Saturday, October 13, 2012

Elizabeth Series - Part III

Today I will conclude my three-part series about the story of Elizabeth. The full story of Elizabeth can be read in Luke 1:5-80. This series is part of the larger grouping of blog posts that have been labeled the Commonness of Barrenness, a label I refer to as I learn about women in the Bible who struggled with infertility. One such woman, Elizabeth, is a great example in many ways. I'm proud to say my middle name is Elizabeth, so, you know, we have that in common too. :)


Part III: The Impossible
Please read Luke 1:5-80.


When life gets hard, it's easy to feel hopelessness. Defeated. Accepting that you're stuck with the impossible. That you'll never get out of this tough place. That you'll never see the other side of this mountain in your path. Beth Moore says that hopelessness is choosing to believe the evil one's report over God's truths. Have you experienced this? What does this look like?

Whenever you're feeling doubt.
Whenever you're feeling alone.
Whenever you're on the verge of giving up.

Don't believe those lies. They are nothing more than lies and snares, hoping to snatch you up and off the path God wants you to be on. Don't let the enemy lure you. Take the extra step, and expect Satan to try to lure you. Be ready for it. Trust me, it's coming if it's not already at your doorstep.

When you are faced with the impossible, when it feels like no matter what, there's just no way you'll get past this obstacle, what should you do?

Seek God. Flee from the enemy and run into His arms. More importantly, have faith, and never give up the hope you can most assuredly claim as yours.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1-3
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 11, as it lists example after example of people of faith. (My favorite of course is Sarah in verse 11.) But ultimately, we should follow the Perfect Example:

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So with regard to infertility, and having faith when faced with the impossible, I'd like to discuss two examples in the Bible. First, Sarah. God visited and told Abraham that he and Sarah would conceive and bear a son. Sarah overheard this, and scoffed and laughed at hearing this "impossible" prediction. After all, she was old. She was well past the childbearing age. How could that possibly be true?

Genesis 18:13-15
13 And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh."

I love how Sarah denied her sinful response of doubt, and God called her out on it. This dialogue reminds me of the God-equivalent of children's "Nuh-uh!" and "Yeah-huh!" Don't get me wrong, I've been buried in the depths of defeat and doubt, totally convinced that I was facing the impossible and nothing and no one could change that. But Sarah (or anyone) is foolish to think that she could hide her true feelings from the Lord. He knows your heart, so don't bother trying to deny your true feelings. In fact, if you're struggling with doubt when facing the impossible, the first step may be to pray to the Lord and admit you're feeling that way. Own up to it. Faith can begin to grow from that moment of brokenness.

So let's look at another example, Mary. This time, an angel appeared before Mary and told her -- a virgin -- that she would conceive and bear a son, and that son would be called the Son of the Most High God. Now me, being of much less faith than Mary, would have heard that and probably scoffed even more than Sarah did. I might have even used the word, "Impossible!" But Mary, gosh, it's no wonder God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. Look how she responds to this "impossible" situation.

Luke 1:34-38
34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Mary questioned this prediction, but she didn't scoff at it or doubt it, only asked how could that happen. Once it was explained to her, she faithfully believes the angel in verse 38.

And I love how the angel refers to Mary's relative, Elizabeth, who had formerly faced the impossible of being told that she, a barren woman, would conceive and bear a son who would be named John. The angel uses both the prediction of the virgin Mary becoming pregnant and that her formerly barren relative is now in her sixth month of pregnancy to support his claim in verse 37, that nothing will be impossible with God.

So what about Zacharias? In Luke 1:8-23, Zacharias was told by an angel that Elizabeth would become pregnant and bear a son named John. Zacharias questioned the angel like this:

Luke 1:18-20
18 Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." 19 The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

What's the difference here? Why would Zacharias be silenced by the angel until John was born and Mary was not?
Mary asked: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
Zacharias asked: "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."

At this point, I can only speculate because I'm not an advanced theologian. (Shocking, I know.) But I suspect that Mary's question was asked with a purer heart, free of doubt, just full of curiosity. Whereas Zacharias seemed to demand proof. Like he wanted the angel to prove to him that his words were true. It's like in John 4:48 when Jesus seemed irritated that people demanded miracles in order to believe. Jesus said, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe."

We talked yesterday about how when Elizabeth was given the impossible, she responded with thankfulness and complete humbleness. Look how faithful the six-months-pregnant Elizabeth responded when her virgin relative, Mary, came over for a visit early in her (Mary's) pregnancy.

Luke 1:39-45
39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

There's not a shred of doubt in Elizabeth's words. Not a single, "Woah, Mary, I thought you were a virgin, how is it that you're pregnant??" Complete faith and thankfulness at the Lord's power. I think Elizabeth, who had previously been faced with the impossible, and likely tempted by the evil one to doubt in God's power, instead chose to believe God's truths.

She believed with all her heart that she worshiped the One True God. The Most High God. The God of miracles. The God of the impossible. Who specializes in the impossible. A God so filled with power to create the universe and to conceive a child in a virgin's womb. To conceive a child in a barren woman's womb. And this was all before Jesus lived and performed miracles. She knew the truth. And so should we.

Matthew 17:20
And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you."

Matthew 21:21
And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen."

Mark 9:23
And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

Mark 11:22-23
And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him."

Luke 17:6
And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you."

Luke 18:27
But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."

Always have faith, believing and trusting in God's power, knowing that He can make the impossible possible, if He chooses to according to His will.

Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Love & Hope,

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