And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
God is a sovereign God. He rules over all times, nations, languages, cultures, races, classes, and genders of people. He is working out everything in history according to His plan.
In the New Testament, we learn that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, you are alive right now at this particular moment because God has something specific for you to accomplish as part of His infinite wisdom and plan. We can start by faithfully worshiping and patiently trusting Him as Zechariah and Elizabeth did, while never giving up praying for the desires of our heart.
The angel tells Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard” (Luke 1:13). For decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth have been asking God for a child. What have you stopped praying about? God always answers prayer with one of three responses: yes, no, and later. Perhaps some people believed that God was ignoring Zechariah, but the man kept praying, loving, serving, and worshiping God, and he kept adoring his wife. God hadn’t answered “yes” just yet. God hadn’t answered “no” yet either. God kept answering “later,” until finally the day arrived when the answer was “yes.” We learn from their example that we should keep praying even when it seems like it’s not working.
Elizabeth’s words of praise close out this first scene: “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:25). This is a beautiful summary of the doctrine of expiation, one of the most precious doctrines for Christians. We all have things in our lives that we feel dirtied, disgraced, defiled, and discouraged by.
The word reproach refers to the public shame or disgrace and even reviling that Elizabeth tragically endured because of her barrenness. Practically, this meant she suffered emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse for decades as the other religious, smug, ungracious women would have considered her cursed by God because she was childless. Had Elizabeth sinned? No. Had she done anything wrong? No. She wasn’t perfect, but we are told that she loved and served the Lord and was by all accounts a very godly person. Was God cursing her? No. He was just working out His providential plan in His preferred time. His answer to her prayers was “later,” and later finally came.
Like Elizabeth, victims who have been sexually, emotionally, mentally, physically, or verbally abused can come to God, who takes away our reproach, shame, and disgrace. He takes all of that from us and places it on Himself. When Jesus went to the cross, He endured the cross, scorning its shame for us (Hebrews 12:2). Dear friend, Jesus wants to lift from you today all of your shame and cleanse you completely. He wants to take away your reproach so that you can worship, celebrate, and enjoy Him like Elizabeth, knowing of God’s love. He wants to lift that burden so that you can lift your voice to worship Him with gladness in freedom.
Have you truly given your shame to Jesus so that He could remove that burden of condemnation from you forever? Why not do that right now in prayer by raising your hands and releasing that shame to Him?