Friday, December 6, 2013

Lessons Learned in Elizabeth's Sandals


In over 500 years God had not moved or stirred among His chosen people. He made His plan known to Zechariah first, a man. While Zechariah had prayed and prayed for a son as well as the coming of the Messiah, I wonder why he didn’t believe when things started happening. Humility? Skepticism? Lack of faith? Regardless, God’s plan was God’s plan, and He set it into motion on His time.

The women reacted differently. Elizabeth was the first person to experience being filled with the Holy Spirit and uttering words only the Spirit could give. Mary, while in her young mind couldn’t understand the “how,” her heart was that of a servant and trusted God to work it out.

To know that God cared about Elizabeth’s shame, to know that He was going to bless her beyond her wildest dreams but couldn’t give it to her when she wanted it most, to know that God was working it out for her good even after decades of wishing and hoping and praying, Elizabeth story resonates with so many. Trust in God and faith are partners. You can’t have one without the other. And to see her character as described as having lived “honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways to the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God,” sets a high standard for those who are living in disappointment that God hasn’t answered their prayers the way we think is best.

Even in Elizabeth’s excitement of being pregnant, she was also humbled that the mother of the Messiah had come to visit her. She wasn’t jealous. We don’t read that she envied Mary in her heart. That’s not the kind of woman Elizabeth was. If she had been that kind of woman, God might not have chosen her. How often do we miss the full joy of a blessing because we see what someone else received and decide theirs is better? It’s childish and immature. Elizabeth knew that God had a special calling for John. She might not have known that he would eat locust and honey and be covered with camel’s hair, but if God was faithful to give her this son, He would be faithful to lead her son.

Elizabeth and John were set apart. They did not drink anything from the vine. Some have said that he may have been a Nazarite which is a person consecrated to God who cannot eat anything non-kosher, touch anything dead, cut their hair or drink anything from the vine. This is not documented in the Scripture that I could find. But they were set apart nonetheless.

She chose to remain in seclusion for the first five months of her pregnancy. Some have speculated that she stayed hidden in case she miscarried. Her shame would have been replaced by pity. Some have said she stayed hidden because of the stigma and embarrassment that might have been attached to a late-in-life pregnancy. I have lived in fear that God would take the child He had given me, but I don’t see that fear in Elizabeth. The second option may be more viable, but what if there is a third option? Elizabeth knew this was ordained from God. She knew that God hadn’t moved or spoken to His people in about 500 years. I think she knew there would be a lot of questions, excitement and concern wondering what it all means. What if she stayed removed from society because she wanted that time for herself to enjoy the pregnancy and to enjoy God’s blessing? She was resting up for the excitement to come. It’s something that I’d like to ask her when I see her in heaven.

Think of her testimony. Her neighbors watched Elizabeth live out her faith when it appeared that God wasn’t listening. Her marriage survived 9 months and a few days of silence. God surprised her with a pregnancy when she was past the age of fertility. Her neighbors watched her testimony bloom as God showed his overwhelming mercy on her giving her a healthy son who was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God removed her shame and blessed her for her faithfulness. How liberating that must have been. God never forgot about her. He wasn’t surprised when she struggled, and don’t you know that God thoroughly enjoyed blessing her with a baby.  James 1:17, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. I think God enjoys surprising us with good and perfect gifts because that is just the kind of God He is. Sometimes we just have to wait for it making the gift that much sweeter.

There are people watching you: your children, your friends, your coworkers, your classmate, your relatives, your spouse. What do you actions, your words, your belief or lack of belief tell them about God? You are a living, breathing testimony either for God or against Him. Which are you? Elizabeth leaves big sandals behind to fill in this area. Can you wear them?


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