Picture with me if you will, living in a society where your value comes not from anything intrinsic but instead solely from what your culture tells you you were born to do. And then not being able to do that very thing. In the society of the time, a woman’s single responsibility and purpose was viewed as producing as many offspring (especially male offspring) as she possibly could to continue on their husband’s family line. Elizabeth was an elderly woman by the time her story makes it into the pages of the Gospel.
Luke 1:5-25 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Luke 1:39-45 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
It is likely that Elizabeth had long since lost any sense of value in the eyes of her culture. Once it was found out she and Zechariah could not conceive, they would have been looked at as outcasts, as if they had some sin in their life that was keeping them from being blessed with child. No one expected this outcome, least of all Zechariah and Elizabeth. We can almost tangibly feel Zechariah grappling with the news, if things had gone their way they would perhaps even be great grandparents by this time, but that dream had been given up long ago. And then, just like that an angel appears and tells them they are to be parents. A baby! The very blessing the had waited and waited for. Theirs. Its nothing short of absurd, and completely miraculous!
The beautiful reminder for us all in this story is that God never looked down upon Elizabeth for not being able to give Zechariah a son, a child. He knew all along what His plan was for this family. He had held them close through the rejection of others, He remained faithful through their own pain and misunderstanding. Just as God did this for Elizabeth, He does it for all of us. We have value in the sight of the Lord because we are His Imageo Deo, Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We’ve been created in His very image. Our value comes from nothing more.