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Behold the Handmaid of the Lord!

13 Dec

As we look toward Christmas, consider the attitudes of Mary and Zechariah as found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. In contrast to Zechariah, Mary responded in belief. Although she received a sign in Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she did not seek a sign. She trusted the messenger from God. Luke 1:29 (KJV) says, “…when she saw him,” but this phrase is not in any of the Greek texts.[1] The passage never says that the angel appeared to her. Zechariah saw the angel (v.12), but it is not recorded that Mary saw him. She might have been in prayer when the angel’s voice was heard in her mind. When someone sees an angel, the usual response is great fear (Luke 1:12; 2:8-9; Daniel 10:5-10, 15-18), but Mary, a very young girl, was troubled not by the appearance of the angel but by his saying or the sound of his voice.

I believe that Mary’s experience with the messenger of God is very important, if I am to understand my own relationship with God in prayer. As I consider my own time alone with God, I see a great deal of similarity with Mary’s experience. When I am convicted in prayer to pray for someone, speak a word of encouragement to another, or take action concerning a problem in my own life, are these only the thoughts of my own heart, or am I in fellowship with our Father? How can we who say we love God and are called to serve him ever say there is no response from the Lord during the time we spend in prayer? I believe Mary’s experience has a great deal to say concerning how I should respond to that still small Voice (1Kings 19:11-12) that threads Itself into my own thoughts when I worship before the Lord. I, too, am expected to believe that Voice and submit, “Behold the bond-servant of the Lord, be it done onto me according to your word!”

The angel told Mary that Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant. This was a sign that Mary could confirm to be assured of the veracity of the voice she heard. When she came to Elizabeth the Sprit placed a song in Mary’s heart. Her song reveals the character of God. He is my Savior (Luke 1:47), who contemplates my humble life and blesses me where I am (v. 48). He is holy and spends his power for my benefit (v. 49). His mercy will continually rest upon me as I respect him, and he will lift me up, because I humble myself before him (v. 52). Nevertheless, he will dissipate the strength and plunder the pompous display of all who seek to live without him (v. 51). God is magnified in me, in that his strength is expressed through the prayers of the weak. His mercy to the humble is seen in his discipline of the haughty.

Mary’s song reveals the character of the servant of God as well. Her spirit rejoiced in our Savior-God. She found reason to rejoice in her poverty, because her humble estate only served to magnify the greatness of God. She was filled, because she hungered for God. She respected him and found him merciful. Her thoughts were filled with doing his will, therefore, she found God’s promises fulfilled in her life. She was one who served.

Because of Mary’s example, I can trust God when I find him speaking to my heart. I should praise him continually. He is a kind God who keeps his promises. I need to discipline my mind by putting down all my vain imaginations and permit God to place in me a hunger for him and his word. Because God is trustworthy, I can permit myself to become one who serves, making myself available and allowing myself to be vulnerable. As God’s power rests upon me, I can find reason to rejoice in every circumstance, letting his power be perfected in my weakness.

Because of unbelief, Zechariah was struck dumb until John’s birth. When he was finally able to speak, only praise poured from Zechariah’s lips. The Lord visited (intently looked upon) his people and redeemed (provided a ransom for) them (Luke 1:68). This was done so that he could show the mercy (72) that he promised the fathers (Genesis 22:1-19). The New Testament is the promised grace of the Old Covenant (Luke 1:72). The promise was that a great King (69) from the line of David would save God’s people from their enemies (71). The way of this King would be prepared (Malachi 3:1; 4:5) by the newborn child, John (Luke 1:76-77).

Ours is a ministry similar to John’s. He called for repentance, as do we, but we also live out the repentance for an example for others to follow. John called for his people to repent to prepare for the coming of the Lord to his people, while we call for all to receive God within our hearts. Jesus is the true Light that shines in the darkness and makes manifest the mysteries of the Kingdom, held secret since the foundation of the ages (Isaiah 9:2; Psalm 78:2; Matthew 15:35; John 1:3-14). We are saved that we may serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives (Luke 1:74-75). May this be our daily prayer, that we may honor him no matter what our circumstances, and that we would love only him and desire to do his bidding.

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[1] Actually the KJV says, “when she saw” and the word ‘him’ is supplied by the translator. The same Greek word is used by Jesus in Luke 11:44 and is translated there as “aware” and does not mean actual sight. This impression in the translation is corrected in more modern versions such as the ASV, RSV, NIV and the NASB, which say that she was disturbed by what she heard rather than by what she saw.

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Christmas

 

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