A Visit to the Hill Country
“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45)
When I was a boy, there was one delightful ray of sunshine in my dark life, one thing which was always sure to give me a season of pure pleasure and happiness. At least once a year, I would get to go for a week or more to the mountains to visit my dad’s family. My grandmother, great aunt, and my aunts and uncles were always a pleasure to be around. I remember dreaming, with delightful anticipation, about going to the hills of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. The happiest days of my childhood were spent in the hills.
In these verses the Spirit of God takes us with Mary to the hill country of Judah. She went there to visit her aging cousin Elisabeth. What a pleasurable, instructive and spiritually beneficial visit it was.
A Beneficial Communion
“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (vv. 39-42).
Here we see Mary and Elisabeth, a young virgin and an elderly mother in Israel, walking together in delightful, blessed fellowship and communion. They were cousins, but their fellowship was much more and much, much sweeter and beneficial than the companionship of family. Their fellowship with one another was the fellowship of faith. Their communion was the communion of grace.
When I talk about fellowship and communion, I am talking about the fellowship of believers, the communion of grace in Christ. We who believe “have all things common.” We have a common salvation, a common election, a common atonement, a common hope, a common family, a common warfare and a common inheritance. Luke tells us that these dear saints, when they visited with one another, were mutually benefited, spiritually benefited by each other. Their heats were cheered. Their minds were uplifted. Their souls were refreshed. Their spirits were edified.
As they visited and communed with one another, discussing the grace of God, the wonders of his providence, and the excellence of his mercy, his covenant, his promises and his faithfulness, Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and Mary was inspired to sing a new song of praise to the Lord.
We should always regard the fellowship of God’s saints as one of our greatest privileges in this world. Sadly, J. C. Ryle rightly observed, “There are many who fear the Lord and think upon his name, and yet forget to speak often one to another.” That ought not be the case. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend…As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:17, 19).
“They that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). — What a refreshing break in our pilgrimage, what an oasis in this desert, what a resting place in this troubled world a season of fellowship with God’s saints is! Let us never take this privilege lightly. — “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (especially fellow strangers!): for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1-2).
Fellowship with God’s saints is as near as we come to heaven on earth. We will be wise to seize every opportunity to enjoy the company of God’s elect in the assembly of public worship and in private company. When we have the privilege, let us take care that our company is helpful, not harmful, edifying, not a hindrance, to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should speak to one another, as Mary and Elisabeth did, about the things of God. And in the house of God, when God’s messenger has delivered God’s message to your soul, speak to one another about the message.
Our chosen companions in this world should always be companions in the grace of God. I do not suggest that we live as hermits in this world, that we isolate ourselves from society. That would be irresponsible. I do not suggest that we treat other people contemptuously. That would be horribly wicked. Yet, believers should never choose unbelievers for their companions in any sphere of life. I am always concerned when I see anyone who professes to be a child of God choosing to spend his or her leisure time with unbelievers. Such a choice is like choosing to take fire into your bosom. It is like inviting a traitor into your camp. It is bringing a thief into your home. No good can come from it (1 Corinthians 5:6; 15:33-34; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
A Believer’s Confession
“And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (vv. 43-44).
Often, we think that God’s saints in days gone by were very terribly ignorant concerning the person and work of Christ. Like us, many of them were weak and ignorant of many things. They often expressed themselves poorly. They often behaved in a way that was contrary to the gospel, and contrary to their God given faith. They were, after all, men and women like us!
Yet, those men and women in days of old who knew God were also given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Elisabeth’s language in verse forty-three, where she called Mary “the mother of my Lord,” is the language of remarkable faith. It is a confession of faith every bit as remarkable as that of Peter, who confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
We must not put words in her mouth, but when she made this confession concerning the baby in Mary’s womb, Elisabeth acknowledged that the child conceived in Mary’s womb was the long expected Messiah, the son of David, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. She understood what Mary sang in verses 46-55.
“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
Elisabeth’s confession was an acknowledgement of voluntary surrender to and faith in Christ as her Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). This dear old saint had learned and gladly acknowledged what all must soon acknowledge: – Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).
A Blessed Confidence
“And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (v. 45). — Here, we see an old, old woman, a woman who had learned the folly of both vanity and flattery, speaking in glowing terms about the blessedness of faith in Christ, the blessedness of believing God.
It is indeed a blessed thing to believe God. Faith has always been a grace by which God’s saints in this world have obtained a good report (Hebrews 11:1-16). The story of God’s saints is a story of faith, the narrative of chosen, redeemed sinners who, believing God, were and are blessed of God. By faith, they embrace God’s promises, walk with God, endure hardships, look to Christ, endure temptations, triumph over the world, the flesh and the devil, live, die and enter into glory!
There is a great volume of instruction contained in these words – “Blessed is she that believed.” Faith is nothing less than confidence in God. Read Elisabeth’s words again. — “And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Faith is confidence that God will accomplish all his Word, that he will perform all his promises, that he will fulfil his every decree (Philippians 1:6).This faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 1:19; 2:8; Colossians 1:12). Blessed is that sinner to whom it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe on his name (Philippians 1:29). Do we know anything about this precious gift of faith? — “Blessed are they that have believed” (John 20:29).
Oh, gift of gifts! Oh, grace of faith!
My God, how can it be
That Thou, who hast discerning love,
Shouldst give that gift to me?
Ah, Grace! into unlikeliest hearts
It is Thy boast to come;
The glory of Thy light to find
In darkest spots a home.
Thy choice, (O God of goodness!) then
I lovingly adore;
Oh, give me grace to keep Thy grace,
And grace to long for more!
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