Elizabeth – Her name means “oath of God”, yet she lived her life with a promise unkept. She was barren and now old. Where were the promised children for the righteous? Luke 1:36 tells us that Elizabeth was called barren. It was a label that had been pinned onto her for years. I can almost hear the whispered remarks of those in her town – “that’s Elizabeth…..she’s barren.”
I wonder if she ever reflected back on the fathers (and mothers) of their people. In each of those beginning generations there was barrenness, and each time God intervened to bring a child. He did it for Abraham and Sarah, for Isaac and Rebekah and for Jacob and Rachel. But Elizabeth remained barren.
Her barrenness was a reproach. Deuteronomy 7:14 says “You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock.” Her barrenness declared her life as one that was not obedient and therefore not blessed. What a horrible stigma to bear.
Yet Luke 1:6 tells us that both Elizabeth and her husband were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”. And in that moment when the Lord did wonderfully open her womb, Elizabeth said that God has “looked on me to take away my reproach among people.” Elizabeth knew that even though people may have little regard for her, that she served a God who carefully watched all the details of her life and knew the great love she had for Him that compelled her to live a life of pleasing obedience to Him even when her greatest desire was denied. She knew that she had no reproach before God even though the blessing was withheld.
Since Elizabeth was an older woman, she may not have known she was pregnant as soon as a younger woman may have known. So there could have been months that Elizabeth thought of herself as still barren, when actually there was life stirring inside her. There was a span of time when her barrenness was over yet she did not know it. But then there came a day when it could be a secret thing no longer.
And when God sent this blessing, it came in a big way. For it was only after years of bearing an unjustified reproach that she was prepared to bear the forerunner to the One who would bear the ultimate unjust reproach. Who better to teach John how to remain faithful to God and disregard the opinions of men?
Were all those years of barrenness a waste? No, they were a training ground to prepare her for her greatest assignment.