We are now going to move our focus briefly away from Zechariah and take a look at his wife Elizabeth. In light of Mary, Elizabeth is one character of the Christmas story that is often overlooked. But we’re going to change that today. We’re going to take a close look at Elizabeth and her story, and see what lessons and insights we can gain from this righteous woman.
Elizabeth was a direct descendant of Aaron, and we are told by Luke that she was a righteous woman who was afflicted with barrenness—a great grief and burden for her to bear. At the time of Zechariah’s entry into the Holy Place at the Temple, Elizabeth was beyond the age of child-bearing and had resigned herself to her fate. However, all this was about to change.
Not only did Elizabeth miraculously become pregnant, but she had a Spirit-filled pregnancy. Why? Because as the angel Gabriel said, the child she was carrying was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb.
“For he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink,
and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
But what did a Holy Spirit-filled pregnancy look like? Well, we’re given one example later on in Luke 1 when Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin, comes for a visit.
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’”
While we often focus on Mary during this passage, let’s ask ourselves a few questions about Elizabeth. How did she know that Mary was carrying the Savior of the world? Mary might not have even been showing yet as she was early on in her pregnancy. And even if it was obvious that Mary was pregnant, how did Elizabeth know that this child was no ordinary baby? How can an unborn baby leaping in the womb give Elizabeth any indication of the miracle that was taking place inside of Mary?
We know from Gabriel’s words that Elizabeth’s child was filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb. However, Elizabeth also needed the spiritual discernment to listen to and understand when the Holy Spirit moved through her unborn child. The baby’s leap for joy could have been just a normal movement, but Elizabeth knew otherwise. She was attentive and watchful for the Holy Spirit’s moving and because she herself was filled with the Holy Spirit, she boldly proclaimed Mary’s special calling.
Now remember that all these events took place before the official giving of the Holy Spirit. While this powerful third member of the Trinity was at work throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit wasn’t officially poured out until Pentecost. So I find the testimony and experiences of Elizabeth fascinating. She was a righteous woman who, unlike her husband, listened to the voice of God and was attentive to the subtle workings of His Spirit. And because of all this, she was in the proper spiritual place to encourage, disciple, mentor, and rejoice with Mary—the bearer of God’s greatest Gift.
So in the rest of this Christmas season and the coming New Year, will we be like Elizabeth: righteous, spiritually discerning, and attentive to the Holy Spirit? Will we be humble vessels through which the Holy Spirit can work to bless and encourage others?
We need more Elizabeths--those who have the spiritual maturity and discernment to come alongside and encourage, mentor, and help those whom God has called to fulfill difficult and daunting assignments. I don’t know how Mary’s outlook and faith might have been shaken if Elizabeth had not been attentive to the Holy Spirit and knew the awesome Gift growing in Mary’s womb. Mary could have lost hope, she could have fallen into despair. But because of Elizabeth’s faith and discerning heart, Mary was encouraged, lifted up, and equipped with what she needed to walk the lonely, difficult path placed in front of her.
Likewise, what will our future spiritual leaders, pastors, and world changers be like, if there isn’t someone to come alongside and have the spiritual insight to see what God has called them to and encourage them along the way?
May we be Elizabeths to the Marys in our lives, so that together we may accomplish great things for God’s glory!
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