I don’t know about you, but I find myself asking God for favors all the time. When I’m late; “Please Jesus, green lights all the way?” When I didn’t go to bed on time; “Jesus, infuse me with supernatural energy.” When I drop my phone in the toilet; “Jesus, please can you just make sure the Cloud has all my texts and contacts?” These crises seem trivial if we compare them to worldwide tragedy, but the measure of need doesn’t change the fact that we are hard-wired to call out to God when we feel incapable of handling a situation or feel like the hand life is dealing us is unfair.
In the weeks before Christmas, I found myself reflecting on the people who were around during the time of Jesus’ birth. In a previous post, I talked about Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, and this week I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth, his wife. Luke says she was “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6). Even though she served the Lord and her husband was a priest, she felt overlooked and rejected by God because she was never given a child. For women of that day, children were a source of happiness, purpose and fulfillment. Society deemed women who could not conceive as shameful to themselves and their family.
I wonder how many times she begged God for one simple favor – just..one..child. I wonder how many times she bargained and pleaded, “God, my husband and I have served and loved you faithfully. Why won’t you remove this plague of barrenness from my life?”
And then one day…. Zechariah came home unable to talk. I wonder how he delivered the news to her? I wonder how many times they “got busy” before she conceived? And, oh how I wish I could’ve seen her dance and hear her scream, “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown me his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people”(Luke 1:25). Thank goodness someone had some lungs that worked!
Elizabeth spent her pregnancy in seclusion (as an expression of joyfulness and gratitude to God), but scripture tells us about one special visitor. Mary, the mother of Jesus, came to see her relatives Elizabeth and Zachariah. The minute Mary walked in, Elizabeth, full of the Holy Spirit, exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But, why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said will be accomplished” (Luke 1:42-45).
Why was Elizabeth so favored to have a visit from Mary? Because she was the perfect person to receive and love on Mary in her situation. Mary was a young, unmarried, pregnant woman in a society where she could be stoned for such an offense. Elizabeth had endured the scorn and criticism of other’s judgment for years, and who’s to say the criticism had ceased? Who’s to say people didn’t snicker saying, “Now she will have a child when she’s too old and feeble to care for him?”
Elizabeth was the perfect person to love on Jesus’ mother because she had eyes to see beyond Mary’s circumstance and discover her calling. She knew how to love someone who felt disgraced, shamed, rejected and misunderstood. Elizabeth could rejoice when Mary felt like rejoicing, but also empathize and speak words of faith when Mary’s heart felt conflicted and confused.
When I ask my kids, “Will you do me a favor?”, I have a very clear idea of what I want them to do for me. But when God shines his favor on us, it may not look like a blessing until we view his plan retrospectively. Elizabeth was always favored by God, but perhaps it took Mary’s visit for her to truly comprehend the enormous purpose God would produce from her previous suffering.
author | speaker | teacher at Redeemed Girl Institute 2016