Bible Society of South Africa

One woman blesses another – Day 10

Bible text(s)

The Birth of John the Baptist is Announced

5During the time when Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife's name was Elizabeth; she also belonged to a priestly family. 6They both lived good lives in God's sight and obeyed fully all the Lord's laws and commands. 7They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.

8One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in the daily service. 9According to the custom followed by the priests, he was chosen by lot to burn incense on the altar. So he went into the Temple of the Lord, 10while the crowd of people outside prayed during the hour when the incense was burnt.

11An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the altar where the incense was burnt. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. 13But the angel said to him, “Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. 14How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born! 15He will be a great man in the Lord's sight. He must not drink any wine or strong drink. From his very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, 16and he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17He will go ahead of the Lord, strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; he will turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous; he will get the Lord's people ready for him.”

18Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know if this is so? I am an old man, and my wife is old also.”

19“I am Gabriel,” the angel answered. “I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20But you have not believed my message, which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true.”

21In the meantime the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he was spending such a long time in the Temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them, and so they knew that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Unable to say a word, he made signs to them with his hands.

23When his period of service in the Temple was over, Zechariah went back home. 24Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and did not leave the house for five months. 25“Now at last the Lord has helped me,” she said. “He has taken away my public disgrace!”

Luke 1:5-25GNBOpen in Bible reader

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39Soon afterwards Mary got ready and hurried off to a town in the hill country of Judea. 40She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord's mother comes to visit me? 44For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45How happy you are to believe that the Lord's message to you will come true!”

Luke 1:39-45GNBOpen in Bible reader

1. The picture many of us have of Elizabeth is that of a barren woman whom God makes fruitful in her old age. We sense that she was shamed into silence by a society that sanctioned motherhood as the primary source of honour for a woman. But, if listen carefully to the text, we will hear that Elizabeth’s worth is not only in her womb, but also in her voice and ‘priestly’ hands. Luke makes a point of mentioning that, like her husband Zechariah, Elizabeth also descends from a priestly line.
(a) What do you think about this reversal: Because Zechariah hesitated to believe that Elizabeth could “bear him a son” (Lk1:13-18) he was shamed into silence (19-22) while Elizabeth’s disgrace was “taken away” (Lk1:25) and she had to speak publically on behalf of her husband?
(b) Elizabeth speaks up and names her son because the father who is, culturally speaking, the only one allowed to name a boy child, could not speak. (Lk1:61-63). Note the circumstances under which Zechariah’s voice returned (Luke 1:61-64).

2. Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Lk1:45).
(a) Compare Zechariah’s response upon hearing that his wife, who was “well on in years”, will give birth to a son (1:18), to the response of Mary (1:38), who was a virgin when she heard that she “will be with child and give birth to a son”.
(b) Note that it is Elizabeth who pronounces a blessing upon Mary, and not her priest husband, whose voice had been silenced by God. What are your thoughts?

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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