It used to be the case that the very first place where every person physically lived was in the warmth of that person’s mother’s womb. Technology has changed that phenomenon: some lives now begin in a petri dish instead. But since the petri dish abode is only for a zygote, not a fetus, the womb is still the place where humans are gestated, even if that womb is a surrogate. Acknowledgments aside regarding all the remarkable know-how that allows longing parents to have kids, the point I want to raise is that a person in the womb can be a minister for God even before that person is born.
For example, the inception of the ministry of the prophet, John the Baptist, began when John was a fetus in the womb of Elizabeth. The Gospel of Luke recounts that before John was conceived, his parents – Elizabeth and Zacharias – were advanced in years, and for a very long time Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7). The Bible wants us to note that the childlessness of this couple had nothing at all to do with either of them failing to please Creator God Who miraculously created human life. Scripture makes clear that in the sight of God, Elizabeth and Zacharias were both righteous, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord (Luke 1:6).
The rundown on that story is that Zacharias, a priest, was performing his priestly duties when one day he was selected to enter into the temple of the Lord and to burn incense there (Luke 1:8-9). “And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense” (Luke 1:11). And the angel told Zacharias that he and Elizabeth not only would bear a son, but a son to be named “John”, and that their unborn son, John, would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15).
Oh my goodness . . . unborn babies can be filled with the Holy Spirit. And, oh my goodness, it does not at all appear to be a coincidence that John the Baptist, of all people ever in history, is the person chosen by Almighty Sovereign God to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
According to the Scriptures, John the Baptist began his ministry by making Elizabeth ready. It was none other than John’s mother who physically felt him leap inside her womb at month six of her pregnancy when Elizabeth heard the voice of pregnant Mary who was carrying in her womb the Lord Himself (Luke 1:41). The full story is astounding. I hope all of you, dear readers, carefully review it in Luke 1. Let us look together at the record that preserves the truth of what happened right after Mary traveled in haste to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth said this to Mary:
“And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:43-45)
Do you see what happened here? John the Baptist, yet unborn, was poignantly used by God to confirm to his mother, Elizabeth, that Jesus is the Christ. And John the Baptist, still in the womb, was also used by God to minister to Mary. A person does not have to know what it’s like to be pregnant to imagine how astonished and convinced these women were that John the Baptist’s ministry was already in play. Elizabeth knew by experience firsthand that inside her own body, a six month old fetus, an unborn boy selected by God, was telling both of these women that the baby inside Mary was the “Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
I believe that John had a ministry in utero. Other Scripture corroborates this conclusion. Consider Jeremiah,
the Old Testament prophet who famously testified that the Word of the Lord came to him saying, “Before I [God] formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Just as Jeremiah was appointed by God before he was born, so was John the Baptist. And so was Jesus
(Luke 1). We do not know the experience of Jeremiah’s mother when Jeremiah was still yet in the womb,
but we do know that God chose him and “consecrated” him in the womb.
Ministry can begin inside the womb. One of the gifts of motherhood is that mothers are the first sometimes to be ministered to by prophets yet unborn.