Summary: While you wait for something new, God is working on you.
God Uses Ordinary People: Elizabeth
Rev. Brian Bill
One day a man passed by a farm and saw a beautiful horse. Hoping to buy the animal, he said to the farmer: “I think your horse looks pretty good, so I’ll give you $500 for him.” “He doesn’t look good, and he’s not for sale,” the farmer said. The man insisted, “I think he looks good and I’ll up the price to $1000!” “He doesn’t look so good,” the farmer said, “but if you want him that much, he’s yours.” The next day the man came back raging mad. He went up to the farmer and screamed, “You sold me a blind horse! You cheated me!” The farmer calmly replied, “I told you he didn’t look so good, didn’t I?”
This man was disappointed because his expectations evaporated as soon as he got the horse home. I wonder how many of you feel disappointed by something that’s happened. Or maybe you feel cheated because something that you’ve expected to happen hasn’t happened yet.
This past week results from a national survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life appeared on the front page of the Pantagraph and became the lead story on TV newscasts around the country. According to this survey, in the state of Illinois, almost 80% of the respondents pray a few times a month, but only about 25% say they receive any answers. We’re going to see today that it is not uncommon to have to wait on the Lord when we pray.
The characters in Scripture are very similar to you and me. Each one has a mixture of beautiful and bad, of faith and fear. They are commonplace people and when we study their lives we find out how much they are just like us and how we are just like them. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man just like us.” I’m confident that we’ll learn a lot in our summer survey of the ordinary people that God used.
The study of Bible biographies can help us in one of two ways:
* Examples to avoid. Sometimes when we read the Bible we come across people like Jonah who said “no” when God said “go.” This kind of behavior serves as a warning for us as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11: “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
* Examples to emulate. When we read about what happened in the past, we can also find models to mimic and examples to emulate like Elizabeth, the woman we’ll be studying today. Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 1. When I told a couple different people this week that we would be focusing on Elizabeth today, they had a quizzical look on their faces as they tried to place who she was. While there is actually quite a bit of Scripture devoted to her, she sort of gets lost in the nativity narrative. We tend to skip over her role as the mother of John the Baptist in our eagerness to magnify Mary’s significance.
Let’s begin in verse 5: “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.” Zechariah and Elizabeth lived when wicked Herod was on the throne. He was the guy who not only killed members of his family but also ordered the extermination of all male babies under the age of two. Zechariah was a priest and Elizabeth was also from a family of priests. Even before eHarmony, their backgrounds were quite compatible.
Verse 6 tells us about their character: “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” In short, they walked with God and took their faith seriously. They lived in an unnamed village in the hill country of Judea, obscure and ordinary, yet upright before God.
As we take a look at Elizabeth’s life, I want to draw out six practical truths that will help us persevere in our prayers and deal with disappointment. If you’re looking for one statement that summarizes what I want us to learn, here it is: While you wait for something new, God is working on you.
1. Describe your disappointment. As devoted as Elizabeth was, she was also deeply disappointed. Notice how verse 7 begins: “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” Some of you couples may be experiencing this kind of pain as well. In that culture barrenness was considered to be a sign of God’s disfavor so this couple would have lived with some shame and the knowledge that while they were devoted to God, others probably thought they had done something wrong.