Luke 1:7, 23-25, 39-45, 57-60
Pastor David Frampton & daughter, Sarah Frampton
Almost everyone has one unpleasant twist in his or her life; some people have a few. These are the circumstances that make us say, “If only such and such were not true or had not happened, how different my life would be!” Yet it has been said, God can use crooked sticks to draw straight lines, and he often overcomes what is unpleasant or tragic to show his greater glory and to lead his people to true joy. (cf. Romans 8:28) Human extremity is God’s opportunity, but how do we react in such times?
In the first chapter of Luke we have an outstanding example in Elizabeth. In the midst of questions and years of wondering, we see Elizabeth wait patiently. (1:7, 23-25) She was a barren wife. Being barren was a great burden for her (cf. Gen 30:1; 1 Sm 1:10). Elizabeth probably wondered why God wasn’t blessing her, since both she and her husband were of high spiritual character (1:6). We can imagine that they read scripture passages such as Deut 7:14; Ps 113:9; and 127:3-5 with difficulty. This difficulty no doubt grew harder as they reached the point when the waiting had slowly turned from mere waiting into an unfulfilled dream after they were “well along in years”.
One of the most trying spiritual obstacles to surmount is the experience of seeing the events of your life going contrary to God’s promises. Such hurdles and hardships can make the most faithful soul ask, “If God loves me, why is he doing this?” The only answer is, “Keep on trusting God and wait for his time.”
The barren wife is a theme in the Old Testament Scriptures. Think of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and the wife of Manoah. God withheld children from a number of women until his time arrived—the time to display his power in the face of human hopelessness.
In each and every one of these cases God’s will involved a severe test for the women. Unlike our society in which some women coldly eliminate their unborn children, most women in the past accepted their reproductive role and longed to bear children. What a stark contrast it is compared to the common thought of today.
Here, amid the barrenness, the questions and painful waiting that seems to never end, is where we see God stepping into Elizabeth’s life. Here is an answer to prayer and at the same time a fulfillment of God’s will. He does hear. He does answer. God’s sovereignty and the faithful prayers of God’s people work together to fulfill God’s will. Yes, he is the Creator, the Author of Life, but do not pray less or pray without truly having faith that he will answer. We have this hope, this confidence, that he does hear and that he uses those prayers in accordance to his perfect will. People who believe in the sovereign God pray. They pray with faith that our God who is in control can do marvelous, miraculous things. He is able and he works out his wise plan.
Elizabeth recognizes God’s favor to her. God works in history to bring about his purpose, and she clearly and acutely sees God’s hand in the reality of her pregnancy. She praises God for his work in her life. Now take a moment and think: Has God stepped into your life? What has he done in you that is clearly supernatural? If you can’t think of something off of the top of your head, here is one, remarkable thing to ponder: Every Christian can say, “God has given me new birth; he has regenerated me.” That alone is a miracle. He transforms you! He forgives you! You are alive in him! Now is a good time to stop and recognize God’s favor to you. Trace your blessings back to God.
Next we notice that Elizabeth “sings” (1:39-45). Traditionally, this has been called her song, though the text does not say that she sung a note. But the texts of each “song” in Luke have enriched Christian music over the years.
Mary visits Elizabeth. It is very natural that Mary would take the hint of Gabriel to visit Elizabeth, since she also had a miraculous pregnancy. Here alone would Mary find a woman to whom she could talk and who would be sympathetic to her story. People of faith need each other, because knowing God makes us look at life and our own selves differently from the people of the world. We have experienced God’s supernatural power in us. We know him who is invisible. Only other believers can grasp this. We need people of faith to share our lives with us.
Then suddenly there is an unexpected event! Elizabeth senses a response of her unborn son when Mary greets her – he jumps in her womb. I have no way of explaining what Elizabeth describes. How exactly this happened is shrouded in mystery. In some way God was giving a sign to Elizabeth and Mary. But beyond that God does something more. He fills Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit so that she might speak boldly for God.
She honors Mary for her place in God’s plan. The Spirit gave her astounding knowledge of what is happening—that Mary is pregnant, and that the child Mary carries is Elizabeth’s Lord. Clearly, Elizabeth has been given insight from the Lord to understand what many others will not when they see Jesus Christ alive as an adult man. Notice also that Elizabeth calls what Mary has in her womb at a very early stage in her pregnancy “my Lord”. The baby is the Messiah (cf. Ps 110:1; and cf. Mk 12:36).
She expresses her humility – (cf. Mi 6:8). Elizabeth has no jealousy that Mary has received greater honor than she had. Jealousy would have darkened her heart, but her humility opens the gates of joy for her. She “who is sincerely humble finds richness of life and happiness. All believers should have the same attitude.” [Geldenhuys, Commentary on Luke]
She blesses Mary for her belief in the word of the Lord. We should observe the contrast between Mary and Zechariah. God sent the same angelic messenger to them with his word, but Mary exercises faith and Zechariah does not, and so Mary is blessed, while Zechariah was disciplined.
Let us face our greater responsibility. We have received the completed word of God in written form. Are we responding with faith when we hear God’s word to us? Teens and children, do you listen to God’s word when your parents read it to you? Do you then respond in faith and change your life to conform to God’s word? Adults, are you by faith living according to God’s word?
After all these things Elizabeth rejoices (1:57-60). God’s promise to her is fulfilled. She bears a son. Think what change God had caused in a year! Elizabeth and her husband had been childless and sad, but now they have a son, and can look forward to the greatness that God has promised him (1:14-17). Now she is able to rejoice with her family and friends (cf. Rm 12:15), because the Lord had shown her great mercy. Notice the God-centeredness of the event. The scripture tells that her even neighbors and relatives viewed the event as being God’s great mercy. This is seeing the good hand of God in the events of our life.
Elizabeth expresses her faith. She is pressured to name her son after his father at the time of his circumcision, for this was the custom of their time. Oh how trials still come upon us in this world, even during times of the highest joy! When it comes time to name the child, Elizabeth firmly stands for the name that God declared, “John”, whose very name speaks the gift of God’s grace.
After this Elizabeth fades from view. She is not mentioned again in the Bible. But her testimony of joy and faith remain. Women, are you creating the kind of testimony that Elizabeth left behind? Men, are you supporting your wife spiritually? Do you have a painful circumstance that you must wait on God for? Is there something that you need to speak up for God about? Put your trust in God, as Elizabeth did. Know that he will be with you in each and every situation. Remember that God is in control and that he can do much more than you could ever ask or imagine, just as he did for Elizabeth.