Exploring the Extras, pt. 2

She may be mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible, but she’s an extra in the Christmas story that can’t be forgotten. Her name means “God is my oath,” and her life reveals just how reliable and merciful God is. After all, she too gave birth to a miracle baby just a few months before her cousin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Elizabeth’s story paints a beautiful portrait of God’s love and faithfulness.

BARREN YET BLAMELESS

The brief introduction to both Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-7 highlights the elderly couple’s age, priestly lineage (on both sides of the family interestingly), upright living, and childlessness. As I pointed out (in the last post) Zechariah’s faithfulness irregardless of the presence or absence of blessings he deeply longed for, the same can be said of Elizabeth. Though barren til her old age, Elizabeth was a woman of faith and faithful living. That’s not because it was expected of her as a priest’s wife. When you read Luke 1 with your eye on Elizabeth, it’s easy to discern an admirable steadfastness of faith that appears stronger and more exemplary than her husband’s. Through many years of disappointment, Elizabeth carried on a life of obedience to and trust in God because she was confident that God was carrying her:

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4, NKJV

He has DONE THIS FOR ME

Nearly five months into her miraculous pregnancy, Elizabeth reflects on all that’s happening in her and expresses something deeply profound about the way God’s grace works:

“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Luke 1:25, NIV

Do you hear what she’s saying? When mentally processing this divine intervention — a miracle baby who would go on before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) — she undoubtedly has a grasp of what this means for the hope of Israel and all of humanity. Yet in Luke 1:25, the awe-filled conclusion she whispers to no audience in particular is not about what the Lord has done for the nation or for the human race, but what the Lord has done for me.

Elizabeth is overwhelmed by the individual attention of God’s shame-taking, heartbreak-HEALING grace and favor.

I wonder how often we give ourselves the chance to think along the same lines Elizabeth does. Yes, we know that God so loved the world (Jn. 3:16), and that is surely nothing to sneeze at! The love of God that moved Him to give Himself through His Son is so expansive and immense that it reaches beyond this globe and includes the entire “cosmos” (the literal Greek word for “world” in Jn. 3:16). But while we know that God so loved the world, do we give ourselves time to remember that God loves me? To come to grips with the humbling reality that I’m not just a number in a sea of faces to God, that He knows me, loves me, and gives me personal, individual attention? When David was overcome with this very thought, he expressed his response in question form:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?

Psalm 8:3-4, NLT

Some of us need to hear this more than we give ourselves permission to — that God actually loves lil’ ol’ me individually, that He has special grace and blessing to pour out not just upon all people but upon me personally. I think that’s why David actually prayed to hear that kind of love every morning (Ps. 143:8).  Maybe we fear being selfish in prayer, not wanting to just seek God’s love for ourselves. And while that may be humble and modest, it can come at the cost of not availing ourselves of how personal God is to us.  I think Elizabeth’s story gives us permission to pray for God to do things “for me.” And at the same time, it reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised when the very things we pray for personally have saving impact in others’ lives beyond our own experience.

EMPTY NO MORE

Though the Elizabeth’s introduction in Luke 1:5-7 highlights her barrenness, the end of her story in Luke’s narrative emphasizes her fullness. In 1:41 she’s “filled with the Holy Spirit.” And as she’s interacting with her now pregnant cousin Mary, it’s obvious that she’s filled with faith and belief. The fact that Elizabeth addresses Mary as "the mother of my Lord” (Lk. 1:45) indicates that she is one of the first to confess belief in Jesus not only as the Messiah for Israel but as her very own Lord.

And to top it all of, the once barren Elizabeth is now filled with joy, a joy that can’t be kept to herself, a joy that overflows to those around her.  She’s so full of joy that even the baby in her womb shares her joy (Lk. 1:44). And when that baby is born, Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives share her joy (Lk. 1:58).

Have you experienced a season of life that has felt barren, dry, and empty? Elizabeth’s story reminds us that no matter how long of stretches have felt that way that doesn’t have to be the end of our story. God is the One who pours water on him who is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground (Isa. 44:3). He’s the One who turns our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11). Rest in the promise and power of God to fill your emptiness today. Lean upon the love of God that is willing to do these things not just for the world at large, but for you and me personally.