Women of the Bible - Elizabeth The Woman Who Bore John the Baptist by Kathryn Capoccia Young Adults Sunday School Class All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. © Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. I. Introduction A. Prayer Requests B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse
II. Character Profile: Elizabeth, The Woman Who Bore John The Baptist A. Who Was She? (read LUK 1:5-80). 1. What was her name? (LUK 1:5) Her name was Elizabeth which means "God is my oath" or "dedicated to God". 2. When did she live? (LUK 1:5) She lived "in the days of Herod" [the Great] who ruled from 40-4 B.C. 3. Where did she live? (LUK 1:39) She lived in a city in the hill country of Judea. 4. Who were her people? a) she was "from the daughters of Aaron" (LUK 1:5). 1) there were three orders of priests: a] the high priest- a descendant of Aaron, he inherited his office and was to hold it until his death. He bore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his breastplate (thus representing all of Israel) as he ministered before God. Only the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for all the people's sins (after he himself had been cleansed of his own sins). The high priest could take part in any sacrifice at any time. b] ordinary priests- these were also descendants of Aaron, whose job it was to maintain the holiness of the Jews through intercession for the people and presentation of their sacrifices to God, and the teaching of the Law. Priests were "to watch over Your Word", "guard Your covenant", "teach Your precepts and Law to Israel", "offer incense before You", and "offer whole burnt offerings on Your altar" (DEU 33:8-10). c] Levites- these men were descended from Levi, but not through Aaron. At the time of Christ there were @10,000 Levites, divided into 24 courses. Their chief function seems to have been the various forms of service connected with the Temple, and music; they also appear to have been the Temple police force. There were three sons of Levi whose service originated at the Tabernacle: i] Gershon- NUM 3:25,26 "At the Tent of Meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes--and everything related to their use. ii] Kohath- NUM 3:31 "They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use." iii] Merari- NUM 3:36,37 "The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes." 2) the descendants of Aaron is a designation of those Levites who ministered at the sacrificial altar in intercession for the people. NUM 3:10 "Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death." NUM 3:32 "The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary." b) she was related to Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus Christ (LUK 1:36); since Mary's father was from the tribe of Judah the tie between their families must have been on Mary's mother's side. 5. Was she married? (LUK 1:5) Yes, she was married to Zechariah ("God has remembered"), an upright man and a priest of the division of Abijah (1CH 24:10). a) he was an upright man or righteous man- he was blameless in the way he obeyed the Law. b) he was a priest and as such was commanded to marry only a pious woman (LEV 21:7). To be a priest married to the daughter of a priest was a double state of sanctification. c) he was a priest; he had become a priest at the age of 20 (1CH 23:24,27: though originally in NUM 8:24 the age was 25), apparently served an apprenticeship for five years (NUM 4:3), and would retire as an active priest at the age of 50 (NUM 8:25). He could not have had any physical defect or he would have been excluded from his office, since a priest was a "type of Christ" (LEV 21:16-24). d) he was a priest of the order of Abijah: 1) in the N.T. at the time of Jesus there were @18,000 priests who were divided into 24 divisions, or courses, for performing service at the Temple. a] these divisions served for two one week periods a year at the Temple, performing the daily sacrifices and incense offerings required by the Law. b] priests also had to pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year for the three annual worship festivals, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, Passover and Pentecost (EXO 23:14-17; DEU 16:16). c] when they were not ministering, priests lived at home and pursued some subsistence work, such as farming, as well as performing priestly duties such as declaring healed lepers clean, etc. *this information came from "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.4, pgs. 849-854. 2) Abijah was the eighth division of 24 as divided by lot from the heads of families descended from Aaron by King David for the purpose of ministering. a] there were sixteen heads of families from Eleazar's descendants and eight from Ithamar's descendants (Aaron's other two sons, Nadab and Abihu, perished without heirs, 1CH 24:6-18). b] after the exile in Babylon only four of these courses returned (Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, Harim), and these were divided into 24 courses with the old names. *this information came from, "Word Pictures in the New Testament", Baker Book House, 1930, by Archibald Thomas Robertson, vol.2 "The Gospel According to Luke", pg.8. B. What Did She Do? 1. She Was Righteous (LUK 1:6). LUK 1:6 "Both of them [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." a) She was "upright in God's sight". "Upright" (dikaios) means "correct". 1) she was not righteous in herself. a] Scripture teaches that, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (ROM 3:10-12). b] It also says, "no one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by observing the law" (ROM 3:20), because, "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (JAM 2:10). 2) she was "approved" by God: a] she was "imparted" righteousness. i] this is a legal designation that means she was rendered a verdict of approval before God's judgment bar. ii] she lived in the O.T. form of piety which called a believer to walk in faith before God through acts of obedience and sacrifice as prescribed by the Law and to believe in a "savior" who would pay the ultimate sacrifice for sins. -- sin called for the substitutional death of an animal, a "blood sacrifice", as an atonement (the life is in the blood, LEV 17:11). -HEB 9:22 "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." -- O.T. sins were "covered" by the blood of sacrificial animals but were not erased. -PSA 32:1 "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." -HEB 10:1,2 "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins." -HEB 10:4 "because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." b] she would have "imputed" righteousness in Christ: *Righteousness by "imputation" means that a "sinners guilt is laid upon the Savior, and the Savior's righteousness upon the sinner", Wm. Hendriksen, "New Testament Commentary": Luke, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1978, pg.66. The grace of God in the atoning death of Christ would provide Elizabeth and all believers with the only true righteousness, that which was Christ's. 3) others were "reckoned" righteous: a] Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (GEN 15:6). b] Job "was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (JOB 1:1). c] Joseph "was a righteous man" (MAT 1:19). d] Simeon "was righteous and devout", LUK 2:25. *Again it was the faith of these individuals that generated their good works, and it was their faith that brought them into a right standing with God. b) She "observed all the Lord's commandments and regulations". 1) definition of words: a] "observed" (poreuo) means "to go", "following", "walking". b] "commandments" (entole) means injunctions, orders, commands. c] "regulations" (dikaioma) means "ordinances". *To "observe the Lord's commandments and regulations" means to follow the spirit and letter of the compelling commands and rules of God. 2) she observed "all" the requirements. a] "all" (pas) means "every". *This indicates that she considered all Scripture as binding and important, and that she did not pick and choose what she would endeavor to keep. b] she could not possibly keep "all" the commandments and regulations of the Law since the O.T. contains hundreds of requirements for a Jew to observe- but Elizabeth's attitude and actions were such that she sincerely fulfilled her obligations as much as she was able to. c) She was "blameless" (amemptos) means "faultless" or "unblamable". 1) she was blameless before men: i.e. no one could bring a charge against her in the matter of the Law's observance. 2) she was not blameless before God. a] she fell short of the standard of perfection. i] "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (ROM 3:23). ii] "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (ISA 53:6). iii] "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" (1JO 1:10). b] she could not be justified before God on the basis of her works. i] justification is by grace alone. -- GAL 3:11 says, "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.'" -- GAL 2:16 ..."know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." -- TIT 3:5-7 "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." -- EPH 2:8,9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." ii] our works are defiled. -- ISA 64:6 "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." d) She called God "Lord". 1) God was the Lord of her life. a] "Lord" (kurios) means "authority" or "master". b] God is called "Lord" (kurios). i] In LUK 1:45 Elizabeth said, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" ii] "Lord" (kurios) is used again in verse 46, when Mary said, "My soul glorifies the Lord..." "Lord" was also used when Gabriel announced the incarnation to Mary, "He [Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David (LUK 1:32). "LORD" MEANS THE ONE WHO HAD ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY, TO WHOM THEY OWED COMPLETE OBEDIENCE- GOD HIMSELF. c] Jesus is called "Lord" (kurios). LUK 1:43 "But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" i] Elizabeth knew that God had miraculously become a human baby. -- It had been prophesied: Isaiah had prophesied that, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (ISA 7:14). And Matthew adds, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us" (MAT 1:23). -- The Holy Spirit had revealed it to Elizabeth (LUK 1:41). -- the baby within her own womb "leaped for joy" as confirmation of the presence of the "Lord" (LUK 1:44). ii] Elizabeth spoke prophetically, "repeating and endorsing the angel's prophecies about the person, nature, and work of Mary's son", R.C.H. Lenski, "St. Luke's Gospel", Augsburg Publishing House, 1946, pg.82. *the angel Gabriel had said to Mary that her son would be: -- Jesus, "the Lord saves" (LUK 1:31). -- Son of the Most High (LUK 1:32). -- Messiah (LUK 1:32,33). -- Son of God (LUK 1:35). 2) God was her Savior. a] the law had revealed her need for a Savior. i] the Law had revealed her sin. -- ROM 3:20 "through the law we become conscious of sin." -- ROM 7:7 "I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.'" ii] the Law had provoked sin in her. -- ROM 7:8-11 "But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death." -- ROM 5:20 "The law was added so that the trespass might increase." b] the Law had revealed the way of salvation. i] GAL 3:24 "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." ii] ROM 5:20,21 "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." *Elizabeth had placed her faith in the work of the Savior Who would make complete atonement for her sins and give her the righteousness of God. PSA 32:1,2 "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit." 2. She Had No Children (LUK 1:7). a) She was barren (LUK 1:7). 1) generally this was considered to be a sign of divine displeasure, but since Elizabeth was pleasing to the Lord, God did not withhold children as a punishment. 2) barrenness often brought social reproach (see Sarai, Gen 16:2; Rebecca, GEN 25:21; Rachel, GEN 30:23; Hannah, 1SA 1:1-18). b) She was old (LUK 1:7,18,36). 1) she was "well along in years" (probaino), "to go forward" (LUK 1:7,18). This phrase is literally translated "gone far forward in her days", Lenski, "Luke", pg. 52. *this phrase "well along in years" is also used of Anna, daughter of Phanuel, who was 84 years old. 2) she was "in her old age" (geras), "old" (LUK 1:36). *a pregnancy at Elizabeth's age would not have been impossible because Sarah had conceived and borne a son at the age of 90 by God's supernatural intervention. c) Her husband was old also (LUK 1:7,18). *Zechariah may have been considered old but he probably was not past the age of 50, since that was the age of retirement from the active priesthood (NUM 8:25). LUK 1:18 "Zechariah asked the angel,' How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.'" *Zechariah was not strong in faith like Abraham was who also wanted a child in his old age: ROM 4:19,20 "Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God". 3. She Became The Mother Of John The Baptist a) His birth was prophesied 1) Zechariah heard the announcement from Gabriel (LUK 1:19). a] Zechariah was ministering at the Temple (LUK 1:8). LUK 1:8,9 "Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense." i] his division was on duty -- each course or division was on duty for eight days, Sabbath to Sabbath, two times a year. -- on Sabbaths the entire course worked. *this information is from Robertson, "Luke", pg.8. ii] he was chosen by lot; literally "he obtained the lot". -- it was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to enter the Temple: a priest was allowed to burn the incense only once and this privilege was shared by only a few since the right was obtained by the lot. -- the lot was most likely "a white stone". iii] he was to "burn incense" -- two times a day, before the morning sacrifice (at dawn) and after the evening sacrifice (three o'clock in the afternoon), the priest supplied the altar of incense in the Holy Place with fresh incense so that the incense offering would burn continuously. -- three priests would enter the Temple to burn incense: one carried a golden bowl of burning coals from the altar of burnt offerings and would spread the coals over the altar, one carried a golden censer filled with incense and would arrange the incense over the altar, and one would place the incense upon the coals at a prescribed moment after the other two had withdrawn. *this information came from "the New Testament Commentary: Luke" by William Hendriksen, Baker Book House, 1978, pg.68. b] Zechariah's prayers were answered (LUK 1:11-17). i] an angel who stood at the right side of the altar of incense said that God would give him a son. -- his name was to be John ("the LORD is gracious"). -- he would be a source of joy to them and to others. -- he would be great in the sight of the Lord. -- he would be a Nazirite. -- he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. -- he would prepare the way for the Messiah. ii] Zechariah doubted the words of the angel (LUK 1:18). LUK 1:18 "Zechariah asked the angel, 'How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.'" WHY WOULD ZACHARIAH DOUBT? -- he had been praying his request for a son for so long that he no longer believed that God would answer, "yes". -- he had a small view of God's power and doubted that God was really able to perform this miracle. (He obviously had forgotten the story of Abraham and Sarah). -- he lived in a time of weak faith. 2) Zechariah was rebuked (LUK 1:19,20). a] Zechariah was instructed in the veracity of God's message and messenger (LUK 1:19). LUK 1:19 "The angel answered, 'I am Gabriel ["God is my hero" or "Mighty Man of God"]. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.'" i] Gabriel told him his name to remind him of who God is. ii] Gabriel explained his position of intimate contact with God so that Zechariah would see that Gabriel was privy to God's plans. iii] Gabriel stated that he had come in obedience to God's command that Zechariah be told the news and that therefore his words were trustworthy. b] Zechariah was made mute until John's birth (LUK 1:20). LUK 1:20 "And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." i] this was a sign to Zechariah of God's power. ii] this was a sign to others of God's working. *It had been @400 years since a revelation from God had been given. Prophecy had been absent from Israel from the time of Malachi until this point. b) his birth prophecy was fulfilled 1) Elizabeth became pregnant (LUK 1:24). a] Zechariah returned home after his term of office was over and Elizabeth conceived (LUK 1:23). b] she remained in seclusion for five months (LUK 1:24). WHY? Perhaps she wanted to remain out of sight until her pregnancy was obvious. c] she rejoiced (LUK 1:25). LUK 1:25 "'The Lord has done this for me,' she said. 'In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'" 2) Elizabeth gave birth to John (LUK 1:57). a] they named him John at his circumcision (LUK 1:57-63). i] their relatives and neighbors wanted to name him a family name (LUK 1:59). ii] Zechariah wrote "his name is John" on a tablet in obedience to God's command (LUK 1:63). b] Zechariah's mouth was opened and he praised God (LUK 1:64). c] Zechariah prophesied about his son's ministry (LUK 1:67-79). WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME OF THIS? i] God began preparing Israel for John's ministry. LUK 1:65,66 "The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, 'What then is this child going to be?' For the Lord's hand was with him." ii] God prepared John. LUK 1:80 "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." And Jesus said of John, MAT 11:11 "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." *GOD PREPARED JOHN, HIS SPECIAL MESSENGER TO PREPARE THE PEOPLE FOR THE MESSIAH, THROUGH THE GODLINESS OF HIS MOTHER AND FATHER. ONLY A RIGHTEOUS, SUBMISSIVE MOTHER WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TEACH THE NECESSARY FAITH TO JOHN THAT HE NEEDED TO FULFILL HIS MINISTRY. C. What Can We Learn From Her? 1. God has a perfect timing for everything which may not be obvious to us. 2. Sometimes God chooses to use His servants to prepare someone who will be used greatly by Him, rather than to do something "great" in their own lives (which may seem ordinary and unimportant). 3. God builds the faith of His servants. III. What Fruits of the Spirit Can We See In Her? IV. Memory Verse: EPH 2:10 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
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