Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mary's Conception

For generations the Jews had been talking about and waiting for the promised Messiah who would be a descendant of King David. What an honor it would be, I’m sure many a woman thought, to be the family chosen to produce the Messiah! I wonder if that thought had ever entered the mind of the young, engaged-but-not-married, Mary or her fiance Joseph.

One day an angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and said: “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

What the angel said would happen, happened. Then Mary journeyed to visit her cousin Elizabeth. When she arrives, Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed … You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Mary responds to Elizabeth (sounding a lot like one of the Old Testament writers or prophets):

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

It is clear from their words to each other that these two women are filled with the Holy Spirit! Dear friends, do our words make it clear to others that we are filled with the Holy Spirit?

Mary stays with Elizabeth until John’s birth and then makes the several day journey back home. She is now 3 months pregnant and her belly is probably starting to “show.”

Mary and Joseph are engaged. In their day that was a commitment almost as binding as marriage itself. Breaking off an engagement, except in certain circumstances, was punishable by stoning. So was adultery. To break off an engagement (such as if your fiancé slept with someone else during the engagement) required a bill of divorcement.

The couple would be bound in engagement typically for a period of a year before the wedding. During this period they could even be referred to as a husband and wife couple, but they were not to live together or sleep together during this time.

So you can imagine what people would think when the engaged Mary turns up pregnant. She could be publicly disgraced, or worse. Joseph was an upstanding man, this could seriously ding his reputation as well.

Have you ever willingly put your reputation on the line to follow God? Can you think of a time in your life that you have risked or sacrificed what another person would think of you in order to show God what you think of Him?

Joseph is considering quietly giving Mary a bill of divorcement. But during the night Joseph has a dream and an angel tells him, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I wonder if Joseph woke up from that dream in a cold sweat? I wonder what questions ran through his mind as he lay there in bed in the early morning light ... Was Mary pregnant with the Messiah?! How can I possibly raise God’s son? Its going to be my job to raise the man who will forgive all the nation’s sins? What if I “mess up” as His parent? Will Mary and I be able to have other children in the future? If so, how will they feel having Jesus, Son of God, as a sibling? We don’t know what Joseph thought but we know what he did - Joseph obeyed the Lord’s angel.

Thus far we have read about several women for whom God opened their womb – such as Sarah and Elizabeth. They each had been sleeping with their husbands for years, not getting pregnant. When told by God or an angel that they would have a child, some of them doubted. We just read about Zechariah’s doubt – and he was a priest! These women had tried and failed many times, and concluded it was impossible.

Mary had never slept with anyone and, according to God’s law, she wasn’t suppose to until she married Joseph. So when she questions the angel saying “how can this happen,” she is not assuming what Gabriel says is impossible – she’s just unclear on how this is going to play out since she is a virgin and is suppose to remain one for many more months. Hers was not a question of doubt, but of logistics. She would not have known it was even possible to become pregnant without sleeping with a man.

I believe Mary considered it an honor to be used of God, however He saw fit to use her. We learn from our reading that she was a "ponderer" so its no wonder she couldn't help but wonder how when she hears of God's plan. God doesn’t seem to mind her questions or her curiosity as she is grounded with great faith in Him. I pray that each of us would have the wisdom, fortitude, grace and faith to respond to God and His plans for our lives as Mary did.

May we each say to God today: “I am Your servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

26 comments:

  1. I too love Mary declaring she was God servant and was open to whatever He had for her to do. I seek to develop this characteristics- the difference is too often we are afraid of what God would have us to do not becasue we don't want to but because we are afraid to move out of our comfort zone- Mary demonstrated I'll move- she couldn't have been comfortable with people believing she had cheatin gon Joseph or slept with him before she should have. Mary said you know what I don't really care what people think. God has something for me to do for Him and that's the most important thing. Even with this attitude I believe Mary needed to talk with someone who would believe her and what better person than Elizabeth, and immediately Elizebeth helps her by confirming she carries God's Son. The lesson for me is to seek out the person who is going to support me and encourage me to be strong. Yes I have declared I am a child of God and I am not going to engage in activity that does not reflect Him becasue it is more important to me to reflect I want to walk according to God's way. I lost this friend but I didn't lose God's favor.
    I believe people can see the Holy Spirit in me- regretably not 24/7. But that is a part of the growing process more and more becoming Christ like and reflecting it in all we do at all times.

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  2. To be as bold as Mary, yes that is what I want & we should all strive for. I cringe just thinking of having to tell Joseph, did he think to himself, does she think I'm nuts to believe some story like that (before the angel came). Funny that you ask "Can people see the Holy Spirit in us?" I was talking to my friend the other day, about "If they were arresting Christians, would there be enough evidence for you to go to Jail?" As God chaser said yes you can see it in me, but not 24/7.
    Good point about Joseph & Mary thinking about would they raise the King of King right. And what would His siblings think? It's important to remember the people in the Bible are people, they thought like we do. As we have seen with some of the other women we have studied, they doubted, worried, feared, all the things we battle today, they had to face then also.

    Thanks as always Rachel.
    Happy Mothers Day to the Mothers out there.

    Be Blessed

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  3. AnonymousMay 11, 2008

    I am thankful for this study and want to wish all the Mom's Happy Mother's Day. Or, in whatever way you love and care for others, Happy Mother's day.

    Traci WA State

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  5. Mary was such a humble, blessed and highly favored woman of GOD. She believed and received the Word of GOD spoken to her by the angel. It is awesome to see her raised from a lowly servant to the mother of JESUS. I also "ponder things in my heart" and it is refreshing to see that Mary did this often as well. At times, it seemed as if she didn't fully understand WHO her son was and the impact HE would have on all generations and nations to come. The part that touched me the most was when JESUS was on the cross and he asked his disciple to take care of his mother. Even while on the cross, JESUS was still not thinking of himself, HE was about "his father's business". For Mary to see this, I am sure it was unbearable, painful and had her in despair. Mary was quite the Woman of GOD. How I aspire to be similar to her. Like the others, the holy spirit within me can be seen a lot, but not 100% of the time. I, too, strive daily to submit to GOD's will so that others can see the JESUS in me. My prayer request is for GOD to fill my cup until it overrunneth...So others can see and hear the Holy spirit within me at all times.

    Happy Mother's Day to you all! God Bless!

    LaTonya/FL

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  6. AnonymousMay 12, 2008

    I pray that my curiosity and questions are grounded in faith like Mary's was. I think that I trust God that whatever He says, He will do. My doubting is when I don't know for sure it's Him. Or if I think I know what He's saying, will it only come true if I totally do my part? What if I miss hearing what my part is? Do I pray fervently that it come true, or do I just pray once in faith, and God will do the rest? I may have more answers if I had more time to really study God's word, and to intenionally set aside "God time". I've tried early mornings, but my husband is a very light sleeper, and lays awake a few hours almost every night, so if I get up early in the morning, his better sleeping time, it disturbs him and he can't get back into a much needed sleep. (He's the manager at his work place and has a lot of stress from it.) With having a family and working almost full time, it's hard to do it all! I'd appreciate your prayers on this ladies! I am receiving more out of God's word than I have in a long time, but I know that God is calling me to a closer walk with Him, calling me to know His word better. This study is helping!

    I am continuing to pray for the prayer requests as they come up. Donna, for you and your husband. The lady with the suicidal son. There have been many prayer requests for suicidal people in our study. Suicide is of course from satan, but what is his main strategy? Is it loss of vision, hopelessness, shattered dreams? God wants to renew all these things, and has a plan for each of their lives. "God I pray that you would give these people fresh hope, new dreams and a new vision for their lives. That wherever their hopes and dreams are dashed, that you would refresh them. Clean up the old wounds Lord, wash them with your blood Jesus, and pour over them your healing water. Wherever they have been hurt and wounded Lord, may they know that You care deeply, and that You were there, they were not alone. Lord I pray for new hope for them, and a new vision in life. May they have a new sense of purpose. May You bring others to surround them to help them along, and to keep them accountable. Keep them safe Lord. Praise YOUR NAME GOD! You are worthy of praise in all these lives. You are always there for us. You will never leave us or forsake us, and I know that You will bring your answers to each of these people. Amen.

    Connie, Canada

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  7. AnonymousMay 12, 2008

    I hadn't read the comments and prayer requests on the last posting until now. Alice- believing in faith for your healing, Tommie- prayed for peace and comfort for the grieving family. The lady who thinks that she might be pregnant- I pray that you will ask God to guide you every step of the way, which He will. His way is the good and perfect way, and as you follow Him, He will bring much good out of something that was wrong. I know it, I've lived it! I pray God's protection on you and your baby.

    Connie, Canada

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  8. AnonymousMay 12, 2008

    “I am Your servant. May it be to me as you have said.” May I know the plans for my life each day, O Lord.

    Bless these woman as we seek your face.

    JoAnn/LA

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  9. I have always loved the words "and Mary pondered all these things in her heart..." I think it gives us a glimpse of the kind of person she was. I don't doubt that in her "human-ness" many thoughts, ideas, and questions ran through her mind during the next 30-plus years. But, she pondered and instead of letting them loom out of shape and out of control she seemed to know instinctively who was in control.

    I have tried to apply this example from Mary to my own heart and life. It isn't always easy but it brings a real blessing and I seem to be able to hear God's voice better.

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  10. Rachel, your comments help to clarify much in this study on Mary. What a lovely occasion to celebrate Pentecost and Mother's day at this time and think back on both Elizabeth and Mary responding to one another, and even the babes they were carrying provided confirmation of The presence of the Holy Spirit.
    I continue to pray for those requests. We can never forget to pray for one another, just as I'm sure Elizabeth and Mary supported each other in their respective roles. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us; we just need to call on Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us along the way. God bless you!

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  11. Mary's story is very encouraging. I long so much to have faith like Mary. To be able to have to such a strong relationship with God, lately my faith is being tested. I long to have a relationship with God where He asks and I do. I pray God strengthens me to have a servants heart like mary.

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  12. Mary has shown us what power is. She claimed the word of God as her own even in a time that would bring embarassment and confusion.
    Joseph stood by her and Jesus and was a remarkable man. So many of the men I know would have just passed that dream off as nonsense. Thank the Lord that he still gives us men who live by the word of the Lord.

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  13. Connie,

    Thank you for posting your prayer. When we pray in God's will, it is as good as done. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been "hit over the head" by God telling me to trust and believe; like a child. Don't question. Have faith and confidence that all will be done as it is meant to be. I have read countless devotions that speak to this issue. One posted May 8th, by Kathy Lay, on the Proverbs 31 site (Rachael, as the editor, you need to know I loved that posting!). It helped me to understand the verses in Matthew, Mark and Luke that tell us to become like little children;

    * And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
    * "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15)
    * "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)

    James warns about wavering faith;

    * But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, (James 20: 5-7)

    And Mark provides the solution to this wavering;

    * "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." (Mark 11:24)

    I share the tendency to question how often I should pray for something to "come true" particularly when it concerns something imperative to me or someone I love. The prayer requests from our group all fall in this category, when we are praying for the health or the faith of a spouse, child or loved one. We need to be careful not to snatch back the problem from God, but lay the burden at His feet and believe that everything we ask in His name and according to His will, will be granted. It is as good as done.

    Thank you again ladies for all your prayers for each other. I know we are fulfilling the will go God as we gather in His name and lift each other up in prayer and petition.

    Blessing to you all,

    Karen - California

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  14. I love the relationship that mary has with god, so much trust, Sometimes I have been afraid and need to learn to have more trust less fear. He is such a loving and giving father. I am told people can see the Lord working on me, but I need to also give the 100% not the 75 or 99%. Even though my schedule's are full I am finding more time even when I go to work out, I read while I workout, time goes by on those machines pretty fast. And I feel less pain.
    Thanks again Rachel for another lesson.
    Happy Mother's Day to all

    Mother's day was a beautiful day, I was able to spend it with My Mom, and My Hubby is Ordained, it was truly a BLESSED Day.
    I put pictures on my blog!

    I was touched by the children of our Church, I got so many bouquets and cards and hugssss, and inside the cards they wrote that they Loved Me and I was not just there friend but there other mom. So I found out that I have 8 children, how awesome is this from, God!

    Have a Great day everyone!
    Sharon/florida

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  15. I love Mary and Elizabeth. I truly believe you cannot talk about one without the other. In Luke 1:46 The Message Bible is so wonderful the way Mary is rejoicing:
    "I'm bursting with God-news;
    I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened-I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others......"

    Isn't that just the way we feel when we have had things happen to us! I remember when I wrote in my blog about my spiritual connection with the Holy Spirit..I felt like Mary, "look what God has done! I'm nothing but a woman who has one problem after another..He has set me apart from others..why do I deserve this?"

    What was it about her that qualified her to be the mother of Jesus? Mary could of said no. It must of been unsettling, no being married to Joseph and to tell him..she probably felt the talk of the town. When she said to Gabriel "Let it be to me according to your word" she didn't know how her life would change. Still she choose to be obedient..and I believe that is what Rachel is asking us today..would we be like this for anything and show the world what God had done for us. She essentially told Gabriel, "I belong to the Lord. Whatever He says I'll do it." She placed her entire life on the altar of God's purpose, and then rejoiced embracing God's destiny for her.

    Whatever God says to us we have to do. We have to seek our hearts and make sure its not us talking, but when God reveals His plans for us, lets all of us say, "Lord let it be me according to your word!!"

    I may be struggling with that when it comes to my family..mostly my husband but I know His plans are the only plans I need to follow..He has a plan for me and it's so big that I just am bursting all over and can't wait to tell the world!!

    Love Donna

    p.s. I am writing something great in my blog today with bad bronchitis so pray for me :)

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  16. Happy late Mother's Day to everyone! It's funny that you've asked us to ponder on things that we have had to do for Christ in which others viewed as stupid or simly embarassing.... I am presently at a standstill in my life where I am learning to be more comfortable with things that I can't change, yet understanding that I have not put much effort in the past to challenge those issues.... I often ponder like our dear sister Mary, however I am learning to be more open and accepting what God has revealed to me. Love you all and thanks Rachel :)

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  17. I love how courageous Mary was and how great her faith in God. I would like to live my life like that. I would like to respond to God and his plans for me as Mary did for her life. What a great example of faith to follow. Have a blessed day.

    Deb - Ohio

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  18. This study and this group of ladies are awesome. I like what JoAnn in LA said, “I am Your servant. May it be to me as you have said. May I know the plans for my life each day, O Lord."

    Thanks to all who have included me in your prayers. I have had so many surgeries that I felt I could not go through it again. I'm going to the doctor on Wednesday and I'm beliving that whatever the outcome is God will be with me just as He has always been. I get so caught up in the "what if's", but I'm placing this problem in God's hands and trusting Him, knowing that whatever happens He will be with me and heal me in someway. Please keep me in your prayers. I know that God's grace is sufficient. I love Him with all of my heart and only want to do His will.

    In this group I sense a need to draw closer to God, including me. I truly believe He is preparing us for whatever the future holds. If we can be as submissive as Mary and Elizabeth were to God, then we have nothing to fear.

    May God bless all of you as you seek Him and those who have requested prayer, you are still in my prayers.
    Love to all of you with the love of my Lord,
    AliceE.

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  19. A dear friend and I were talking last week about knowing God's promises in our head but maybe not in our heart. When I read this scripture- "Mary pondered all these things in her heart..." I realized that she didn't ponder in her head. She was so committed to God that she pondered in her heart.
    Wow. If I could always ponder in my heart maybe I wouldn't struggle so much with doubts and uncertainty.
    I am praying for all of you!

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  20. To anyone who knows Dottie Rambow and the many, many songs she wrote:
    I just learned that she was killed Mother's Day in a bus crash somewhere in Missouri. She was 74 years old. If interested go to www.dottierambow.net. Her manager, webmaster and some others are in the hospital in serious condition. I'm sure her daughter and family would appreciate our prayers. My husband and I just watched a documentary she did not too long ago. Just thought there would be some of you who knew her and her songs. One of them was Sheltered in the Arms of God and many others. Good gospel music really speaks to me.
    AliceE.

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  21. Dear Rachel:
    In response to your question:
    Recently, God ministered the verse to me "Christ made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant...He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death..." Phil. 2:7-7

    I had become concerned about my reputation when I realized someone was under a false understanding of my heart and actions. God quieted my heart with His love by reminding me that Jesus made Himself of no reputation to be obedient...even unto death. I had no need to be concerned about my reputation as long as I honoring Him, abiding in Him, living according to His Word and being obedient to Him.

    To His glory...He worked it all out. His truth always prevails.

    Rachel, thanks for this!

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  22. My husband and I have had to make lots of choices where people thought we were crazy. All I can say is that though it is very hard not to worry about what others think, and its difficult to stay focused when your friends and family are persecuting you... If you keep your eyes on Christ, you will be blessed, and amazed at the places HE will lead you! God is good - all the time and through the many twists and turns our journey has carried us, God has ALWAYS been there with us! As many have said before... "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!" Same was true for Mary. She may not have understood, but she was willing... Oh how I long to be used by God in the ways HE has planned for me. Keep the faith, ladies!

    Blessings from Somerset, Kentucky

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  23. i am enjoying reading all of the comments i have read! i'm so thankful for this group of Christian women. i pray blessings on those in difficult situations and that they might know that they know that GOD is with them now and always.

    caryn, pittsburgh

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  24. I've been on the "back row" for most of this discussion, but I'm still with you!

    It's great to read all of your comments and get your insights!

    Just a quick note to remind you of the drawing for the apple gourd birdhouse on "Plant Lady's Ponderings." Just click on "Plant Lady" and follow it to my blog! The deadline to enter is May 17.

    For a description and more info about the drawing, you may need to go to the archives to the post, "Gourd Birdhouse Giveaway."

    Hope you can visit!
    Plant Lady

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  25. Ladies, I am leaving for now, I am being admitted to the hospital. I am scared and ask that you pleaseee put me in your prayers. I haven't been able to keep food down and what food I have has made it soo painful. The doctor says its either my liver or gall bladder. I am having very bad chest pains.
    Rachel thank you for all I have learned.
    May the Lord Bless ALL OF YOU!
    Chat soon
    Love, Sharon

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  26. Been really busy and haven't gotten to post. My Uncle passed away and we have had family in. Pray for comfort in the weeks to come for his son and grandchildren.

    I love the story of Mary, to think the God of creation wants you to have HIS SON. Even though she ask how, she was so sure of the Lord she was willing to open her body and soul to His request. To have Mary's faith is something I truely want to strive for.
    God Bless you all
    Tommie in Ky

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