God Moving

Lk 1:39-45   At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
   
Luke, it is sometimes said, is the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is because Luke has travelled with Paul and has known the work of the Spirit in action. Perhaps this is why he is open and listening to his sources for signs of God’s activity. These unique first chapters of Luke’s Gospel are full of the activity of the Lord, either through angels or through the Holy Spirit.  Luke may be a doctor who deals in the physical realm, but he is a man who sees the whole picture and thus he knows there is far more to life than just the physical realm. He is a man who unashamedly believes in – sees, recognises and understands – the work of God by His Spirit.
     
Mary has been told by the angel that Elizabeth is expecting a baby in her old age. All we are told is that Elizabeth was a relative of Mary (1:36). There is a great age difference between them – Elizabeth is old, Mary is still a teenager – yet it seems natural for Mary to go and visit her relative. We aren’t told that she was sent there by God but He may have nudged her to go, so she makes the journey from the north, to the south to where in Judea they live.
   
When she arrives and enters their home and greets Elizabeth, something unexpected and wonderful happens – God turns up! Suddenly Elizabethis filled with the Holy Spirit. Now the Bible doesn’t define what it means by being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ but the language itself conveys a clear picture of God’s presence filling a person’s being, and a number of examples reveal what happens. When people in the Bible were filled with the Spirit, examples show us God enabling creativity (Ex 35:31), giving the ability to worship in other languages (Acts 2:4), to speak boldly (Acts 4:7:55, 8,31, 13:9-), or to prophesy (Acts 19:6). We will shortly see in Luke, Zechariah being filled and prophesying (Lk 1:67-). When the Holy Spirit comes and fills someone, things happen. It is God coming to impart blessing in some form but almost invariably it is accompanied by great joy.
    
So the Spirit comes on Elizabeth as Mary comes in and greets her, and Elizabeth speaks out truth that is revelation: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!Before Mary has a chance to tell her what has happened, Elizabeth finds herself speaking out the revelation of heaven, that she is also having a child and she is especially blessed by God. But listen to this: “But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The mother of my Lord? That is incredible! For her that would probably mean the coming Messiah. Gabriel had told Zechariah that, “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (1:15) and here we have that being fulfilled for she declares, “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
   
John, within her, was filled with the Spirit as she was filled with the Spirit and he leapt within her. Don’t let unbelief put this leaping within the womb be thought of as the natural first movement of the child within her. As far as she is concerned (under the inspiration of the Spirit) the baby leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice! It was the ministry of this baby within her to reveal the Coming One and already that ministry is here seen through Elizabeth. This is all the work of the Holy Spirit who fills her (and him) and inspires her to speak out the truth of the One who is now within Mary. This is the first encounter of the forerunner and the One of whom he will speak, and the two expectant mothers (as we shall shortly see) are both inspired by the Spirit to speak out the revelation from heaven.
     
Elizabeth then gives Mary further encouragement: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” In other words, blessed are you Mary for believing what God has said to you. Yes, the prophetic word so often declares the future, so often declares the ‘now truth’, but invariably brings encouragement, or as Paul was to write many years later, “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Cor 14:3). We are living in the age of the Spirit now. Elizabeth and Mary were the forerunners of this age. How wonderful that our relationship with the Lord includes His provision of His own Holy Spirit who comes to us, fills us, inspires us and brings the revelation of heaven to us. For Mary this must have been a tremendous encouragement, the first person (after Joseph- but his had only been a dream!) to confirm to her all that had happened when the angel came to her. She’s still only a young girl and needs this encouragement. God delights in giving His children encouragement.

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