He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth. —Luke 1:14 NIV
Imagine what must it have been like to live in an age when childlessness meant you were judged by many as a sinful woman. A time when having a fulfilling career in something other than motherhood was not an option. A time when every woman was a stay-at-home mother, and everywhere you went were babies, toddlers, and expectant mothers swarming about? It must have been brutally hard for the childless woman.
For a few brief years, I experienced the ache of longing for children. Even in our culture, it was hard. I remember the baby shower I had to leave because I could not stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. How was that fair to the mother-to-be if I stayed and cried? Oh, how my heart aches for dear Elizabeth, eventual mother of John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah.
Luke states very clearly in his story of Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, that she was “ … upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6 NIV 1984). In other words, this was not Elizabeth’s fault. At all. (Of course it wasn’t, but in Luke’s time that needed to be said.) All her life—and she and Zechariah were “well along in years” (vs. 7)—this dear woman dutifully served God. And somehow managed to carry on despite her hurts and wounds and her barren womb.
In light of this, imagine her shock and joy to find out she was pregnant, just as an angel had predicted. What?! Luke tells us she stayed in seclusion for five months of her pregnancy. I wonder why? Was it simply because she wanted to treasure every single amazing moment of an experience she never ever thought would happen? Every baby is special. However, a baby born after long years of yearning is a birth and a pregnancy filled with awe and wonder and every little detail makes a memory. Oh, Elizabeth! I’m so happy your story had such a surprise ending!
Check this verse out: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth” (vs. 14). Not only did Elizabeth enjoy the privilege of being a mom, she was told in advance he’d be a good kid. He’d bring her joy! Now that’s a deal most of us would dearly love, since just having a child doesn’t necessarily guarantee that life will flow in uninterrupted bliss. Right? But John was a joy and a delight. He kicked it off (pun intended) in the womb, when he “leaped for joy” at Elizabeth’s first sight of Mary, also a stunned mother at another end of the age spectrum, who was carrying Jesus, Savior of the world (vs. 44).
I have no idea how long Elizabeth and Zechariah lived after the birth of their dear son. Were they still alive when he began his ministry and wandered off to the desert to begin heralding the coming Savior? Surely they were not alive when an evil king beheaded their dear son. I do hope they had the full joy of raising their son to adulthood and seeing him launched in ministry, serving God with every fiber of his being. And then I hope God graciously took them home to Him before the hard part of John’s death.
In either case, there was joy. Oh, let’s not ever give up in despair as long as we are alive. Let’s take a lesson from Elizabeth. Let’s lead good lives, serving the God who loves us and whose plans are beyond our understanding. And let’s remember that life doesn’t stop when we are older. Nope. God may just surprise us with something big and joyful in our nineties. Now that’s a fun-filled joy-thought to hold onto today!
Heavenly Father, be near to those who long for children. Comfort and sustain them and bless them as they wait. Help them to fully live out Your good plans for their lives. And thank You, Lord, for Elizabeth’s “joy story.” How I thank You that life with You is a blessed adventure, no matter our age. I bow my head in worship. Amen.
Originally written by Sharon Gamble of Sweet Selah Ministries.