An email comment about the Mary post was the reason for our conference. As Joni and I were talking about Mary, a very interesting thought was brought to my attention. The comment caused me to consider the Israelite peoples response to God at Sinai and Mary’s response to the message of the angel.
It will take a few moments to move from the Israelites to Mary, but stay with me.
A long time ago in a land far, far away, a group of people were pleading with God to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt. Even before then, God brought a boy named Joseph to the land of the Egyptians. Through Joseph, God provided for the Egyptians and other nations during a seven year drought. It was also at this time God chose to reunite the man Joseph, the second most powerful man in Egypt and maybe even in the Middle East, with his family. The story is absolutely one to read as an encouragement that no matter what your circumstances are, God has amazing plans for His children!
(Read about Josephs amazing journey from one who was spoiled to one who chose to put himself in Gods hands no matter his circumstances. Genesis chapters 37-50)
The Egyptians began to notice the Israelites were rapidly multiplying and would soon out number the Egyptians. Recognizing this fact, the Pharaoh and his advisers in their fear put together a plan to solve the threat. The plan didn’t work, neither did any of their other ideas. No matter what the Egyptians planned, the Israelites continued to thrive! Finally, the Egyptians made slaves of the Israelites, constantly doing everything in their power to destroy these slaves. Yet Israel still continued to multiply, and the more Israel increased, the harsher were the conditions placed upon them by their masters. Therefore the Children of Israel called out; they pleaded with God to deliver them.
Most of us know the story, however if you don’t, take some time to read how God gave the Children of Israel freedom from the powerful Egyptians. Here is an important understanding, God had to orchestrate the deliverance of the Israelites! They had no way to accomplish freedom on their own, by their own actions, plans, thoughts. Remember, they were pleading with God to rescue them!
Now we find another great miracle in the story. God created Moses, took him from his enslaved family, brought him to the Pharaoh’s palace as a prince, sent him out into the desert as a fugitive, then brought him from herding sheep to become the leader who took his people from Egypt to freedom and out into the desert.
Have you ever been in a desert? It is the place with sand and no ocean, with heat and no shade, stunted bushes and very little water. This is where God lead His children after rescuing them from their bondage. And we also need to be set free from our bondage.
Fast forward three months. God has led His children to Mt. Sinai, the very place God called Moses from shepherding sheep to be the Shepherd for the Israelites. Moses is summoned to receive the covenant the Israelites were to have from God. (Genesis 19:3-6) Moses met with God and brought back with him he words God had spoken.
It is here at this first meeting of people and God that I see a critical disconnect. The people’s response was to make a promise they could not keep! After Moses repeats all God has given to him for the people, their response is significant. “The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said!’ ”
Remember, these are people who have lived their whole life in slavery, their lives were about fulfilling the masters wishes. As a slave you do what the master tells you in hope of reward, or at least to avoid punishment.
This is also a serious issue which defined Israel’s’ relationship with God. They responded to God as they would have to their Egyptian masters; they determined to do all God wanted so they would receive all God had promised. Their need is the same as ours today, we need a Creator to recreate us.
Now fast forward to a young girl startled to see she has an angel as a visitor. While that is enough to unsettle anyone, what the angel said, what he told her sent her to her knees. “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” What the angel was about to tell Mary would forever change her life and the life of an entire planet. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Luke 1:35) A stunned Mary has been informed God has chosen her as the mother of the Messiah! There was no greater honor than being chosen to be mother of Messiah. There was no greater responsibility than to parent the One who came to save us from ourselves.
So, here we are with Mary, who is betrothed to Joseph (betrothal is a bit more than an engagement and a little less than marriage) as the angel gives her the astounding news. Mary moves into practical mode asking to know how this could happen, because she was still a virgin. “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” (Luke 1:35)
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38 NIV)
Wow! And again I say, Wow! This is an amazing response to an overwhelming bit of information. Pondering the information alone would keep one’s mind busy for a long time! However, it is Mary’s response to the declaration which intrigues me. Why? Mary knew she could not accomplish one iota of God’s words to her. It had to be made real by God, the only One who, “…gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4: 17b) It is God alone who is able to make Mary the mother of the Son of God, just as it is God alone who recreates us into whom we were created to be.
At Mt. Sinai the Israelites made a promise to God they could not keep; they responded to Him as slaves, not as free people. It was this promise to do what they could not do which defined their relationship with God.
The same thing happens to us. We are made to think it is our actions which endear us to God, when truth tells us we are dear to Him because we exist. Change must happen, there is no question about this truth. The only question we need to answer is, will we choose Jesus as our re-creator or will we stand at the wall, in essence banging our head against it, trying to accomplish what only God can make real in us?
At this very moment you and I have a choice to make. We need to choose, and it may be several times a day, to remind ourselves who are we going to believe. Who will we trust to release us from the bondage of ourselves? There is only one answer. Let’s reply with Mary, ”I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as God has declared.”
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