In Luke 1:5-7 we read of an older couple who are righteous before God and have no children. In this devotion, we will see 5 powerfully relevant truths from this Biblical account that will help us in our times of trial.
1. God knows our inner pain.
(Vs 7) We learn that they have no child because Elisabeth was barren. Elisabeth and Zacharias have been praying for a child for a long time. (Some estimate nearly 40 years). At the time of the opening of this Gospel, Elisabeth and her husband have assumed they would have no children for the rest of their lives.
To be a barren woman in those days would have been incredibly difficult. This would have been a trial in her life that likely overwhelmed her at times. In that culture, it was the duty and calling of a woman to bear children and especially sons. I’m sure they had prayed for years, waiting, hoping, trying to have a child, but those days were past. It is implied that there is some shame to be in this situation. Elisabeth herself calls it a reproach (read verse 25). Also, for someone so full of faith, some in the town could have looked at her barrenness as God punishing her for some secret sin. This was certainly not the case but there were many societal expectations that created inner pain for Elisabeth.
God knows our inner pain… Sometimes our pain is so personal we can’t share it with others, or we wouldn’t even know how to share if we tried. That is where the verse in Romans 8:26 is an encouragement. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Even when we don’t feel we have a friend we can share our burden with, the Holy Spirit can help. If we ask the Holy Spirit to plead for us “according to the will of God,” that verse says He will. Jesus intercedes for us to the Father and in this verse we learn that when our heart is overwhelmed and we don’t know HOW to pray, the Holy Spirit will help make intercession for us as well.
Be assured God knows our inner pain.
2. God does not forget those who are faithful to Him.
Elisabeth and Zacharias were familiar with waiting. They were waiting on a child for decades, but most importantly they were waiting on the Messiah to come. The Bible tells us in verse 6 that Elisabeth was without blame, a “blameless” woman. She sought to follow all of the commandments and fulfill the ordinances in the law. Elizabeth is only mentioned in Luke Chapter 1 but what the Bible tells us about her, shows she comes from a lineage that is rich with spiritual history. She and Zacharias were both Levites of the House of Aaron. Elisabeth likely grew up with a wealth of knowledge of scripture and continued to build on that understanding as the wife of a priest.
Zacharias & Elisabeth, like so many people in Israel, were waiting for the day when the Messiah would be born and deliver Israel and establish His righteous reign.
What were Elisabeth & Zacharias doing at the time when they received the unexpected visit by the angel and the answer to their prayer? (vs 8) They were just doing their duties and serving the Lord. God rewards faithfulness.
Let’s learn about Zacharias’ job in the Temple: read Luke 1:8-10.
Zacharias’ job in the Temple was one that also showed how much patience that couple must have had. They were waiting on a child; waiting on the promised Messiah, and his job as a priest required a lot of waiting. Zacharias’ job was to burn incense in the Temple. Here’s what I mean by waiting…Zacharias was part of the division of Abidjan, the eighth division of 24 divisions within the priesthood. Each division was responsible for a one-week assignment at the Temple twice a year. People stood outside the Temple and prayed. Smoke that came from the incense symbolized their prayers rising to God. The burning of incense wasn’t what pleased God: it was the hearts that were trusting Him.
Read Luke 1:11-17
It was this time in the Temple when the angel Gabriel appeared face to face with Zacharias. The angel told him that he would have a child; that his prayers had been heard; that Elisabeth shall bear a son and that they should call his name John. The angel even explained details of how John should be raised and what John would be used to do to prepare the way for the Messiah. (a lot of details yet…)
I heard it said somewhere that, “Zacharias’ doubts spoke more loudly to him than the knowledge that God would fulfill His promise to send a Savior.”
Read Luke 1:18-20 Because of this, Zacharias was punished for not believing the angel and was “rendered speechless” - literally. He would not be able to speak until these things were performed.
God remembered their prayer and answered their request because God does not forget those who are faithful to Him.
3. Physical limitations do not limit God.
No doubt after decades of praying for the same thing, they grew weary. Have you prayed for the same thing for so long that your prayer for that issue seems like they have stopped being heartfelt and are more like a memorized script?
Please be encouraged by what happened to Elisabeth and her husband. When God answers our prayers, He doesn’t just give us what we want; He gives us what we need, and then some. God cares more about you than you care about yourself. No prayer of a person who is right with God will be unheard or unanswered even.
Age is no barrier to God. Remember the author of the book is Luke who was a physician. He knew as well as anyone the biological unlikeliness of Elisabeth conceiving in her old age.
So much time had passed, that biologically it was well past the season of life for Elisabeth to bear a child. God opened the womb for these faithful people because God is not limited by our physical limitations.
4. Elisabeth knew she was part of something bigger than herself.
We know that Zacharias was the one visited by the angel Gabriel. Elisabeth reacted to all of this in full faith with no doubts: unlike her husband who actually saw the angel himself.
We haven’t talked about Mary yet, but when Mary was visited by the angel and heard the news of her cousin expecting, she hurried approximately 70 miles north to see Elisabeth.
When Mary walked into their home, John the baby, leaped at the verbal greeting of Mary. John in the womb knew Mary was carrying the Messiah in her womb. I think this is one of the passages of scripture that proves just how precious babies are to God and how they are so much more than a “clump of cells.”
The moment John leaped - Elisabeth received the Holy Spirit.
Now remember, the filling of the Holy Spirit wasn’t a widespread occurrence in that time before the death of Jesus Christ and before Pentecost. Elisabeth being given the Holy Spirit signified that she had been chosen as a special woman to bring the forerunner of Christ into the world.
(Read Luke 1:44-45)
What was Elisabeth’s reaction… she didn’t just say “Hi”, she praised God. She recognized right away that her Savior was in her presence.
Imagine if God would have answered Elisabeth’s prayer for a child 40 years previous: it would have been a blessing and they would have rejoiced, but they waited and prayed and were patient. Instead of having any ordinary baby, she had the forerunner of Christ. All because God’s timing is best.
It’s like Elisabeth asked God for a baby 40 years earlier but God (silently) says to Elisabeth, “Oh, I can do so much better for you than what you are asking of me today - My plans for you are so much bigger! Just trust me!”
Elisabeth was part of something bigger than herself.
5. God can use you to strengthen others with what you learn during trials.
In those 3 months that she was with her cousin, they realized they were both in such unique situations. Elisabeth was able to be such a support for Mary. Elisabeth had years of experience of having to rightly process the social whispers about her barrenness and how some looked at her barrenness as God punishing her.
Now… Elisabeth can use that experience to help a very young Mary process what she would face when she went home with the unfounded whispers of unfaithfulness to Joseph and the doubts that this was an immaculate conception.
They both trusted completely in the angel’s promises and instructions. Mary could be emboldened by the encouragement and comfort that Elisabeth could give. They both were expecting in very unexpected ways. God opened Elisabeth’s womb at an old age which was a biological miracle, and God had a virgin to conceive, a supernatural miracle.
Similarly, whichever bumpy path your life has taken, you can invest in others to strengthen them in what you have learned along the way.
I hope through the life of Elisabeth you are encouraged that…
God knows our inner pain.
God doesn’t forget those who are faithful to Him
Physical limitations do not limit God
Elizabeth knew she was part of something bigger than herself.
God can use you to strengthen others with what you learn during trials.
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