What is the most joyful thing you’ve ever experienced? For Elizabeth, it was the experience of finally being pregnant after a lifetime of barrenness. Sure, pregnancy is a common enough occurrence, but not for everyone. She was well past childbearing years, and yet God chose Elizabeth to be the recipient of one of the birthing miracles we read about in scripture.
However, because her story is so intertwined with the one about Mary, the details of Elizabeth’s encounters with the divine are often overshadowed. It is my passion and my calling to shine a light on the stories of biblical women who have so much to teach the whole church.
Last week’s blog post reminded us of the pain Hannah experienced in her barrenness and how her birthing of Samuel set in motion a multi-generational line of faithfulness that was part of God’s plan to pave the way for the Messiah’s birth 1,000 years later. Elizabeth’s experience is more a culmination of a long life of righteous living before God.
Luke 1 is the only place in scripture where we read about Elizabeth, yet her influence is evident in the life of her son, John the Baptist, and in Mary of Nazareth. I encourage you to read Luke 1 for yourself to get the full story, and so you can put into context the details I want to emphasize here.
Hasty travel brings prophetic joy
As soon as Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was going to have baby Jesus and that her older relative Elizabeth was also miraculously pregnant, Mary “went with haste” to Elizabeth’s house (see Luke 1:39). In my mind, this shows that Mary chose Elizabeth to be the first person with whom she would share her news. I also believe it implies that Elizabeth and Mary had a strong, loving bond, that Mary knew Elizabeth would receive her with open arms.
Then the scripture provides the familiar detail about Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary’s arrival, yet have we truly grasped the full meaning of it? Here are some of the things God chose a woman–specifically Elizabeth–to be the FIRST to experience:
- Mary’s greeting when she arrived at Elizabeth’s caused the baby in Elizabeth to leap, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is the first person in the New Testament to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- In addition to the miraculous pregnancies both these women are experiencing, Elizabeth is also given prophetic knowledge about Mary’s pregnancy–the first person in scripture to know about it (other than Mary herself), to confirm it verbally to Mary, and to rejoice with Mary about it. Can you even imagine the utter joy in that moment? I can just hear the squeals of glee, can’t you?
- This makes Elizabeth the first person to speak a prophetic word in the New Testament–and it was the joyful news about something only women can do: give birth! (Note: it wasn’t Elizabeth’s priest husband, Zechariah, and it wasn’t Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, who were the ones to confirm Mary’s pregnancy!)
I encourage you to consider what these “firsts” say about what God can choose women to do.
A number of mentoring lessons are revealed in Elizabeth’s “loud” statement as well:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
- The older Elizabeth verbally acknowledges God’s work in the younger Mary’s life.
- The older Elizabeth humbly receives the presence of the divine brought to them by the younger Mary.
- The older Elizabeth listened to the younger Mary and experienced a unique inner joy.
- The older Elizabeth confirmed the younger Mary’s experience of hearing a specific message from God, affirmed Mary’s belief in God’s plan, and reaffirmed her own relationship to God.
When God wants to communicate a first-time, joy-filled message (even prophetic), sometimes the best choice is a woman’s voice!
And for the answer to my own original question, see the comments below. Please add your answer to “What’s the most joyful thing you’ve ever experienced?”