Elizabeth was a godly woman. Descended from Aaron, married to Zacharias the priest, the Bible says she “walked blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). This does not refer primarily to rituals or ceremonies since the Old Testament is filled with commands for the heart such as do not covet (Exodus 20:17), love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), and love God with all your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5). Elizabeth had a blameless heart in the sight of God.


Elizabeth overcame so much. She was barren her whole life in a society where a woman’s entire worth was based on childrearing. To be barren, in the eyes of many, was a curse from God. Imagine the pain she must have endured year after year while she waited, hoped, and prayed for God to give her a child. She must have wept herself to sleep countless nights after noticing other women whispering behind her back in the marketplace, either pitying her or judging her.  


Perhaps Elizabeth sensed the call to be a mother from an early age. It must have been tormenting and confusing as she approached her 40’s and then her 50’s and the calling didn’t diminish. Maybe she thought she was going crazy. Maybe she wavered from one day to the next about whether she should keep believing God for a child or accept that it wasn’t His plan. Maybe she begged Him with all her heart to take away her desire to be a mother.


Now she was advanced in years, well beyond the ability to become pregnant. All hope was lost. Many women in her situation would have been overcome by bitterness long ago. They would have either blamed God, envied others, or despised themselves. But not Elizabeth. She determined to serve the Lord with all of her heart despite her shattered dreams and constant grief. She turned her pain into worship.


She must have thought to herself a thousand times that she wouldn’t know why God allowed this until she got to heaven. Little did she realize that all of heaven had been watching her the entire time. All of this had merely been preparation for stewarding the life of a man whose arrival all of Israel had been awaiting for hundreds of years, whose ministry was prophesied of by both Isaiah and Malachi (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 4:5), and of whom Jesus said, “…among those born of women there is no one greater” (Luke 7:28).


The angel Gabriel appeared to Elizabeth’s husband Zacharias. He announced the coming of their son John and explained his destiny. When Elizabeth became pregnant, she kept it a secret and remained in seclusion for five months. Why? What was she doing those five months?


Luke 1:25 tells us exactly what she was doing. She was telling herself, “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 other words, Elizabeth spent those five months alone with the Lord, settling in her heart that this miraculous pregnancy was nothing less than the hand of God. She was preparing her heart for what lay ahead.


Elizabeth knew Gabriel’s prophecy about her son would be hard for others to swallow. It must have sounded so grandiose and delusional to imagine telling friends and family who her son was. “So you’re saying your son is a forerunner for the Messiah? He’s the one those scriptures in Isaiah and Malachi are talking about? And who did you say told Zacharias this – the angel Gabriel?”


In all likelihood, many of them would sincerely fear for her sanity and think she needed help. Others would probably believe she was deceived by an evil spirit and perhaps even that this child was from the enemy. Other practical-minded people might suggest she prepare for a miscarriage or that the child could be born with health problems or deformities since both of its parents were so old.


If Elizabeth announced her pregnancy prematurely, she would have unnecessarily exposed herself and her unborn child to all kinds of skepticism, attacks, and negative talk. Satan was just as interested in this child as God was. He was ready at the drop of a hat to begin stirring up controversy in hopes of thwarting the child’s destiny. Elizabeth wanted to be sure she was ready for this onslaught.


God had already protected her from doubt and skepticism once – He made Zacharias mute for doubting Gabriel’s word. Now Elizabeth wisely did her part. She did everything she could to make sure both she and her miracle child were ready to face a doubting world with boldness and confidence.



Elizabeth was a seasoned veteran of trusting the Lord through difficult trials, but her young relative Mary had never been tested. Mary loved God with all her heart, but had no concept of the great cost of being used by Him. She had never experienced rejection or ridicule by those closest to her. She was a pure, innocent teenager engaged to be married to a godly man. She had her whole life ahead of her.


Mary had childlike faith that easily believed God for something miraculous. When the angel Gabriel explained that God would cause a child to supernaturally conceive in her womb, Mary replied, “May it be done to me according to your word.”


In her youthful zeal and naiveté, perhaps she even imagined the people in her life would celebrate with her for having been chosen for this honor. She was likely completely unaware of the firestorm that could be unleashed when word went out that she was pregnant out of wedlock and claimed to be carrying God’s Son. Would she be stoned for sexual immorality? Would she be committed to some kind of asylum for the mentally unstable? Would she be handed over to the religious leaders for deliverance and indoctrination? These were all real possibilities in her culture.


However, Gabriel also told Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and she immediately went to visit her. If Mary needed a confirmation that her pregnancy really was from the Lord, she got it the moment she entered the house. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, John leaped in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she cried out with a loud voice:


Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”


This moment was God’s seal that Mary had come to the right place to be strengthened for what lay ahead.


Elizabeth spent an entire lifetime laying a foundation for her call to raise John. Now she would have three months pass this foundation onto young Mary so that she could build upon it. Mary desperately needed a spiritual mother to prepare her for what she was about to face and Elizabeth was perhaps the only woman on earth who was qualified.


Mary’s challenges were similar to Elizabeth’s, only greater. Elizabeth had to give birth when she was too old; Mary had to give birth while she was a virgin and unmarried. Elizabeth was tasked with raising a prophet; Mary was responsible for raising God’s Son. Elizabeth faced possible skepticism and ridicule; Mary faced becoming an outcast or worse.


Through their long talks, Mary likely became aware of what was at stake. She had no guarantees of what to expect when she returned home. Would her fiancé bring her before the authorities? Would her parents disown her? If no one believed her, what would she do? How would she survive? A short time ago she was carefree and engaged to be married. Now her life, as she once knew it, was over. She began to see the great cost of being used by God in this way. She began to realize what it meant to lay down her life.


As they discussed her options, Mary knew she needed to do what Elizabeth had spent the last five months doing. She needed to settle in her heart that, despite whatever accusations may come, this was nothing less than the hand of God. She needed to stand boldly and confidently on His word even if every single human being in the world disbelieved her, save this one godly relative.


Because Mary had Elizabeth, she knew she was not alone. At least there was one person who could relate to her unimaginable circumstances and understand what she was going through. Thanks to Elizabeth, Mary knew that doing what God was asking of her was possible. If Elizabeth could do it, so could she. Elizabeth had gone on before her and paved the way.


After three months of prayer, mentoring, and faith-building, Mary returned home ready to face whatever may come. If Mary tried to tell her fiancé Joseph the truth, perhaps it went as well as could be expected. Joseph did not believe her story, but at least he still cared for her and wanted to shield her from public shame. He made plans to end their engagement quietly.


Mary must have felt heavy grief mixed with a deep, abiding peace. She didn’t know what was next, but she knew she had obeyed the Lord and that He would not forsake her.


Then …a miracle! An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and confirmed everything! In one night, everything changed. Now Mary was going to have a husband who believed her, who would protect and provide for her, and who would treat her Child like his own Son. Now she had a covering and a partner in the inconceivable task of raising the Son of God. God came through. He proved His faithfulness in the end… just like Elizabeth promised He would. 



The final biblical example of children building upon their parents’ foundation is Elijah and Elisha. We would be hard-pressed to find a more powerful father-son combination in history.