I have recently started preaching in the Gospel according to Luke. I was captivated, right off the bat, with Luke’s opening scene. And with one character in that scene, in particular. And especially with one quality of that person.
The opening scene of Luke’s account is a prayer service at the Temple. After the narrator’s prologue (1:1-4), Luke pulls back the curtains and on the stage we see the worshiping crowds gathering at the Temple for an afternoon prayer service, where Zechariah the priest is on duty. There are several characters in the passage, but Zechariah is the one character present in each scene. The story begins with Zechariah at home with his wife Elizabeth (vv5-7), moves to Zechariah at the Temple with the crowds (vv8-10), climaxes with Zechariah inside the Temple with the angel Gabriel (vv11-20), and then retraces Zechariah’s steps back outside the Temple with the crowds (vv21-22), and finally back home with his wife again (vv23-25). It is a vivid and detailed opening scene.
The one character in that scene that stands out to me is Elizabeth. Even though she is the character on the edges, she is also the character who demonstrates faith. Zechariah doubts (v18). The crowds wonder (v21). Elizabeth is the one who praises God (v25). Though she is the one character in the passage who was not present at the Temple when the angel made his appearance, she is also the one who demonstrates wholehearted faith. Elizabeth is the character who stands out in the passage.
But here is the quality of her faith that particularly fascinates me. The opening of the account tells us that Elizabeth was barren and had no child (v7). In her words at the close of the passage, she acknowledges that this was a cause of “reproach” for her among the people (v25). Perhaps people assumed there was sin in Elizabeth’s life (even though Luke is careful to assure us she was an upright and godly woman; v6.) When the Lord, in his good purpose, granted that Elizabeth would indeed have a son despite her old age, Elizabeth praised God acknowledging that this miracle would “take away my reproach among people.”
But here is the twist in the account. Even though Elizabeth was conscientious about the reproach upon her, and even though she knew this work of God would remove that reproach, notice what she did: “After these days … Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden…” (v24). In other words, Elizabeth knew God was vindicating her godliness, but she never said anything about it. She waited until the child growing in her womb began to show (i.e., around the fifth month), and she let events themselves vindicate her.
What an example of humility! If anyone had the means (and reason) to “prove herself” to others, Elizabeth was that person. But when her vindication came, she kept quiet and thanked God, waiting on the Lord to bring about his purposes.
In this I find a reminder that God’s works are revealed to us, not to become weapons for us to vindicate ourselves and prove our rightness. His truths are revealed to stir our hearts with praise of him, leaving all glory to God alone.