Not many would remember the mother of the bridegroom’s friend, but she was a remarkable woman.
Elderly descendant of Aaron, she had passed her prime and – although she still prayed the prayer of a woman who longed to hear the pitter-patter of little feet under her roof – medical wisdom suggested that prayer was pointless.
Elizabeth lived with her beloved Zacharias in a city of Judaea, in the hills away from the hubbub of city life, and I often wonder if she was safe – even there – from the insensitivity of inquisitive church folk. The ones who would have the temerity to ask how long it was going to take them to have a little one. The well-meaning temple crowd who would eventually wonder aloud if her miracle child would be the only one, because “bird nuh fly pon one wing” (No bird flies on one wing).
Dare I hope she enjoyed a reprieve over there in the hill country?
I know a little something about navigating a rural temple crowd with an unfavourable medical pronouncement looming large overhead. I have met Sabbath-keepers who were more curious about my uterus than they were about worship, and it may be that the suspense associated with the unknown provided excitement in an otherwise boring rural existence.
You never know.
Elizabeth would have endured her fair share of barbs and condescending gazes, so Gabriel’s pronouncement – to this couple, “stricken in years“ – was embraced as rain in due season. Zacharias, now temporarily speechless, would have had to share his experience in writing, but oh, what rejoicing! What thanksgiving!
Luke describes the couple as righteous and blameless, but in a society where childlessness was viewed by many as a withholding of Divine blessing, you can rest assured that there were some in that temple crowd who gave the godly priest and his wife the side-eye. In my mind, Elizabeth navigated that Sabbath minefield with grace, encouraging young mothers and instructing young worshippers to focus on the prophecies of the Deliverer to come. Biologically, childless though she was, none could deny the fact that she was a mother in Israel.
When you appear to lack blessings that others think you ought to have, expect the mixed multitude of the temple crowd to question your faithfulness, but never be fazed by the minefield. The God of Elizabeth still lives and He knows the way through.
Walk with grace.
In the grand sweep of Biblical events, Elizabeth’s story is a speck oft-forgotten, but I marvel at her fortitude. We meet her in Luke 1 as an old woman who has a settled faith in the Almighty God, but we are not privy to the events of her childhood or adolescent years. Nevertheless, in the brief moment that she appears, her impact is profound.
We are privileged to witness her hospitality, humility and unquestioning submission to God’s will, but meek though she was, Elizabeth was no pushover. As her final act in the account, we see her standing up to the elders and declaring, with a holy boldness born of faith in God’s Word: “Not so; but he shall be called John.“
When we have God’s clear word on the way forward, nothing and no one should be allowed to interfere. And if you need an Exhibit A to show you what that looks like, Elizabeth has you covered.
As I look forward to the 42nd anniversary of my entrance into the world (a blessing of years), and remember my own miracle pregnancy in the face of adverse medical pronouncements, Elizabeth’s story resonates with my spirit.
I cannot claim to have her grace, but I am privileged to know her Redeemer. I am confident that He will finish His work in me as He gives me the strength to endure the crucible in which fireproof faith is developed.
The opinionated mixed multitude of the temple crowd exists in every age, but the God of Elizabeth still upholds His daughters (and sons) who seek His face today.
Step forward in faith and walk with grace. The Almighty God knows the way through the minefield, so purpose in your heart to follow hard on His heels – though the heavens fall.
Be ever so abundantly blessed.