Women of Valor Week 10 // Elizabeth

Welcome to the tenth week of our Summer Bible journaling challenge, Women of Valor. Today, we will be studying and journaling the second of our New Testament women, Elizabeth.

This week’s reading: Luke 1:5-80

This week’s journaling focus: Luke 1:41-43

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In my first year of college, I attended an Advent worship service that focused on the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. Through scripture and stories, we read about how Elizabeth served as a mentor and friend for Mary, and our worship leader encouraged this group of young women to look for the “Elizabeths” in our own lives.

That lesson has stuck with me for years, and now, every time I read the story of Elizabeth, I can’t help but think of her and Mary together, and the special bond between them. Though Elizabeth and Mary were pregnant at the same time, they were in very different situations. Mary was young, unmarried, and had not asked or prayed for a child before being blessed with one by the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth was “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7) and had long been barren; and, like many of the women in our study, had longed for a child for decades. But those differences must have been a blessing to both of them in their time together, as Elizabeth could guide and mentor Mary through her pregnancy, and Mary undoubtedly brought joy to Elizabeth’s life. We can only imagine the friendship that blossomed between them in their months together; a friendship that would live on between their sons, John the Baptist and Jesus.

Join us as we journal the story of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s Story (in Two Parts)

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Part One: Waiting

In the days of Herod lived a man, Zechariah, and his wife Elizabeth. They were “righteous,” living “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Elizabeth was barren. Those of us who have been participating in the Women of Valor study are likely very familiar with this story by now, thanks to the stories of women like Sarah and Hannah. We know from their stories that the children who came from those unlikely pregnancies would go on to be a blessing to the people of Israel. Elizabeth’s story is no exception, as we will soon see.

Zechariah is a priest, and eventually it becomes his turn to enter the temple of the Lord to burn incense. This happened about once in a lifetime, and was surely a very meaningful moment for a man who had spent his life following the commandments of God. But Zechariah had no idea just how meaningful this day would be to him, until he was approached by the angel Gabriel, who said,

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.”

(1 Luke 13-18)

Zechariah doubted the angel’s words, and in punishment, Gabriel took away his ability to speak until the birth of his son. Elizabeth does become pregnant, and in that time, Mary receives her own visitation from Gabriel.

Part Two: Receiving

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Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth in the hill country, traveling for many weeks to see her. When Elizabeth and Mary first lay eyes on each other, Elizabeth experiences something extraordinary: “the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). She cries,

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.”

(Luke 1:42-45)

This is how Elizabeth becomes the first person to identify Jesus as Lord. Mary responds with her Magnificat, which we read last week. Many have put Mary’s words to music, but few remember the words of Elizabeth, which are also beautiful: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Though Zechariah had doubted the angel Gabriel’s words, Mary and Elizabeth had both believed. Blessed are they.

Elizabeth and Mary stay together for many months, until it is time for them to give birth. When Elizabeth’s baby is born, and on the day that he is to be circumcised, Zechariah names him John. He regains the ability to speak, and immediately blesses the Lord. “And the child grew and became strong in spirit,” the text tells us. He becomes John the Baptist, who baptized and walked alongside Jesus.

Making Connections

We have now read three stories about an older woman who prayed to have a child: Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth. In each case, she ultimately went on to bear a child who would be important to the future of Israel: Isaac, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

However, not all of us find or receive our gifts through children. Sometimes, the dreams that we wait on and take on a different meaning. Perhaps a life goal of a different kind – a job, a home, a skill – comes at another time than you expected or hoped for, on God’s timeline and not your own. Will you laugh, like Sarah? Pray, like Hannah? Accept, like Elizabeth? Perhaps all three. Or perhaps you will find comfort in these their stories, in which a dream deferred often means a dream fulfilled, better or more deeply than it would have been before.

Questions for Contemplation

  1. Mary and Elizabeth stayed together for many months. We can only imagine the joy and comfort that they found in each other, both blessed by extraordinary and unexpected pregnancies at a time in their lives where it was not what they had expected or maybe even wanted. How do you find comfort in the women in your life in times of trouble?
  2. Are there any young women in your life who could benefit from a mentor like Elizabeth? How might you be a blessing to them?

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Journaling prompt:

Today we will focus on the last of the words that Elizabeth spoke upon seeing Mary: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Where has God fulfilled his words to you in your life? You may want to illustrate that with sketches, painting, or photos. Or you may wish to illustrate Mary and Elizabeth together, bonding over the differences and similarities between them. Finally, you may wish to letter the words in a way that feels right to you. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in your journaling practice today!

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Further reading:

If you’d like to read more about Mary and her story, please feel free to check out these resources. All links to Amazon throughout this post are affiliate links:

  • “Elizabeth, a Friend in Need” in Strong Was Her Faith by J. Ellsworth Kalas, page 117. This book is the New Testament counterpart to A Faith of Her Own. I love Kalas’ writing and his insights, which always offer me a new perspective that is both academically-based and faithfully focused.
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. This book is an annual bestseller for a reason. Is it well-written and truly digs into the gospels to tell the story of the women involved in Christ’s birth and early life. This book is more faith-focused than academic.