As she looked down at her strong young son, Elizabeth's thoughts went back to the events of the last few months.
Mary had stayed with her until John was delivered, and then gone back to her home. How they three had rejoiced! Over and over they had said to each other, "God keeps His word!" He had kept "His end of the bargain" for sure. And a baby boy was cause for rejoicing at any time, but to these older parents, especially, it certainly was a joyful occasion.
Shortly after that, on the eighth day since the babe was born, he was circumcised and named -- oh, what a commotion that caused! Elizabeth smiled, recalling the events. The priest from the nearby synagogue and all the neighbors had come up the hill, crowding into the house and laughing, celebrating. They clapped Zechariah on the back and congratulated him, and peered at the precious bundle that Elizabeth held in her arms.
When the ceremony was over, and they asked what name to record, everyone assumed the child would be named for his father, Zechariah. A hush fell over the people assembled there, when Zechariah shook his head "no" and began to write. They murmured in astonishment when Elizabeth, even before her husband finished writing, told the priest, "No, his name will be John -- Zechariah will tell you." Sure enough, they looked at the tablet and saw that she was right! He had written that the child would be named John, meaning "Jehovah's gift."
At that moment, God loosed Zechariah from his silence, and he began to rejoice and praise God. Did he talk about how great a dad he would be? Nope. Did he whine about how long it took for them to receive the blessing of a child? Nope. His words were not about what a miracle it was for this child to be born to aging parents. He wasn't all excited about the fact that now, after nine months he could say, "I told you so." He was totally engrossed in telling about the goodness and faithfulness of the great I AM! He prophesied of the Christ, and of John's role:
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to
his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation
for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy
prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand
of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember
his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue
us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without
fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you
will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people
the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because
of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us
from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of
death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:68-79)
At the proper time.
Just when it was needed, he regained his speech.
Just when it was time, John was born, and Luke tells us that he grew and became strong in spirit, and then lived in the wilderness until it was time to "prepare the way of the Lord."
Biblical scholars tell us that there is a gap of about 400 years between the final page of our Old Testament, and the book of Matthew. For 400 years the Hebrew people did not receive messages from God, through His prophets. God was silent.
No prophet was saying, "Thus saith the Lord." Or unfurling a scroll and telling what the Lord had told him.
Just 400 years of stillness.
In that time, six different flags had been flown over the Hebrew nation. There were six different occupying governments, and some of them were benevolent; some were not. God was working behind the scenes, and was leading all of these events and governments. He was preparing the world for Jesus to come.
Did you know that Alexander the Great united the entire world with a language for trade? It was "koine" Greek. Koine means "common" meaning that the dialect was shared by many, in many regions. The historians tell us that the language preceded and then coincided with the Roman language, Latin, and was used and understood in all walks of life.
So when the message of Christ was to be preached and written down, it would be in a language that everyone could understand!
What are the Romans known for? Among their many accomplishments are the amazing roads that we can still see remnants of, today. God used the Romans to make pathways, allowing the gospel to be spread all across the civilized world!
And then, when the timing was right, they heard the "voice of one crying in the wilderness -- Prepare the way of the Lord!"
So what should we take away from our study of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist?
First, God always keeps His promises!
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will
rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like
calves released from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a
Branch shall grow out of his roots: (Isaiah 11:1)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin
will conceive, and bear a son, and will call his name Immanuel.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (I Timothy 1:15)
Secondly, we serve a creator who shapes and knows every child in the womb!
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my
mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonder-
fully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My
frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes
saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written
in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)
Thirdly, Elizabeth leaves us a legacy of prayer:
Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her
will be accomplished! (Luke 1:45)
Oh, hand me that box of bandaids . . . in the light of the first two applications, this third one really hits home. He keeps His promises; He knows me, has known me since I was in my mother's womb; how can I not truly believe that He will accomplish all that He has said?
But sometimes I don't. Sometimes I have a "Zechariah moment."
Lord, please strengthen me; I know in my heart that you will accomplish all you have said. My head sometimes gets in the way and I start wondering "how?"
But that's not my department. (Grin)
It's yours, Lord. And I will trust you to keep your promises!