July 4

Mary, Part 2

Luke 1:26-30 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Aside from having to wade through all the unscriptural roles and powers accredited to Mary, we also have to look past the highly romanticized gauze of the way our society celebrates Christmas. Every December, Mary becomes the very embodiment of saintly motherhood, and the reality of her faith and her challenges is usually lost in the haze of sentiment surrounding the birth of Jesus (which is one reason this devotional is in July). Our challenge is not to look away from Mary because of the “baggage” history and society have put on her, but to look through it to see her faith and to seek what God can do in a person’s life.

Mary was a poor, simple teenage girl living in among a disrespected people, at a time when spirituality was generally associated with men. She lived in a distant outpost of the Roman Empire, among people distrusted by their rulers. Even among her people, her particular town of Nazareth was of low reputation: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46b) Were she part of a Jane Austen novel, it would be said that “she had no prospects.”

Yet, as Acts 10:34 reminds us, “God is no respecter of persons.” If anyone could have been considered “out of the running” to be used by God, a lowly teenage girl from the middle of nowhere would be. There was nothing in her gender, her circumstances, her family, her position in society or her social status that would qualify her for greatness in this world. For those of us that are inclined to want to look for some great act of faith on Mary’s part that might have qualified her spiritually for this great role, we are given nothing. Yes, Mary was “highly favored” and “blessed,” and that is all because of God’s love and grace extended toward her.

If God could choose Mary and grant her “high favor,” then He can choose and use anyone. We can never think that where we came from, our social status, our humble role in society, or our youth or gender could ever disqualify us from being mightily used by God. If we hear voices that tell us that there is anything about us that excludes us from being greatly used by God, or that we’re not enough this, or too much that, or not enough like so-and-so, then we’re giving heed to the enemy’s taunts. God clearly doesn’t think or act that way. Anything that tries to convince us otherwise is not of God.

Scripture doesn’t reveal why God chose Mary; these things are among “the secret counsels of God” (Job 15:8). But the Bible does reveal that Mary had a view of herself that overrode all the natural “limitations” she might have possessed: She was a “handmaiden of the Lord” who gave free reign to whatever God wanted for her.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I’ve thought that you were limited in using me because of the outward circumstances of my life. I see from Mary’s life that her circumstances were no limitation to Your working powerfully through her. Help me to grow in faith and trust that I can come to the point of complete openness to whatever You have for me. “Let it be to me according to Your word.”

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