We’ve probably all seen the graphics floating around the internet with the words, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” But did you know it is a verse from Luke, and do you know the story surrounding it?
It’s a pretty awesome, richly layered story about Mary the mother of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). I believe there are many lessons for us buried in the narrative, so let’s dig into it!
Before we go any further, though, I suggest a reading of the entire passage. Just click the version you prefer below. Better yet, read it in all three!
Luke 1 (NIV) – The translation that is quoted.
Luke 1 (NLT) – The translation I will use for most of this Bible study.
Luke 1 (ESV) – A translation that is very accurate to the original language, so great to get context.
Introduction to Elizabeth the Mother of John the Baptist
I cry every time I read Elizabeth’s story. Though she is only very briefly mentioned in Scripture, I just LOVE her! Every word from her mouth that is recorded for us in the Bible is filled with faith, and with grace, and with beauty.
The verse we’re focusing on in this study, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her” was spoken by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
The first time we meet her, she has just become pregnant, as a very old woman, after a lifetime of infertility, in a culture that valued a woman based on her ability to have children. Still, there is not a drip of bitterness or entitlement in her response. She simply humbles herself before the Lord and praises Him. She calls Him kind. Then, she spends the next five months in seclusion, alone with her Lord! What a woman of remarkable faith!
Luke 1:24-25 – Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. “How kind the Lord is!” She exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
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Mary and the Angel Gabriel (The Promise Is Given)
I get chills when I read the account of the interaction between Mary and the angel Gabriel! What an incredible testimony of obedience and faith we find in Mary the mother of Jesus! It was no mistake that she was chosen, from all the women in all of time, to be the mother of God’s own Son.
As Gabriel begins to speak to Mary, we find part of the promise given from God through the angel Gabriel which Elizabeth is later going to refer to when she says, “Blessed is she who has believed…” or “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.” (Depending on the version you’re using)
Luke 1:31-33 – “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!”
You guys, there was no ambiguity here for Mary in his words. She was being told, in simple terms, that she was going to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah.
It had been 400 years since a prophet of God had received an inspired message from God for the people. 400 years of silence and waiting. This is the atmosphere in which Gabriel suddenly appeared to Mary. This was NOT an every day occurrence, or something anyone would expect.
But those 400 years had not been uneventful. Significant prophecies had been systematically fulfilled one after another, and now the time for Messiah to show up had come.
The Promise Explained
Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message always blows me away. Such a humble question. No protesting or snark in her tone. Just a simple question asking for an explanation to something she didn’t understand. “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
Gabriel’s answer finishes the promise. He explains how the miracle of the Immaculate conception is going to happen. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary is going to be impregnated with the very Son of God!
Luke 1:35-37 – The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the Word of God will never fail.”
Finally, before leaving Mary, Gabriel tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as well, which sort of seems a little out of place at first glance. But the Jewish people knew their prophesy, and they knew Messiah would be preceded by a prophet with the spirit of Elijah. To tell Mary that the Word of God will never fail in connection with news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy was confirmation that her baby, John the Baptist, would be that prophet.
The Problem with the Promise
Now, from our perspective, with the benefit of thousands of years of history between us and these events, it doesn’t seem like a crazy thing that Mary responded with willingness to play her part in this story.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the mother of the Messiah, right?
But we have to step back and put ourselves in Mary’s shoes. She was young, and engaged to a good man she actually loved. She was a virtuous woman, devout in her faithfulness to God.
To become pregnant, even with the Messiah, at this point in her life was not an easy ask. It would cost her!
It would cost her reputation. As far as she knew, it would likely cost her marriage. The fact is, if things had played out the way it SEEMED they would at that moment, becoming pregnant would almost certainly mean a very difficult life for Mary. She would be ostracized and it would be very difficult to provide for herself and her child under those circumstances.
To accept the role she had been given was to accept a very different and a much more difficult life than what had laid before her only moments earlier.
And still, Mary took the angel at his word. She believed the promise, and responded with these words,
Luke 1:38 – I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true”
Blessed is She Who Has Believed that the Lord would Fulfill His Promises to Her
Just a few days later, Mary left her home and went to stay with Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. The Bible tells us she stayed there with them for about three months. (Since we know Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary was given the promise that she would become pregnant with the Messiah, I think it’s safe to assume Mary stayed with Elizabeth until John was born.)
As Mary entered Elizabeth’s house, the Bible tells us the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped” within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Which tells us the words that came from her mouth in the next few minutes were Holy Spirit inspired words of prophecy:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ear, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” Luke 1:42-45 (NIV)
The Significance of Elizabeth’s Encouragement to Mary
Can you even imagine how much Mary must have needed to hear these words at that moment?
She was pretty much throwing away the “perfect” life that had been within her grasp only days earlier. And all based on the promise of a strange man who had appeared to her and told her some pretty crazy things.
It was no small act of faith, what Mary had done. And all because she believed the baby in her womb really WAS the long awaited Christ, the promised King of kings who would sit on the throne of David. She believed her son was the Lord of lords who would set all things right.
For Elizabeth, a woman Mary certainly held in very high esteem, who had likely been a sort of spiritual mentor to Mary, to utter the words, “the mother of my Lord,” in reference to Mary was desperately needed confirmation that Mary wasn’t off her rocker! I can’t even imagine how they must have soothed Mary’s heart.
And then, how the words of the prophecy that we’ve been focusing on must have set her soul on fire! “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.”
There was no promise of ease in those words, but there WAS the promise of blessing. She would be blessed because of her faith. And isn’t that the way it is for all of us?
Blessed is She Who Has Believed!
It is no surprise to me that these words of Elizabeth have become a mantra to which so many of us cling. Just as Mary’s incredible faith made her “blessed among women,” so every one of us is blessed when we place our unwavering faith in the promises of God!
Romans 1:17 – The Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by FAITH. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Friends, I know it is NOT easy to keep our faith. Life is hard, and the things God often calls us to endure can hurt SO much. But when we look to the examples of those who have gone before us – women like Elizabeth, and Mary, and so many others – surely we can find some encouragement.
Nothing about their stories was easy. Yet they pressed on. They kept their eyes fixed on the promise. Fixed on JESUS! They believed His promises to them, and they were blessed for it.
I pray we can respond to God’s call on our lives as Elizabeth did, “How kind the Lord is.” And as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.” And may His blessing follow our obedience!
Mary’s Song of Praise
After Elizabeth gave her encouraging little speech to her young cousin, Mary responded with a song which I have included below. May her words resonate in our hearts as we commit to be the women who have believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises!
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For He took notice of His lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
For He made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and His children forever.”
*How about you? What promises of God are you believing in faith? How has God blessed you for your faithfulness in the past?
***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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