A Mother’s Faith – Jochebed’s Story

The Bible laud’s Jochebed, Moses’ mother for her faith. We read about it in Exodus 1 and 2. Here is an expansion of the biblical story as I imagine it could have happened.

 

Pounding on their door startled Amram and Jochebed awake.

“Pharaoh orders every able-bodied man to report for work duty immediately,” a voice cried out.

“You’re not scheduled to work today, are you?” Jochebed whispered trying not to wake the children.

“No, I’ll find out.”

He stuck his head outside the door, “What is it, brother? It’s early. I’m not scheduled to work today.”

The official, on his way to his neighbor’s door, shouted, “You are now. Quit wasting time. Follow me!”

Amram felt Jochebed beside him. “Come, hurry. I’ll help you get ready,” she said.

“Maybe I should find out more? I’ve worked for him. Perhaps he made a mistake in calling me?” Amram started toward the official.

Jochebed touched his arm, “No, something is different today. You’d better do what he says.”

Continue Reading »

Mary’s Diary

This is the second in a series of short stories in which I take the biblical account of Christmas and weave in details as I imagine they happened. In this story I imagine what Mary may have written if she kept a diary. The Bible is inspired by God, my writing is not. I hope my additions make this story come to life personally for you.

Mary's Diary

The Christmas Story Part 2

Wednesday

I dreamed of this all my life. The matchmaker stopped by today. Mother made me leave as soon as she arrived. I want to find out what happened, but it isn’t proper for me to ask. It wasn’t a surprise she came by our home. I noticed her talking with my parents in the market. I wondered if it was just polite conversation or if it was about me. Now I’m certain.

My girlfriends and I have fun wondering what married life is like. We see bachelors and imagine being their wife. Sometimes we squeal and make faces when we see the skinny, simple-minded boy down the street or the old, fat widower. Every conversation ends the same. We dream about marrying the most handsome and strongest man in the village. Then we argue about which one of us will end up marrying him. 

The matchmaker doesn’t talk as much as she shrills. Her voice reaches you before you see her. She knows everyone, and everyone likes her. She’s a reliable source for the latest gossip. By now everyone in town is talking about her visiting us. My friends will expect all the details. I wish I had something to tell them!

Friday

As I expected, my friends told me everyone is gossiping about the matchmaker’s visit to my house. They are excited for me. I disappointed them when I said my parents didn’t tell me anything. They weren’t satisfied with that so they decided they would choose a husband for me. Our fun time turned into teasing. The focus was all on me. They were not kind as they pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of each potential suitor. I tried to laugh but was too anxious to enjoy it. As I looked at each man, I realized my dreams could turn into a nightmare.

Sunday

I’ve still had no word from my parents about a possible betrothal. Today I saw Joseph and his father building a new house in town. Both noticed me and smiled. I wonder! Maybe I’m just a silly girl. What if he were the one?

Mary and Joseph

Tuesday

He is the one! I am going to marry Joseph!

This morning Mother told me Joseph was coming over to talk with Father. He and Father each had representatives who negotiated for them. They agreed! I am betrothed to Joseph.

Joseph is a kind, quiet, hard-working man. Everyone likes him and says good things about him. Today I found out he is a man of faith.

We sat together to talk. It was our first conversation. He told me he wants to have a large family with God at the center. He promised to work hard and with God’s help provide for our needs. We will live with his parents until God provides the way for him to build us a home here in Nazareth.

Thank you, God! I’m so excited. I won’t sleep much tonight.

Thursday

My friends almost knocked me over as they ran to hug me today. I can’t stop smiling! The wedding is months away, but that’s okay. Things could not be better! Thanks be to God.

Monday

I almost can’t believe I’m writing this. An amazing thing happened. An angel visited me. It’s incredible to write that, but it happened.

Gabriel and Mary

The Bible says angels visited people in the past, but I never expected it to happen. His name was Gabriel. One moment I was alone and the next he was there. I saw him and couldn’t move. No one was with me. I wanted to run! Then he spoke. He assured me I had nothing to fear. He said I am favored by God.

Then he told me why he was speaking with me. He said I would conceive and give birth to a son. I would call Him Jesus and He will be great and called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.

God filled me with peace as he talked. It was an angel standing before me but I wasn’t afraid. My sense was that what he said was true. But I didn’t understand. How would it happen? When would it happen? I’m a virgin.

He said the Holy Spirit will come upon me and the power of the Most High will overshadow me. My child will be the Son of God.

Then I understood. God chose me to be the mother of the Messiah.

Then Gabriel told me Elizabeth, my cousin, is pregnant in her old age. That surprised me! “For no word from God will ever fail,” he said. That meant God was keeping His word to send the Messiah, through me.

This is an honor. “I am the Lord’s servant. Fulfill your word in me,” I said.

Then he left. What do I do now? God, please help me.

Monday

I can’t put the visit from Gabriel out of my mind. My entire world has changed but I’m the only one who knows it! Everyone keeps asking me what’s wrong. I wish I could say, “Nothing’s wrong except an angel visited me and told me I will be the mother of the Messiah even though I’m still a virgin.”

I want to talk to someone, my parents, my friends, or Joseph, but I can’t. Everyone will think I dreamed it up. There’s one person I can tell, Elizabeth. I will visit her. My brother will accompany me. We leave tomorrow.

Friday

We arrived at Elizabeth and Zechariah’s last night. It took three days, but I don’t remember the journey. Every waking moment I contemplated how to tell Elizabeth. I ate little, slept little and said even less. My brother stopped asking what was wrong when all I did was smile weakly and shrug. It’s hard to keep a secret from those I love!

My worry was for nothing. I didn’t have to tell Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Mary

I walked in and called out her name. The Holy Spirit filled her at that moment. I froze as she said in a loud voice, “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? 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 the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!”

Then the Holy Spirit filled me, and I responded, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

She was just as surprised as I was when I said that. We hugged and cried tears of joy, and for me, relief. I was with someone who understood what was happening.

We spent the rest of the day telling our stories. She said Zechariah saw an angel when serving in the temple. The angel told him they would have a son. Zechariah doubted his word. The angel told him because of his lack of faith, he wouldn’t be able to speak until the boy was born. She is in her sixth month, so it will be a while before Zechariah can tell them everything that happened. Her son is to prepare the way for my son.

I told her about Gabriel’s visit. I shared that each day I thank God for this privilege. But I struggle as I try to imagine the future. It isn’t clear. I want it to be! I asked her how do I share this with Joseph? She said this is from God. God will give me favor with Joseph. She’s right.

Monday

These past few days have been a delight. I’m sleeping well and I have my appetite back. Elizabeth has been a great encouragement. We’ve shared our hopes, dreams, and fears for the days ahead. We’ve talked about the promises from God’s word about the Messiah. She knows the Bible well. It’s exciting to read about the Messiah and imagine Him being my son. It doesn’t seem real.

I will stay for a few months. Elizabeth can use my help around the house. I can use her help in preparing for when I tell Joseph.

Wednesday

Elizabeth will soon give birth to her son. It’s time for me to return home. The past three months have flown by. I’m in my fourth month and am showing I am with child. It isn’t too obvious when I wear loose clothing. I won’t be able to hide it for long. We leave tomorrow morning. I’m ready. I need to tell Joseph.

Friday

I’m home. So far no one has noticed I am pregnant. Everyone wanted the latest news about Zechariah and Elizabeth. I was more than happy to give it to them. Joseph stopped by to see me. There were too many people around for us to talk privately. We arranged a time to talk. Lord give me wisdom and help Joseph understand.

Monday

My conversation with Joseph didn’t end well.

It started great. When I saw him and he greeted me it seemed my heart would burst. Would he still be smiling after I told him everything?

He asked about my trip. My mind went blank. I paused. What should I say? Everything! How do I start? I hoped and prayed he would understand.

He looked puzzled as I took a deep breath and began. My voice quivered. I said, “Four months ago I was visited by the angel Gabriel.” His puzzlement turned to surprise.

Then I explained every word and every detail. When I said, “The angel told me I would become pregnant with a son, God’s Messiah,” Joseph looked away. Was he embarrassed or angry?

Quickly I continued. “But I’m a virgin,” I told Gabriel. “How was that possible?”

“The Holy Spirit would come upon me,” he said.

I told Joseph I wanted to tell him then, but I feared he wouldn’t believe me. Since the angel explained about Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy, I concluded she would be the best person to talk with first. And she was! That was why I visited her. I described how she greeted me when I walked in the door and my spirit-filled response to her. Next I told him the details about how Elizabeth told me Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell him they would have a son in their old age and that their son would be the forerunner for the Messiah.

Finally, I whispered, “It happened, Joseph, I’m pregnant.”

He stood without looking at me, turned and walked away. What do I do now?

Monday

It’s been a week. Not a word from Joseph. I spend my time alone, crying and praying. Mother keeps asking what’s wrong, but I can’t talk to her, not yet. God, please help me.

Tuesday

Joseph came by today. The moment our eyes met I saw everything was okay.

He said at first he didn’t accept my story. No virgin has ever become pregnant. Joseph assumed I betrayed him. But he didn’t want to shame me. When he considered his options, he decided not to tell anyone or seek counsel because he was so ashamed.

It hurt me to hear how he felt. He saw my reaction and said, “Don’t be upset. It’s okay, let me finish.”

He continued. Even though he didn’t want to do it, he decided to divorce me. Before he could do so an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.”

Then he asked me to forgive him for not believing me. My heart melted. The visit by the angel confirmed God chose me to be the mother of the Messiah. He is humbled God has also honored him with this privilege. He knows the next few months will be hard but he’s sure God will help us.

Thank you, Father, for blessing me with a husband who loves and trusts you. Thank you I no longer have to go through this alone. Thank You for this child.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

This is a series of short stories in which I take the biblical story of Christmas and weave in details as I imagine they happened. The Bible is inspired by God, my writing is not. I hope my additions make this story come to life personally for you.

The Christmas Story Part 1

Zechariah and Elizabeth are old and have no children

“I’m praying for you, for us,” Elizabeth said.

“And I for you,” Zechariah said lifting his bag.

“And for us, will you pray for us? You still have hope, don’t you?” Elizabeth asked.

Zechariah winced. Their eyes met. “We’ve talked of this so many times. Your faith is greater than mine but I still have hope. Our God is faithful, I will pray for us.”

The sun peeked over the horizon. “It’s time, I will make it to Jerusalem before sunset, God willing.”

Elizabeth smiled and waved.

Zechariah proceeded with a practiced pace from making this journey dozens of times. He would be tired when he arrived, but he didn’t mind. He was going to do what he loved, serve at the temple.

Life was good for him and Elizabeth. God always provided. There was one thing. They wished they had children. They wished they had a child. Elizabeth’s hope never wavered. His did and when it did her faith propped him up. They prayed that as God opened the wombs of Sarah, Rachel and Hannah he would open Elizabeth’s womb and give them a child. If God wished. So far, He had not wished. There was some disappointment, but not bitterness. Zechariah was getting good at beating back the doubt. He wished he were better at believing. He loved Elizabeth. He would pray.

Each day in Jerusalem started early for the priests. The chief priest assigned them all duties. There was one duty everyone wanted, to go into the Holy Place and offer incense to the Lord. Only two priests did this each day. It was such a privilege that a priest only did it once. There were hundreds of priests available, so they cast lots to determine who got to do it. Many never did it. Zechariah had never done it.

The room echoed with muffled conversations. Friends shared small-talk as they waited for assignments. Every time they gathered, Zechariah felt a child-like excitement hoping he would get to offer incense to the Lord that day.

They started. A hush settled over the room. First, they assigned a priest to care for the temple lamps. Another to provide the shewbread. Next a priest was assigned to receive the free-will offerings. On it went. Various duties assigned name by name. They didn’t call Zechariah’s name.

They saved the most desirable duties, those that took place inside the temple, for last. They called a priest to prepare the incense. They called a priest to remove the ashes from the inner altar. They selected a priest to handle the ashes from the candlestick. Zechariah wait but didn’t hear his name.

Finally, they would choose two priests to offer incense, one for the morning and one for the evening. Everyone stood motionless. Some held their breath. The only thing Zechariah could hear was his heartbeat.

Zachariah closed his eyes and prayed as he had many times. “Holy God, look upon me with favor and give me the privilege of serving in this duty as a gracious gift.” They read the name for the morning sacrifice. It wasn’t his. They drew the last name.

Zechariah chosen to offer incense

“Zechariah.”

It happened! He would burn the incense before the altar in the Holy place! Thanks be to God!

He wished Elizabeth were in Jerusalem! He would run and tell her this wonderful news. Friends surrounded him, congratulated him. He was grateful, excited, and anxious for this privilege. He wanted to do it right. What a special day!

He and the priest who would offer the morning incense began to prepare. Priests who assisted the High priest taught them what to do. They described each step, every detail. He absorbed the instructions. He visualized what he would do. He practiced over and over. With God’s help, he would make no mistakes.

It was time for the morning sacrifice. They went to the temple. He joined the crowd outside the temple. He watched as the priest leading them did everything in order. He entered the holy place.

Those gathered outside the temple offered prayers to God. Zechariah’s visualized what the priest was doing at that moment. Then, when he expected, the priest stepped out.

He stood before the people and said, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

And all the people said, “Amen!”

Zechariah sighed and relaxed. He hadn’t realized how anxious he had been for his fellow priest. He had done well. Zechariah returned to his room. He spent the day rehearsing, fasting, praying, worshiping and waiting.

Zechariah prepares to offer incense at the temple.

Hours later someone knocked on his door. It was time. He returned to the temple and put on the priestly garments. He did everything as instructed. He received the incense. He entered the holy place. It was more beautiful than he imagined. He placed the incense on the altar and watched as the smoke ascended like the prayers of the saints. He heard the people praying. He asked God to hear their prayers.

He was ready to leave when he remembered Elizabeth’s words. “And for us, will you pray for us?”

He told her he would pray. So, he did. “Lord, if it be your will, look upon me and my wife with favor and give us a son.”

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:11-20

The angel disappeared. Zechariah didn’t move. Did that happen? He looked around. He was alone. Had he seen a vision? Was it his imagination? Did he see the angel Gabriel?

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. Luke 1:21

He left the Holy place. The next thing was to pray God’s blessing.

When he came out, he could not speak to them. Luke 1:22

He tried to pray, but no words came out. It was as Gabriel said. He didn’t imagine it!

The people realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

Zechariah could not speak

Priests huddled around him and peppered him with questions. He wanted to answer but he couldn’t.

He was back in his room. He didn’t remember changing out of his priestly garments or walking there. His mind raced. He saw Gabriel. They would have a son. He would be great, a forerunner to the Messiah! He laid awake most of the night. Praise God.

He served the rest of his time as he normally did. Many asked him questions that he wanted to answer but he couldn’t. Everyone would know in time.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. Luke 1:23

What he would tell Elizabeth? Actually, he couldn’t tell her anything. Maybe that didn’t matter. They had been married so long she often knew what he was thinking! How did women do that?

It would be a guessing game, like with the priests.

Zechariah home with Elizabeth

Elizabeth met him, waving and smiling just like when he left. They hugged. “How are you? How was your time of service?” she asked.

He pointed to his throat and mouthed the words, “I can’t talk.”

Alarmed she said, “Are you sick? Sit down. I’ll get something to sooth your throat.”

He stopped her, shaking his head.

“What? What’s going on?”

He again pointed to his throat.

“I know your throat is bothering you. What’s wrong?” she implored.

Zechariah signed. It would be a long nine months. He again mouthed the words, “I can’t talk.”

“Oh, right, you can’t tell me. You can’t talk. Otherwise do you feel okay?” she asked?

He nodded.

“Okay, was it a good trip otherwise?” she asked.

Again, he nodded.

“Fine,” she said. “You get unpacked. I know you’re tired and hungry. Since you can’t talk, I’ll tell you what happened when you were away.”

Over the next few days, Elizabeth and her friends tried every remedy they could imagine for his voice. Zechariah endured them all. He also listened more than ever in his life.

Day and weeks passed. One day Elizabeth came and sat beside him. She looked and him but said nothing.

His eyes widened expecting her to say something.

She smiled. “Zechariah, I have to tell you something.”

Her smile made him smile. He leaned and turned his ear toward her.

He didn’t intend for her to come close, but she did. “I’m pregnant,” she whispered in his ear.

He leaned back. Their eyes locked. He mouthed, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Their smiles gave way to an embrace which gave way to tears of joy.

Then she pulled back, hands on his shoulders at arm’s length. “Did losing your voice have anything to do with this?”

He shrugged.

“Zechariah!?” she asked again.

He nodded.

“Will you be able to speak again?”

He nodded.

She sighed. “Then I will wait to hear the rest of the story. Now let us give thanks to the Lord, he has heard our prayers!”

After this Elizabeth remained in seclusion [for five months].

25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:24-25

Little by little Elizabeth pieced together what happened. God confirmed this during a visit by her cousin Mary. That’s a story for another time.

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

Zechariah, Elizabeth and John

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.  Luke 1:57-65

Zechariah’s Song

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel. Luke 1:67-80