“The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But 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. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home. After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”” (Luke 1:21–25, NASB95)
The people had been outside praying and more time passed than they had expected. I imagine that their customary prayers had long been made and their minds began to wander and wonder. I know this is true of me when at times when my time of focused prayer ends. It is hard to wait, but wait they were forced to do. They waited, as our passage indicates, for Zachariah to come back out, and as they waited they wondered what must have delayed him in the temple.
This procedure had happened for hundreds of years and they knew what to expect. The priest would go in, he would do what he was expected to do in what had become a regular routine, and then he would come out and pronounce a blessing. But this is not what was happening this time. There was something going on that was not normal, and the people did not have a clue what it was. And when Zachariah finally came out he could not tell them what happened. We read that he could not speak to them, and the crowd soon realized based upon the signals he was making that he must have seen a vision. I can just imagine from having played charades over the years what he must have been doing, as he physically tried to portray for them what he could not tell them. Though they did not get the full message they guessed that he must have seen a vision while in the temple, and what that vision was all about would have to elude them for a while.
Following this as he completed his time of service he returned home, and there was no “Hi honey, I’m home” to come out of his mouth. We don’t know what the interaction was with his wife Elizabeth after this or how he communicated to her what had happened. Possibly he spelled it out for her in writing, but we just don’t know. What we do know is that this wife who had been unable to conceive and bear a child and who was now advanced in years became pregnant. We also read that having become pregnant that she went into seclusion or hiding for five months.
For many women this time of keeping things quiet for a period of time might be based in being uncertain or maybe questioning if this might really be happening. They might be waiting to see if this baby would remain and grow. They may be waiting to see if this great new birth was really, really true. For women who have wanted to have a child and who have had miscarriage after miscarriage this might have been an understandable thing of wanting to wait until they are sure. But this is most likely not the case with Elizabeth.
We read that during this season she marveled that God had done this for her. She pondered the great gift that she had been given, with our passage telling us her thoughts, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” IN a culture where a woman was measured to a large degree by her ability to bear children, she recognized that many may have viewed her as a disgrace for not having giving birth to a child. But God changed all of this. Elizabeth was pregnant and in that she saw the powerful hand of God and His incredible blessing on her.
So much of our lives can be tied up in expectations, either our own expectations of ourselves, or those that others might have, or at least we think they have of us. But the reality is that many of these expectations are unrealistic and there is much that is out of our control. As we look at the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth we see that they were people who did not let one disappointment shape their lives or their walk with God. Scripture speaks very highly of them as a godly couple who lived upright before God and man. They were no less in any of this because a part of their lives did not work out as they had expected. It did not shake their faith in God, nor did it control their walk. They realized that God was fully in control, and they could trust Him with that. And when things changed such that a long set aside hope was being fulfilled they could also rejoice in God’s great blessing on their lives. This is what we know of Elizabeth in this time of answering and waiting as this incredible new life grew in her womb. Elizabeth’s joy had been renewed.