Posts Tagged ‘servant’

Luke 1:39-45 — Have you ever let jealousy ruin a precious moment in life? That could have been the reaction of Elizabeth in this situation but her humility is worth noting when she sees her relative, Mary.

In first century Palestine, a woman’s value was largely measured by the children she bore. Barrenness often lead to personal hardship and public shame. When she found out that she was going to have a baby, it was a long-awaited answer to years of prayer. She would no longer have to hear the whispers as she passed by others. She also knew that her future was secure through her coming son. She also knew from her husband’s encounter with the angel of the Lord that her son was going to be special. He was going to be the one that paved the way for the long-promised Messiah. It was news that just had her giddy with excitement and feelings of blessing. I am sure that we have all experienced those times where we know that we have been given a great blessing. It just makes you feel as though all your years of faithfulness to the Lord have been rewarded. It gives you a feeling that yeah, I really have done the right thing following Jesus all these years. It is a moment of joy and satisfaction. It gives you a moment of pause when you realize when there is a blessing that you know can only come from the Lord. Have you ever received a blessing that you know was only possible through the grace of God? It made you feel especially loved and favored by God. I am sure that Elizabeth felt this way too. There are times when we feel especially blessed. It is the sweet spot of all sweet spots when you realize that God gave you a blessing specifically. Not your neighbor. Not someone you hear and see about on stage at church. Not something you read in a devotional or see on a TV program. It is you that has been blessed. You!

Imagine then Elizabeth meeting Mary. This encounter is when you really realize that Elizabeth is a true woman of God. We read earlier in a previous passage that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous people in God’s eyes. Now, from the scene in this passage, we know it for sure. Have you ever had one of those situations where you had a story that everyone was in awe of but then someone chimes in that they have an even better story than that. Everyone listening then turns their attention to the “better story” and then you are left alone as everyone then follows the person with the better story. We have a modern day example of this from my favorite football team, Clemson. Cole Stoudt is a senior and has worked hard over the past four years and waited his turn to become the starting quarterback. His faithfulness to the Clemson program is astounding. It is a story worthy of praise. He certainly has a story to tell about faithfulness and hard work and believing in yourself. However, he just happened to have a freshman phenom quarterback to be recruited whose talents are far above his. Everyone makes over DeShaun Watson. He is the next four years of Clemson football. What about Cole? He is left behind. His faithfulness had been rewarded. But along comes someone with far greater talent. Cole could have pouted. However, he stuck around and became a man. He could have let jealousy destroy him. However, without Cole over the past three weeks, while Watson has been injured, he has been a steadying force. Jealousy could have derailed a team’s season.

In the same light, Elizabeth could have been jealous of Mary. She could have felt like the kid who had the less great story. She could have reacted the opposite of Cole Stoudt. She could have, in jealousy, been angry with Mary. Elizabeth’s story was a miracle. She was advanced in years and finally was pregnant. And not just pregnant, pregnant with a special child. She encounters Mary whose son they both knew was going to be greater than Elizabeth’s precious long-awaited child. She could have been one of those people who start vicious rumors about those who seem to be more blessed that we are. She could have rejected Mary in jealousy. But that is not what we see from Elizabeth. Amazingly, Elizabeth shows her true humility. The statements about her and Zechariah are true. They are righteous people humbly serving their Lord. Instead of jealousy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy that the mother of the Christ Child would come to visit her. Have you ever envied people who seem particularly singled out for special blessing? Are you jealous of those at church who have positions of authority over you? Instead of being petty and jealous, let’s us rejoice for those who have been blessed. Instead of talking gossip about those in authority over us, let us be humble and realize that those in authority over us have been given that position because God ordained it and we often don’t see their behind the scenes faithfulness to the Lord. Let us rejoice and take the Elizabeth approach and not the jealous approach. Elizabeth knew that her son would serve the Lord and serve the one in Mary’s womb. She was a servant of the Lord not the servant of her own ego. We all are here to serve Jesus. We are all here to tell the story of his great gift of salvation and of restoration. Let us serve the Lord together in the capacities that He has given us right now at this place at this moment in time. All of us are servants. We must serve and work in our positions that we hold no matter how high or how low as if we are working for the Lord. God has you right where He wants you right now because this is where He needs you in the position you hold. Let us be humble like Elizabeth and realize and submit to the Lord.

Father, help me to have an Elizabeth attitude about life. Help me to realize that you bless me daily and give me what I need not what somebody else needs. You personally know me and love me. I should not compare my blessings to others. You are doing a work in me that is unique to me. Help me to have a vertical mentality rather than a horizontal one. Help me to keep my eyes on you and how you sustain me personally rather than comparing myself to how you bless or don’t bless others. My relationship with you is vertical. You are my King and I am your servant. I need to remember that I serve to glorify you and not gain glory from others. Help me to be Elizabeth humble. Amen.

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Luke 1:26-36 — This is one of those passages where we need to spend a few days as it is very important to our faith. The first thing we must talk about together is Mary herself. Mary was young, poor and female. All of these things are not very impressive particularly in first century Israel.

That God chose Mary is so interesting. She was young. Some conjecture because of life spans at the time that Mary was maybe 14 years old. If you have a 14 year old daughter, think if she was chosen by God for such a task. That she was so young in Jewish society would have meant that few, if anyone, would have given her any respect or any social power. She was just a kid. Even though children were required to work and do help with household matters and do their parent’s bidding at times, they were given no rights. Teenagers are accorded far more respect and given more freedoms than teens in first century Israel. They were to been true servants of their families. They were to be seen and not heard. For God to choose Mary, a young teenager, demonstrates to us that God will make His power known even through the young. If you are a teenager and you think that Jesus cannot use you because of your age, then simply think of Mary. This young virgin was used by God because she was faithful to her God. Mary was given a great task and a great honor. She was to give birth to and be a mother to the Son of God. Can you imagine knowing that you are carrying the Son of God in your womb? God can use us even when we are young. We have some great kids at our church that are destined to be used by God. Don’t let their age fool you into thinking that they are not important instruments in spreading the gospel of the man born until Mary. Let us be a people that nurtures our children’s faith and encourage them to be gospel messengers. Two people are brought to mind by this thought. Ruthie Bowen and Kieffer Mendoza. Ruthie is a young little girl, maybe 5 or 6, but she is such sweet child and so loving to everyone around her. She will pray for her friends at her age at the very mention of a problem. Wow. She is destined to be a great woman of God. We should respect her for this and nurture her growing faith. Kieffer Mendoza is a freshman in college. He has amazing musical talent that is going to take him very far in life. At the same time, his faith in God is as mature or even more mature than many of us adults. The combination of his talent and his faith makes him an amazing instrument of God. We should respect him for that. We should nurture that. Regardless of age, we should respect and nurture the gifts that God gives even the youngest of the young to spread the gospel message. God is eternal so He is not hung up on age. Neither should we.

Mary was also poor. In Jewish society, power and respect followed money just as they do today. Poverty was considered a strike against you. Poverty was a sign of lack of faith. It was punishment for your sins or the sins of your forefathers. Poor people were not given much power. Nothing much has really changed in this regard today. She was young and she was poor. Wow, God could have done better than that, surely. Why wasn’t Jesus born to a daughter of a rich king? Part of this story has to do with humility and opposing the proud. Rich people tend to get all caught up in their position and and who they are in relation to others. God opposed the proud and exalts the humble. Mary was a humble young servant of the Lord. She had no rights as a young, poor person but she fully depended on the Lord. She trusted Him to see her through her early years of her life and she probably didn’t care that she was poor. She had family and she had God. I think too God uses a poor person for a mighty task to show us that no one is excluded from being used by the Lord. All that is required to be chosen by God is faithfulness to Him. We must be in love with God to be truly used by Him. We should not exclude the poor from our fellowship of believers because they do not dress like us, don’t drive the cars we drive. God doesn’t care about any of that stuff. He cares about the heart. Mary had the heart of a servant. She was used not because of wealth or position, but because she was fully devoted to the Lord. That’s our only qualification as well. God uses the rich, the poor, it doesn’t matter. He checks the heart not the wallet.

Finally, to add one more layer of Mary being “behind the eight ball” in first century Jewish society, she was a woman. God giving a great task such as this as a women would have been unthinkable to Jewish society. Women had no rights. Women were dependent on men for their very existence. Inheritance of a husband did not pass to a wife as it does now when a husband dies. Then, it passed to the father’s eldest or oldest surviving son. Women weren’t allowed to even testify in court because their testimony was not considered credible. But God chose Mary, a woman. He chose her for the most important task of all time. Carrying the Christ Child. In fact, when you read through the gospels, Jesus accorded women great value. In the early church they were given equal standing with men. The first persons to see Jesus after the resurrection were women. Women are given places of honor in our faith. Women became empowered for the first time through the Christian faith. But in thinking of Mary in her day, this a radical concept. Sure, as time progressed, women in the faith were given greater and greater standing, but Mary was first. She was like that first person to stand up against a custom that has existed for a long time. She was a rebel of sorts. Mary knew that being a woman was a liability in her day, but she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Basically, I do not care that the odds are stacked against me. I trust in the Lord as knowing what is right for me. Mary should empower women. She goes to prove that women can play very pivotal roles in the spread of the Good News. Women are God’s most wonderful creation and if they are called to serve the Lord in the ways that He sees fit, we should not hinder them but empower them. We should look at their heart for the Lord not the fact that they were a dress.

Mary, young, poor, a woman. God chose the humble not the proud for this wonderful and important task. He chose according to the heart of the servant not the age, not the bank account, not the gender. Mary gives us hope that all of us can be used by the Lord. God only cares that you place Him first above all other things. That’s when He can use you mightily. Not when you achieve a certain age, a certain level of weath, not whether you are a man or a woman. The message of Mary choosing gives us great hope. You too can be used by the Father to do great things for Him.