Elizabeth was childless in a time and culture that measured a woman’s value by her fertility. Barrenness was a disgrace and grounds for divorce because having an heir was imperative. Elizabeth didn’t deserve barrenness. It wasn’t fair. The Bible is clear in Luke 1:6…
They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. (Luke 1:6, CEB)
The Old Testament Scriptures consistently equated obedience with fertility, productivity, and blessing. Elizabeth’s infertility seems not only unfair, but unjust as well. There was an apparent discrepancy between what God promised and what God delivered.
12 If you listen to these case laws and follow them carefully, the Lord your God will keep the covenant and display the loyalty that he promised your ancestors.
13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will bless the fruit of your wombs and the fruit of your fertile land—all your grain, your wine, your oil, and the offspring of your cattle and flocks—upon the very fertile land that he swore to your ancestors to give to you.
14 You will be more blessed than any other group of people. No one will be sterile or infertile—not among you or your animals. (Deuteronomy 7:12-14, CEB)
Elizabeth felt the disgrace. It wasn’t any better for Zechariah. Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel was a watershed moment that radically altered the course of his life and dramatically impacted everyone in it.
They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. (Luke 1:7, CEB)
Elizabeth’s story does not end in pain and deprivation. It ends in joy and delight. God intervened. Their faith was rewarded. Against all odds and despite the obvious reality of their lives, Elizabeth became pregnant.
24 Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, 25 “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.” (Luke 1:24-25, CEB)
When Mary came to visit, Elizabeth counted her blessings.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. 43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43, CEB)
Her questioning, “Why has this happened to me?’ now comes from a place of gratitude. Instead of being an old married couple, she and Zechariah were parents. But the biggest change was to their inward condition, not their outward circumstances. They underwent a revolution of perspective, priority, and purpose only God’s grace could bring.
(Adapted from Five Questions of Christmas, pp. 73-76, 84, 86)
When has the Lord surprised you?
What was your response?
How can you show gratitude this week?