Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in the hill country of Judea. They were obedient and faithful, from the well-respected line of Aaron. Zechariah would leave whenever it was time for his priestly division to maintain the temple. Elizabeth was barren and “well along in years.” This was a disgrace in the culture. I can imagine how lonely it might have been for Elizabeth, especially when Zechariah was away.
After one particular time away on duty, Zechariah returns, and he can’t speak. Through words and signs, Zechariah must have told Elizabeth what had happened. An angel named Gabriel said that they would have a son. That this son was to not drink wine or fermented drink, for he would be set apart by God. That his name would be John.
Then, Elizabeth is pregnant. It says in Luke 1:24 that she remained in seclusion for five months, but it doesn’t say why. I have a theory which I will share at the end. But in the sixth month, Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, shows up. As she enters the house, Elizabeth feels her baby leap in her stomach, and the Holy Spirit fills her up and she exclaims words of encouragement to Mary, including one of my favorite passages, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary probably shared with Elizabeth her own visit with the angel Gabriel and how the angel used the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy to encourage Mary, the reason she was there. Mary stays with Elizabeth for three more months and then heads home.
And then Elizabeth’s water breaks, the whole town now finds out about her pregnancy and share in her excitement and joy. That is until it is circumcision day and Elizabeth wants to name the child John. They argue that the baby should be named after his father to continue his legacy. Elizabeth had a miracle baby, for sure, and there was no guarantee the miracle would repeat itself. This was their one chance, so naming him after legacy made sense. But Elizabeth stuck to her guns, and when Zechariah backed her up and started speaking, it quieted the judgmental comments.
No matter what her situation was, she was humble and obedient and faithful to God. She gave her son the name that was meant for him. She encouraged Mary who was young and a virgin and already pregnant. She looked beyond her own circumstances to the lives of others.
So about the seclusion for five months before Mary came to visit. It doesn’t say why, but my own speculation is that she took that time to ready herself. Just as it is important to be encouraging to others, it’s also important to take the time to process. Staying obedient and faithful doesn’t mean you don’t take care of yourself. Sometimes that means taking a step back, slowing down, and spending alone time with God. And that time isn’t supposed to be forever. Eventually, opportunities to speak truth into others’ lives will come knocking (literally, cross the threshold for Elizabeth). And we have the Holy Spirit to help us speak that truth.
Thank you for walking through this study with me. I’ve appreciated all the comments and encouragement. I have definitely felt refreshed after hearing the stories of these amazing women. I thank God that these stories were included in the Bible. It’s amazing how the stories of women who have walked similar journeys can make such a positive impact on my own life. And I continue to hope that my own story will glorify God and help others in a similar way.