(Please read Luke 1:39-45, NLT.)
Thesis – God trusted His plan of salvation to two mothers.
A few months ago I wrote that 85 people control as much global wealth (about 1 trillion dollars) as the poorest HALF of the world population (about 3.5 billion people). As far as I know, that situation hasn’t changed a bit since I first reported it to you.
You’ve heard people talk about the “One Percenters.” I’ve learned that between 1979 and 2007 the richest 1% of Americans saw their income rise 275%. In contrast the poorest Americans saw only a 20% increase in income in that same period.
What I have learned since then is that Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, has been quoted as saying, “Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged and my class won. It’s been a rout.” I’m prepared to believe him.
If the Affordable Care Act continues to unroll, this situation will worsen as the employer’s mandate provision amounts to a tax on full-time employees. More people will be forced to work multiple part-time jobs.
Don’t worry. I’m not here this morning to advocate revolution. I mention all these figures to you for two reasons. One, the growing divide between rich and poor is a social justice issue. It is something the Church must address in a positive, redemptive way, seeking constructive change.
Two, to show that there are a lot more of us ordinary folks than there are rich folks. Today we’ll look at a couple of gals who, by all accounts, were not One Percenters. Just the opposite. Mary and Elizabeth were two ladies who were pretty average in the ways the world looks at people.
But of course, God knows better. He knew their hearts. He saw qualities of faith and righteousness in them that were ideal for His plan. He had put them in circumstances that were perfect for His purposes. What He needed from them was obedience.
And, as we know, that is what they offered Him. Combining their obedience and God’s glorious power, these two moms became essential, pivotal figures in human history. We’ll see today how God entrusted His plan for eternal salvation to a couple of moms.
Background information on Elizabeth can be found in Luke 1:5-25.
What we know about Elizabeth starts with her marital status: She was married to Zechariah, a priest in the order of Abijah. Elizabeth herself was a descendent of Aaron (v. 5). This was quite a pedigree!
Both of them were RIGHTEOUS IN GOD’S EYES, being CAREFUL TO OBEY ALL of God’s laws (v. 6). Even so, the two of them had not been blessed with children. At this time, they were too old for that apparent sign of disfavor to change. In our culture, childlessness can be a troubling experience. But in that culture, it was a stigma; people assumed it was a sign of sin and God’s punishment of the sinners. That was certainly how Elizabeth saw it. She exclaimed in v. 25; “HOW KIND THE LORD IS! HE HAS TAKEN AWAY MY DISGRACE OF HAVING NO CHILDREN.” Luke took pains to tell us that this assumption was incorrect, especially in the case of these two godly older people.
On the day when Zechariah’s career as a priest reached its proudest moment, the angel Gabriel appeared and told Zechariah that the impossible was going to happen: he would be a father (vs. 8-15). More than that, the baby would exercise power akin to that seen in the greatest OT prophet, Elijah. He would be the forerunner of the Messiah (vs. 16-17). Zechariah found this hard to accept, lost his voice, and found it again when it came time to name the baby John as the angel had instructed, and then sang a song of praise (18-25, 57-80).
The message to us is clear: God uses people the world deems least qualified. If you feel inadequate to do God’s will, that’s a good place to start!
Elizabeth was John the Baptist’s mother and a Spirit-filled prophetess: Luke 1:39-45.
Let’s recap last week: Mary had just been visited by Gabriel & A FEW DAYS LATER she HURRIED to Elizabeth’s house (39-40). This was a journey of 100 miles; an immense undertaking, especially for a young, unmarried woman. Why did she go there?
It might’ve been to get away from Joseph to be sure that he was not blamed for her conception. It might’ve been to escape the scorn of her family and friends as her pregnancy became increasingly obvious. As faithful as Mary has been, the safest reason to assume is that the Lord told her to. In this case, HURRIED is not explained as an act of panic, but an eagerness to do God’s will.
Notice what came to pass at the sound of Mary’s voice (v. 41). The child growing in Elizabeth LEAPED WITHIN HER. This movement was obvious; easily distinguished from an ordinary kick or shift of position. Elizabeth knew, by means of the Spirit, that the reason for the baby’s sudden movement was JOY at the sound of Mary’s voice. This means that JTB was acting in his role as forerunner even before birth! In the Old Testamnet, this verb “to leap” is associated with the knowledge of salvation. ‘BUT FOR YOU WHO FEAR MY NAME, THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL RISE WITH HEALING IN HIS WINGS. AND YOU WILL GO FREE, LEAPING WITH JOY LIKE CALVES LET OUT TO PASTURE. (Malachi 4:2) The word for JOY here is a delight, a gladness that diffuses through the whole person. It is profound and unmistakable.
The second thing that happened was the most significant: ELIZABETH WAS FILLED W/T HOLY SPIRIT. At this point in history, everyone was still under the OT system, where the Spirit was given to individuals on a temporary basis. Once the specific job was done, it was withdrawn again. In this case, Elizabeth’s job was to confirm for Mary all that Gabriel had said would come true. This must’ve been very reassuring for her.
The filling of the Spirit occasioned a prophecy that confirmed Gabriel’s message to Mary (vs. 42-45).
- YOU ARE BLESSED (vs. 42+45).
- BLESSED BY GOD
- ABOVE ALL WOMEN
- BECAUSE YOU BELIEVED THAT THE LORD WOULD DO WHAT HE SAID. This explains why Mary is blessed among all women – she trusted God to resolve a situation she didn’t fully understand.
- YOUR CHILD IS BLESSED (v. 42).
- WHAT AN HONOR THIS IS (v. 43). This shows a humble heart and a faithful response to what the Spirit revealed to her.
- THE MOTHER OF MY LORD (v. 43). The Spirit had given Elizabeth insight beyond what could be seen by worldly eyes alone. This insight covered both Mary’s unique role as the mother of the Messiah and the unique role of the unborn Jesus as the Messiah.
According to v. 56, Mary stayed with Zechariah and Elizabeth for about three months, which would be about the time for the birth of John the Baptist. It seems logical to assume that Mary stayed until after John’s birth. Having witnessed with her own eyes the way God did a miracle for her cousin, Mary would naturally be empowered to withstand any criticism she received for being an unwed mother when she returned to Nazareth.
The message to us is similarly reassuring: God’s will for our lives is conveyed and confirmed by a variety of means.
It’s wonderfully appropriate, isn’t it, that mothers and children take center stage at this time of the year? In that vein…
A couple weeks before Christmas, an eight-year-old boy got home from school and announced to his mother, “Mom, I know something that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy have in common.”
“What’s that?” mom asked.
“They’re all nocturnal,” he replied.
A Sunday School teacher was polling his students about their religious habits and he asked one little boy, “Jimmy, do you say your prayers before eating?”
“No sir,” Jimmy replied eagerly. “I don’t have to. My mom is a good cook!”
(The Joyful Noiseletter, Vol. 21, No. 10, Dec. 2006, p. 2.)
One of the joyous things about Advent is that God chooses the weak and despised things of the world to be His instruments of grace. God chose moms and babies and shepherds and carpenters and professional scholars. He chose no rulers or celebrities. Part of Christmas is the celebration of the common folk of the world.
So be of good cheer! Jesus warned us that this world would give us trouble, but He added that He had already overcome the world, so all is well!