Elisabeth: The Lord Has Taken Away My Reproach
Elisabeth: The Lord Has Taken Away My Reproach
Emptiness. Stigma. Loneliness. There is a recognizable ache in Elisabeth’s back-story in Scripture. Her life as a barren woman was difficult, yet her story ends triumphantly with a miracle. When we fear that our own painful circumstances cannot change, how can the joyous arc of this history speak to our sorrows? We, like Elisabeth, must await the revelation of God’s unseen purpose in our struggles so that we may exalt His Son Jesus Christ.
The trial that set Elisabeth apart from her social circle marked her whole life. As her childhood friends married and had children, she could not join in their shared experiences. She found herself identified by her problem. You may relate to her. Infertility, illness, special needs, mental afflictions, spiritual darkness, chronic exhaustion, ongoing loneliness, misunderstandings, differences among believers, family members’ sins — any of these may isolate you and mark you unfavorably in your community. None of these are necessarily caused by your own sin. Elisabeth and her husband, Zacharias, “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). Yet their lonely ordeal continued. Scripture records, “Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7). She and her husband had long lost hope that their heartache could end in a happy surprise.
Enduring grievous and lengthy trials directs the believer to rely on God. Job, Sarah, Moses, Hannah, David, Elijah, and even our Lord Jesus Christ — each one was singled out to unique tribulations that other believers could not enter into. In your prolonged distress, you have the same Refuge they sought. Each fled to God, whose character and promises induce us to “wait on the Lord” (Ps. 25:5, 56:4; Heb. 6:18). We must look to Him, our master who shows us mercy (Ps. 123:2), our Father who pities us (Ps. 103:13), our High Priest who prays for us (Heb. 2:17, 18), and our provider who pours out His Spirit to give us grace and strength for the day (Isa. 4:29-31, 2 Cor. 12:9). When we would faint under hardship, the Word continually directs us back to Him: “Wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
Yet the impossible happened to Elisabeth: the years of waiting ended. Though Zacharias’s unbelief and resultant muteness prevented him from speaking of the angel’s revelation, he doubtless wrote to her on his tablet of her promised pregnancy. In wonder and joy, she nurtured her unborn child in secret for five months, marveling, “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:25). In that word “thus,” she revels in the brilliance of God’s plan. Her miracle child would bring so much more than “joy and gladness” to her and her husband (Luke 1:14). God’s greater purpose was that “many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. “And he shall ... turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16, 17). Their trial — and the resolution of it — had been given that they with their son would exalt the Lamb of God.
Our struggles too always bring good to God’s kingdom. Romans 8:28 boldly declares that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” We are only able to obey the command, “In everything give thanks” (2 Thess. 5:18) when we celebrate that God, unlike us, can and will use evil for good (Gen. 50:20, Rom. 9:17, 2 Cor. 1:4). Elisabeth held to God’s promise, not seeing it fulfilled. An old woman at John’s birth, it is unlikely she lived to see John’s ministry to the Jews, his baptism of Jesus, or his early death. His life’s effect was unknown to her except by prophecy. Do you too cleave to the promise that your trials bring unknown good not only to you, but also to the wider community of “them that love God”?
Elisabeth’s life story culminates with joy in God’s goodness. When Mary arrives at her home carrying the unborn Savior, she proclaims in the Spirit, “blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). In due time, she gives birth to John, and “her neighbours and cousins ... rejoiced with her” (Luke 1:59). Elisabeth embraces by faith the identity of her son as John, the one called to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:60). You, too, can praise God for His provision for you in your reproaches and distresses (1 Cor. 12:9-10), and can joy in the unseen but sure joy of your final deliverance in Christ (Rom. 8:18-25).
Do you have the joy that Elisabeth found? Do you exalt her Redeemer? You may now be groaning under the cruel effects of the curse in your life (Rom. 8:22-23), and feel yourself to be “as a sparrow alone upon the house top” (Ps. 102:7). Yet Elisabeth’s life illustrates God’s great promise to His people: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). Hold on in hope, for that morning will come soon.
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