I can only imagine my frustration if my husband couldn’t speak to me or anyone for nine months! What strategies would we use to communicate? Probably a lot of texting and emojis…
Let’s travel back in time, far from iPhones and modern emojis, to the hill country of the city of Judah.
Elizabeth was married to Zacharias, a priest, but they had no children. Both Zacharias prayers and the word “barren” insinuates that they wanted to have kids, but hadn’t been able to yet, and their age was making a baby near impossible (Luke 1:5,7,13).
The Bible says that both Elizabeth and her husband were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Luke 1:6)
Zacharias would periodically go away from home for times of service at the temple. One day, when Zacharias was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel came to him (yep, the same one that visited Mary and Joseph), and told him that his prayer about a baby had been heard. Elizabeth would have a baby they should name John and Zacharias would “have joy and gladness” (Luke 1:13-14)
Gabriel said about Zacharias’ coming son that “many people [would] rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord…He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17) This is John the Baptist, in case you haven’t made the connection yet
Zacharias responded to this message with disbelief, emphasizing that he and Elizabeth were pretty old. Didn’t God know that old people don’t have babies that often? (Luke 1:18)
However, because of Zacharias’ disbelief, Gabriel said that he would not be able to speak until John was born. (Luke 1:20) At first this sounds like a rough sentence, but it certainly creates a quiet space for hearing more from God!
After the rest of his time serving at the temple, the mute Zacharias returned home. What a surprise his inability to speak must have been for Elizabeth! When did she realize his condition was semi-permanent and not just a joke? How did she respond when she saw her husband after him being away so long? Later, the Bible says that Zacharias used a writing tablet to communicate that the baby’s name should be John. I wonder who had the fabulous idea to use the writing tablet and when they had that idea.
Just as the angel said, Elizabeth became pregnant. Her recorded response was to hide for five months. I wasn’t sure why she hid: people nowadays announce their baby often in the first trimester, so I checked the footnotes of my Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. The footnote for Luke 1:24-25 says, “Why Elizabeth hid herself is not clear. The most likely suggestion is that she withdrew to give praise to God….and to prepare privately for the coming of her special child.” It was a much bigger deal in her culture than it is in our culture for woman to have babies. Elizabeth was super glad to be rid of the cultural shame of barrenness and simultaneously a part of God’s plan. Scroll back up and read about what Gabriel says about her coming child. Zacharias must have been able to communicate this with his wife via the writing tablet. I would also want to get away with God to praise Him and hear more from Him about this!
I would imagine the months of the pregnancy were very quiet in Zacharias and Elizabeth’s home Zacharias unable to talk and Elizabeth full of thoughts about the coming baby. Both husband and wife had a great opportunity to be quiet before God and hear Him.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV)
Be still before God as you go about your day. You never know what you might hear from Him.
And if you have a husband, thank God that he can talk!