“…will be fulfilled in their own time.”
“But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” Luke 1:20
Elizabeth is something of an anomaly in this story. She was not present when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and he was mute following the event so he could not have told her what had been prophesied; at least not audibly. Her pregnancy came by the way of natural intercourse. But it must have been a great surprise to her when she discovered she was pregnant at her advanced age. And so she hid herself for five months. There is no evidence that God told Elizabeth to hide herself, or that it was customary among her people to do so. This appears to be Elizabeth’s unique decision. But, why?
She says it is in response to the Lord dealing with her to take away her reproach (shame) among people. [Luke 1:25] So why hide it. Five months is more than half the period of her pregnancy. She could have been enjoying the acceptance, recognition and honor of her people by the fact of her pregnancy.
There was a similar miraculous pregnancy in the Old Testament. Sarah’s pregnancy [Genesis 17:17-19] marked the beginning of the Covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants, a covenant that involved the birth of a son in Abraham and Sarah’s old age.
Likewise, Elizabeth’s pregnancy also marked the beginning of the days when a New Covenant would be made by God for all humankind, for whomsoever would believe. Her son, John would be the last prophet to proclaim the day of the Messiah, His coming and His presence with the people of God and the whole world.
So, why did Elizabeth hide herself 5 months? She believed that God had done a miraculous thing within her and yet she was not absolutely confident that it would come to full term. It was only in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy after the angel had appeared to Mary that Elizabeth experienced something that sealed her faith and hope concerning the birth of John.
When Mary came to her to share the news of her own miraculous pregnancy before she could tell her all that had happened, at her greeting, the babe leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, “and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then she addressed Mary in an astonishing way. She knew immediately that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah and she said to her.
“But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43
Though not visited by Gabriel with a declaration from Heaven, Elizabeth, nevertheless, receives a revelation by the Holy Spirit that Mary’s child is the Messiah.
I’ll have more to say about this later. But for now the story is unfolding in a series of supernatural events, Gabriel appearing to Zacharias, Elizabeth’s pregnancy in old age, then becoming the first one to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
All these things are being orchestrated by God, not by the plans of men. But each one has human agency involved. God was unfolding His promised plan of salvation and each person in it was playing out his/her role.
There are things in our lives that happen because of us and often times in spite of us and often times without our awareness of the reasons why. When we simply yield to them and let God have His way the outcome will always astound and amaze us, if we will act resolutely to do His will and wait patiently for the fulfillment of His purposes which will be revealed in their own time.