Saturday, November 30, 2013

Surprised and Expectant

Scriptural Reading: Luke 1:26-40
Devotional Reading: Psalm 89:1-7

In reflecting upon God’s covenant with King David, Ethan the Ezrahite proclaimed in Ps 89:1-4, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.’” (NKJV) Let us praise the LORD! It is the Advent season, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the newborn Christ child named Jesus. His coming had been promised and proclaimed for centuries. The time was near. How would He arrive after such a long wait? That is a good question. But most importantly we must focus on our praise. It does not matter how Christ was to arrive because we know the LORD would keep His promise. It is our duty to sing praise unto God and teach others to do the same because the LORD is faithful. His mercy shall be built up just as buildings and our eternal homes are built up. Nothing shall ever be so bleak that we are not granted the mercy of the LORD. Hallelujah! The psalmist exclaims at Ps 136:26, “Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.” (NKJV)

This quarter of study is entitled “Jesus and the Just Reign of God”. We are in Unit I – “God Sends Jesus” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a five-lesson study. We shall study the prophecy regarding the birth of Jesus as recorded in the book of Luke.

Due to the climate of oppression by the Roman government, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zacharias were among the many expectant Jews living daily with the hope of the coming of God’s kingdom. In chapter 1 of Luke the gospel writer records the prophecies surrounding the birth of Jesus and his forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist. God dispatched Gabriel to Zacharias first (Luke 1:9, 13) to prepare him and his wife, Elizabeth, for the birth of their son in their older age. Six months later, not in the sixth month of the calendar year, Gabriel was dispatched once again as recorded in Luke 1:26-27, “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (NKJV) The messenger was sent by God on a matter of high importance to an insignificant city where a young, poor, teenage virgin was to be found. The young virgin was engaged (espoused), but that was not to be an obstruction in the plan of God. It was a plus as there was a contract of marriage which gave her honor. Both she and Joseph (Matt 1:20), her fiancé, were of royal blood of low estate as lineal descendants of David. However, Jesus was not to be born through ordinary reproduction as He was not to know corruption. The birth of Jesus through a miraculous virgin birth had been prophesied in Isa 7:14, “Therefore the LORD himself shall give you a sign, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (NKJV) Mary was chosen for one of the most important acts of obedience. Her act would not lead to earthly fame or fortune as it was not she who was to be worshipped. As a vessel she would allow for the birth of the Savior who would bring hope for salvation.

Gabriel has now approached Mary and addresses her with a greeting. Even though Mary had been seeking a sign from God, there was much evil around. She was troubled and wondered about the meaning of the address. Luke 1:28-30 records the angel’s greeting and Mary’s response as “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the LORD is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” (NKJV) Gabriel is telling Mary she is highly favored to be the chosen vessel to carry God’s Son. This blesses her above all women. Gabriel senses her fear. There is no reason to fear when the LORD is with you and you have found favor with Him. Mary’s fears were calmed upon hearing this reasoning.

After calming Mary’s fear’s Gabriel was able to deliver the important message for which God had dispatched him as recorded at Luke 1:31-33, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the LORD God shall unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (NKJV) I always wondered what I would have thought if an angel had delivered me such a message. Mary was given many blessings in this message. Although she was a virgin she had found favor with God and would conceive. She would become a mother to a son who possessed both humanity and deity in His nature. His name Jesus means Jehovah is the Savior. Mary would always remember that whatever happened, her Son would be the greatest of the great because He would be the Son of the Highest, the Almighty God. He would have authority over all as the Son of God who will give Him the throne of his ancestral earthly father King David. Gabriel added that Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob for eternity. He would have an everlasting and universal kingdom. Mary would be privileged to give birth to the Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Lords. She was a blessed vessel to be used by God for His plan of salvation.

So how did Mary, a young teenage girl, respond to this service of God requested and expected of her? It is recorded at Luke 1:34-38, “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (NKJV) Mary’s response to Gabriel’s birth announcement was unlike that of Zacharias at Luke 1:18. His response was one of disbelief. Because he did not believe Gabriel (vs 20), Zacharias was not able to speak until everything the angel had told him had taken place. Mary, on the other hand, was simply curious. She knew the Messiah would be born of a virgin and did not doubt that she would be the mother of the child. Mary simply wanted to know how it could happen without her human understanding of the reproductive system. Gabriel answered her question supplying her with the understanding of the miracle. If Mary did not understand that she would conceive spiritually through the Holy Spirit and the power of the Highest, Gabriel told her about her cousin who was thought to be barren in her old age but was now six months pregnant. He reminded her there was nothing impossible with God. She did not ask any further questions. Gabriel had satisfied her curiosity and encouraged her faith. Mary does not object to this spoiling her impending marriage or reputation. She now requests the will of God be done. It is recorded at Eccl 11:5, “As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.” (NKJV) Having delivered the message his mission was ended and Gabriel departed.

It is unknown how soon Mary decided to visit her cousin Elizabeth, but she wanted to share her joy of expectation with another expecting mom under almost similar circumstances. Her greeting is recorded at Luke 1 39-41, “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (NKJV) Mary probably did not tell anyone in Nazareth the good news given her by the angel. She wanted to share it with her cousin as well as confirm her well-being. When she first came into the home Zacharias was not present. She greeted Elizabeth who was pregnant with the one who would become known as the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist (John 1:6-10, 15). When Mary spoke the six month old unborn forerunner leapt within Elizabeth’s womb to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Mary knew Elizabeth was pregnant, but Elizabeth did not know Mary was pregnant. Elizabeth was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit when her babe reacted in such a manner. She knew she was in the presence of the mother of the LORD. (vs 43). It was the destiny of these two expectant mothers, both surprised to be in their circumstances, to be in service for the LORD. The destiny of their sons’ lives, John and Jesus, paralleled the two lives of Jacob and Esau which was revealed while they were still in Rebekah’s womb (Gen 25:19-23). The older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Jacob went on to receive his father Isaac’s blessing and, as stated in vs 33, Jesus shall reign over the house of Jacob.

The Advent season is here. Eternal life is promised to all believers who in faith accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The Apostle Paul teaches in Rom 11:17, 19, 23, “And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,…You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’…And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.’ (NKJV) Each of us has the opportunity to partake of His everlasting life and universal kingdom.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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