Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist

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Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist

Her name means “Consecrated to God” or “God is my oath” or “A Worshipper of God.” 

You will find her story in: Luke 1

“Let every heart prepare Him room…”

Christmas is coming so I’m jumping ahead in my chronological study of the Women of the Bible to look at the three women of Christmas. We’ll start with Elizabeth. Her story is so refreshing to read after getting bogged down with the sinfulness and lack of faith in some of our Old Testament women.

Elizabeth’s name, unlike Delilah or Jezebel, brings positive connotations. Very few people in the Bible are praised as much for their godly character as Elizabeth and her husband are.

“They were both lovers of God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord fully.” The Passion Translation – TPT

Gien Karssen says Elizabeth had “an independently developed spiritual life.” Luke 1 shows us a woman of deep faith and godly heritage. She was the daughter of priests. Zacharias was blessed to have her as a wife. Her name actually goes back a long, long way. The first in the priestly line, Moses’ brother Aaron, was married to Elisheba – the Hebrew equivalent of Elizabeth – and their sons were the founders of the Levitical priesthood.

Punished for Being Good?

The women of Elizabeth’s time all secretly longed to become the mother of the Messiah. Zacharias and Elizabeth were God’s faithful servants BUT they were afflicted with what was considered a curse in their day – Elizabeth was barren. Past the age of childbearing, she appeared to have no chance of becoming a mother at all, let alone the mother of the Messiah. Righteous yet suffering? Doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?

“They had waited together these many years, till in the evening of life the flower of hope had closed its fragrant cup; and still the two sat together in the twilights, content to wait in loneliness, till night would close around them.” (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Book One, Eerdmans, 1971, Alfred Edersheim)

But Elizabeth and Zacharias show us what to do when God says no. They kept on serving God, trusting Him and kept on praying. In their day, the people gathered to pray twice a day at the temple. Elizabeth was surely part of the crowd praying outside, waiting for her husband to appear after he performed his once-in-a lifetime priestly duty to burn incense before the Lord in Jerusalem. 

Okay, I’m getting up on my Soapbox: So where are the (twice a day, daily, weekly, maybe monthly, not even quarterly) prayer gatherings today? Where are the crowds of people gathering together, begging for Christ’s return, begging for the Holy Spirit to rain down in power on Christ’s body of believers, begging for God’s guidance in their lives? We, as the body of Christ, lack zeal for corporate prayer. I know this because I have spent the last 20+ years inviting women to prayer groups. No one has time to fit prayer in their busy schedules. They see it as just another thing to add to their To Do list instead of the source of power and peace that they so desperately need in their lives.

Zacharias Doubts

As Elizabeth waited anxiously outside the temple in the Court of Women, the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias and says: “Your prayers have been answered.” Terrified, Zacharias immediately questions, “How can two old fogies like us have a baby?” It is a reasonable, pragmatic question given the circumstances but it reveals his unbelief. If I’ve learned anything about God, it’s that He has a sense of humor (and that nothing is impossible with Him.) Young people don’t even like to think about senior citizens having sex, but God used an old couple making love to bring a miracle baby into the world. As Ann Spangler says, “God was once again kindling a fire with two dry sticks.”

God had not spoken new words to the Israelites in four hundred years. Now, for a moment, He lifts the veil and lets Zacharias have a peek inside. No wonder Zacharias is surprised. I can’t be too hard on him. What would I do if an angel just showed up with a message from God and my circumstances looked IMPOSSIBLE?

I’m always praying God will show up. Why am I constantly surprised when He does? Zacharias knew God. He knew scripture. He just didn’t believe the fulfillment of a prophecy could happen through him. Isn’t it ironic?  John was sent ahead to make the people ready for Jesus and John’s own dad was the first doubter. As I looked at Elizabeth’s life, this sentence written by Gien Karssen, impacted me more than any other:

After her husband’s failure to believe Elizabeth “responded like a good wife who accepts weakness in her life partner.”

She didn’t berate him but kept on loving him even after his failure to believe. After she conceives, Elizabeth goes into seclusion for five months. Zacharias can’t speak and she isn’t leaving the house. I like to imagine the two of them talking about scripture, remembering all the old prophecies and contemplating who their son will be. They obviously knew God’s Word well.  When God finally opens his mouth, Zacharias will quote the Old Testament over thirty times in his song of praise (also known as The Benedictus) and filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth will inspire Mary to break forth into a song that will become know as The Magnificat. It happens this way…

Gabriel has been busy. After he speaks with Zacharias, He visits Mary. She decides to come visit her cousin. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth becomes the first person in history to confess Jesus Christ in the flesh.

  • Before Mary arrived Elizabeth glorified God for her own miracle pregnancy saying: The Lord has done this for me. He has looked on me with favor.
  • But after she hears Mary’s greeting, baby John leaps inside her with joy and she shows she is a prophetess (knowing things she could not possible know without the revelation of God). She encourages Mary proclaiming: Blessed are you among women and your child will be blessed. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!

So here’s the question to ponder:

Do my words cause others to burst into song or do my words bring others down?

How is Jesus involved in Elizabeth’s Story?

Women need other women. Especially when they are pregnant or raising little ones. The support, encouragement and advice women give each other when raising young children is priceless. I love the painting above showing John the Baptist, Jesus, Mary and Elizabeth together. Two women – one older probably past 60, one younger probably only 13 years old – raising their boys, their miracle babies, together. Two women encouraged each other at the birth of John the Baptist and two women – Salome and Herodias (more on them later) – will be responsible for John’s death.

Elizabeth’s prayers were answered in God’s timing. John means God is gracious (the mercy or favor of God).  Herbert Lockyer says – “Because of their old age when their son was born, we can assume that Zacharias and Elizabeth both died years before their godly son was cruelly murdered by Herod.” God in His grace, spared Elizabeth from witnessing her son being beheaded. Mary would have to look on as the crowd crucified her boy.

Jesus was so grieved by the gruesome death of his cousin, John, that he withdrew into the wilderness – the place John lived before he began his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus. Jesus said there was no man greater than John. A great man who had a godly mother.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How do you cope with adversity? Disappointment? Discouragement? Hope deferred? Do you turn to God in prayer first or only as a last resort?
  2. This quote from the workbook Life Principles from Women of the Bible Book 2 comforted me: Have you prayed about something only to think the answer was “No?” Are you waiting on God about something now? Remember, He cares about the smallest thing and is working all within the big picture of His redemptive plan – that includes you. Trust His timing and His goodness. His blessings may not come until they are almost too late, but God is never late – nor is He ever too early. His always on time, working according to His timing that is always perfect.
  3. What has the Lord done for you? How has He showed you his favor? Praise Him for it as Elizabeth did.

Prayer:

Lord, this is what struck me about Elizabeth – Your timing is perfect. I see it in the little things like my devotions being just what I need that very day and in the big things like you sending us signs of confirmation to sell our house and move a new direction when we retire. You will always provide what is best in my life because you love to give good gifts. As I wait, may I fill my life with Your Word. It is the light for my feet, the lamp revealing the path You want me to take. Teach me to trust that you are greater than all my trials and to wait with hope.   Amen.

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from Elizabeth: Love the doubters. Encourage each other to give glory to God.


Women of the Bible – The Witch of Endor

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The Witch of Endor

You will find her story in: 1 Samuel 28

Did you know that according to the National Retail Federation “the witch has been the bestselling adult (Halloween) costume for the past 10 years, followed closely by the vampire, pirate, nurse and Batman?” 

It’s Halloween and tonight our Tuesday evening Women of the Bible study is going to read about The Witch of Endor – a scene the poet Lord Byron describes likes this…

“I have always thought this the finest and most finished witch scene that ever was written or conceived, and you will be of my opinion if you consider all the circumstances of the actors of the case, together with the gravity, simplicity and density of the language. It beats all the ghost scenes I have ever read.”

My co-leader said she’s been a Christian since 1967 but had NEVER read this story in the Bible until now. It shook her up. That is an appropriate reaction. The Witch of Endor SHOULD shake us to the core. God hates certain things and witchcraft is one of them. I saw a meme online the other day that said, “Want to hear God’s voice, read the Bible out loud.” Here’s what God has to say about the occult:

“Do not let a woman who does evil magic stay alive. Put her to death.” Exodus 22:18

“Do not turn to mediums [who pretend to consult the dead] or to spiritists [who have spirits of divination]; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31

“Every man or woman who is a medium or a psychic must be put to death. They must be stoned to death because they deserve to die.” Leviticus 20:27

A Little Background

So Saul, the first king of Israel, had started well – trusting God and obeying Him. But, and this is a big BUT, he did not remain faithful. He did not remain obedient. So God left him (and, as a bonus, sent an evil spirit to torment him.)  Samuel, Saul’s mentor who only lived a few miles away, never went to see Saul again – and mourned for him the rest of his life.  This sets the stage for our story.

Samuel has passed away. After a busy life of neglecting his kingdom and jealously trying to kill David – God’s next choice for the throne of Israel – Saul is faced with the imminent attack of a massive army. He panics. He prays (which is actually a good response when you’re panicking.) But God is not answering him. God tends to not answer the prayers of people who do not believe in or obey Him.

Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Good counsel comes from God alone. But Saul decides to disguise himself, set out in the middle of the night to sneak behind enemy lines and seek the advice of a woman who has sold her soul to Satan. Darkness and disobedience go hand in hand. Saul swears to break the very law that he had created – that all witches must die – and promises the Witch of Endor safety if she will call up Samuel. Here’s what God has to say about that:

“As for the person who turns to mediums [who consult the dead] or to spiritists, to play the prostitute after them, I shall set My face against that person and will cut him off from his people [excluding him from the atonement made for them].” Leviticus 20:6

Saul is going to be “cut off” sooner, rather than later.

Let’s Take This Quite Literally

Ancient peoples believed the spirit world was real. Modern people are too “sophisticated” to believe in such antiquated ideas. As I researched, I was surprised to find that these passages are called “mysterious” and “difficult to deal with” by some pretty famous theologians. Some of them go through some pretty crazy mental gymnastics to try and make this scene fit their dogma:

  • they say the witch made the whole thing up and Saul fell for it because he was so desperate
  • others say it was an evil spirit that impersonated Samuel
  • still others say it was just a vision of Samuel, not the actual Samuel himself come back from the dead.

Me, I have decided to take this story at face value. 

I believe God warns us so strongly against the occult because it is real and it is dangerous. There is satanic power involved. Saul asked the witch to call up the dead Samuel. Witch does so (thank God the Bible does not describe how she did this). Samuel shows up (irritated that he had to leave the afterlife). Samuel delivers the bad news and leaves.  No mental gymnastics necessary. Besides, it’s not the only time God allows people to come back from the dead. Later Moses and Elijah will return to have a staff meeting with Jesus on the top of the Mount of Transfiguration.

Since the Witch screams when Samuel shows up, I believe she was probably one of those shams listed in Leviticus 19 (and portrayed in the 1990 movie, Ghost) and was terrified when her magical arts actually worked. It’s pretty ironic she didn’t recognize Saul in disguise until God allowed Samuel to return.

Those ancient peoples who believed in the occult were always consulting the spirits to try and control their future. Saul, the guy who took his kingdom into his own hands now wanted to take his future into his own hands.  He wanted to know more than God allowed him to know. So God let him have it. He gave Saul a list of all his sins and told him that both he and his sons would die the next day. Who wouldn’t fall face down on the ground after hearing a message like that? 

Afterlife in the Old Testament

There isn’t much mention of heaven or hell in the Old Testament. The Sadducees of New Testament fame studied the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and declared that there was no life after death. (That’s why they were Sad u See:) They didn’t include 1 Samuel in their studies. If they had they might have come to a different conclusion.

This story assumes several things. Saul assumes that Samuel’s spirit is living on somewhere else – presumably heaven since Samuel believed and served God to the end. He assumes that Samuel can be called out of heaven to come back to this world. When Samuel returns and gives his fateful message he ends with a very interesting phrase: “Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”

Some scholars take this to mean that tomorrow Saul and his sons will join Samuel in the house of the dead but others say that Saul and his sons will join Samuel in heaven. Say what? Saul, after all the evil he has done, will still end up in heaven? That sounds more like the gracious God of the New Testament and His Son Jesus than the so-called “angry God” of the Old Testament.

How is Jesus involved in The Witch of Endor’s Story?

The typical reaction of the Christian community to people like Saul and the Witch is to shun them, castigate them, stay as far away from them as possible. But maybe we are just supposed to love them – and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them so the truth can set them free. 

Many women get into witchcraft because they want to help people. The Witch of Endor gently cared for Saul encouraging him to rest after he received his devastating news. She cooked him a fine meal before she sent him on his way. She was a good hostess not the ugly, evil crone by her boiling pot filled with “the scale of a dragon, a wolf’s tooth, a witch’s mummified flesh, the gullet and stomach of a ravenous shark, a root of hemlock that was dug up in the dark,…a goat’s bile, some twigs of yew that were broken off during a lunar eclipse…”

Present day physics are much more subtle now. They have slick, beautiful websites. They promise to ease the pain of your loss by putting you in touch with your dearly departed loved ones or even your lost pets. (All for only $29.99) 

Author Liz Curtis Higgs when writing about the Witch of Endor did some research (after much prayer) on the occult.  This is what a former witch turned Christian was trained to do:

“Never frighten anyone. Offer new realms of mystery and excitement. Make it look like natural, innocent adventure. Cover up evil with appealing wrappings.” 

Liz says

“I studied various books on the occult and found safe-sounding, familiar practices: Prayer and meditation. Ceremonies and sacred days. Music and worship. Sharing of food. Storytelling. Rituals for birth marriage and death. Many similarities. But oh, sisters, one big difference! Our relationship is not with a dead spirit but with a LIVING CHRIST. Our God does not come from within ourselves but from ON HIGH.

 These are women who just want to help but have chosen a path that God has forbidden. No matter the good intentions, God hates what they are doing and we are not to participate in the activities of evil.

“…do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations… Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” Deuteronomy 18:9-12

Questions to Ponder

  1. Have you ever participated in any occult activities: horoscopes, palm readers, telephone psychics, ouija boards, seances? Repent immediately and pray the prayer below. God is forgiving. God is kind.
  2. Does the thought of talking to a deceased loved one tempt you to break God’s law? 
  3. So is reading fantasy books like Harry Potter wrong?  Why or why not? How about desperately ill women reading a book like “The Medical Medium” who says Spirit will tell him what your specific health problems are?

Prayer by Ann Spangler:

Father, forgive me for my involvement in the occult. I want nothing whatever to do with the realm of evil. Draw me out of the darkness and into the light of your presence. Free me from any lingering effects of my involvement and help me to trust you completely for my future. Amen

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from The Witch of Endor: Don’t mess around with occult practices. If you want to know the future, ask God.  He’ll tell you what you need to know. (And I was pleasantly surprised to see solid evidence for the afterlife in the Old Testament.)


theWordchick.com

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Some history:

I started blogging (privately) back in 2008 to learn how to use the WordPress platform so that I could re-do my church’s website. In 2012 I bought the domain name angiwiggins.com after attending a Christian Writer’s Conference where they suggested you should always own your own name – so I bought it and went public with my own website.

The name I really wanted to buy, however, was theWordchick.com. My best friend, Peggy, dubbed me the Word Chick when I was working for her. She is an accountant and called herself the Number Chick. Together we made a great team. I love words. I love finding the right one to use at the the right time. I love looking up words. I especially love words with a double meaning so I really love that theWordchick indicates that I’m a woman who loves words and The Word (of God, the Bible.)

I was really bummed back in 2012 when I discovered theWordchick.com domain name was not available.  It wasn’t even being used. Just an empty template came up when you typed in www.thewordchick.com. I prayed that some day it would become available. Some day has come! I purchased theWordchick.com domain name last week! Rejoice with me!

In honor of my new purchase, I am going back to my archives and posting a number of articles I wrote years ago in my private blog but never made public. I’m sorry if you’re a subscriber and they flood your inbox, but I’m so inspired by acquiring theWordchick.com that I want to celebrate by cleaning up my posts. Thank you for reading!


Quilting vs. Blogging

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Just so you know. When it comes to quilting versus blogging – quilting wins hands down every time. That’s why I’ve been getting a lot of quilts done but not very many blog posts done. I have been keeping up(ish) with my personal block of the month challenge.  Here’s the latest in the series…

2014 Personal Applique Challenge

Here’s my  block #5 from Stars in the Garden. (Now out of print but available for download at Piece O’ Cake Designs.)

Daisies

Sorry, this picture is kind of blurry. This one is representing the daisies in my garden. When we moved here back in 1999 we had a lot of daisies.  Slowly, over the years they disappeared.  I missed them – they’re such a happy flower – so last year I planted more and they are making a comeback now.  I had to add the blue fabric behind my fabric daisies because the white just sort of disappeared on the pink fabric. This is not my favorite block. I don’t think it worked very well but it sure is prettier in person than in a picture.

pink

June’s Block #6 – (I haven’t stitched down the edges yet.) This one represents my Cosmos.  Cosmos seem to grow well in Tehachapi.  It’s hard to grow anything in Bear Valley, however.  Too many enemies: heat, hard soil, bugs,  gophers, rabbits, deer and lately, elk – so beautiful but destructive.

Elk - No danger to quilt blocks but a danger to your real garden.

Elk – No danger to quilt blocks but a danger to your real garden – photo by Janet Estes

We just finished up our Block of the Month at Loose Threads (the quilting friendship group I belong to). We have a lot of fun quilting together. We did a block exchange in 2013-2014 and I made one set to give away and a set to keep for myself.  Loved how this block for my quilt turned out so I thought I’d share it.

Iphone 7.20.14 466