a testimony for Mary, and similarly, Zacharias was used to prophesy about Jesus, who Mary would birth. Just as Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, so was Zacharias (v. 67). We see this prophecy in verses 67-80, where Zacharias spoke of the restoration Jesus will bring to all people.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (Luke 1:68-71).
“WHAT ABOUT ME?”
Elizabeth’s love for God is not only boundary-breaking but bridge-forming. Her obedience and trust in Him built bridges that allowed others around her to be blessed–her husband, her cousin, Mary, and Joseph, her son, John the Baptist, and those who were brought to Christ as a result. Also, Elizabeth’s love for God broke the boundaries built by the world who would have said that none of these things were possible–starting from Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy at an old age.
Does our love for God break boundaries of doubt and form bridges of restoration?–Or does it fall short? Is our love for God a limited love based on what’s going on in our lives? Do we only trust Him when we see things are working out?–Or do we trust Him when there seems to be no answer–or when things don’t go our way at all?
Funny enough, our love for God will reflect in our love for others. You limit a limitless God, you’ll find that you’ll definitely limit a limited human.
The restoration God gave to Elizabeth and so many others in this story–and the stories of the other women we’ve explored in the Love Series is available for us today.
God knows our flaws, our strongholds, and He still promises His presence. Instead of leaving us, He gave his Son so we could have eternal life and freedom on earth as His children. He continues to give blessings today even when we don’t deserve it.
Elizabeth’s story shows the limitlessness of our Savior’s love. The nature of His love is a model for how we should love Him. It’s an agape love–a sacrificial, unconditional, no-strings-attached, nothing’s-in-it-for-me kind of love.
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
(Luke 1:45 KJV)