Starting a ministry to women and writing this blog leaves me thinking often about the women God uses and how He uses them. What can I learn from the women in Scripture and the godly women who have come along since then? I want to glean whatever I can to be a vessel that is available for His use.
With Christmas approaching, the woman I am drawn to consider is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whenever I meditate on her experience, it leaves me in awe of her and humbled. I wonder if I would have had the faith to do what she did.
Have you ever wondered why God chose Mary? What was it about her that made her be the woman He would call to bear and raise His Son, who would be faithful to Him all the way to the foot of the cross? Of course, ultimately it was His grace. Mary didn’t earn this favor from God. At the same time, though, I think there are things about Mary’s character that made her His choice in His perfect wisdom. And even though it’s impossible to fully know why God chose her, I think Scripture gives us some clues.
- Mary knew God and His character. After Mary goes to see her relative, Elizabeth, and she confirms what the angel had told her, Mary erupts in praise. We call her words in Luke 1:46-55 “The Magnificat”. Besides praising God for having regard for her and blessing her, Mary also praises Him for His attributes and His work on behalf of His people. Her words are packed with theology.
- Mary had faith. In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth says of Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” I think this faith flows from her deep knowledge of God. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him. And Mary was able to trust that He could and would do something impossible – cause her, a virgin, to carry and give birth to a son. She does ask Gabriel how this can be when he first gives her this news. But his answer that it would be by the Holy Spirit coming upon her and his reminder that nothing is impossible with God is enough for her to believe that a miracle would happen.
- Mary was completely surrendered to God. I love Mary’s response to the angel: “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary didn’t consider herself just a servant of God – she calls herself a “bondslave”. There is a marked difference in the two. A servant has some self-autonomy and personal rights. But a slave has none. They are owned by their master and have no rights and no choice but to do his will.
In saying this, Mary is indicating her full surrender to God’s will for her. For us in the United States, it’s hard to imagine all that she risked in saying this. Besides losing Joseph’s trust and the possibility of him rejecting and divorcing her, losing her reputation and being ostracized by the community, there was the very real possibility of being stoned for adultery. And yet she is ready to obey and follow God no matter what the personal cost.
Ultimately, I think God chose Mary because He knew He could trust Mary with being the mother of His Son.
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru), shared the gospel with everyone he met. He always had a story about a person next to him on a plane or a taxi driver who had prayed to receive Christ with him. Once I heard another Campus Crusade staff member, Dan Hayes, say that he wondered why Bill Bright saw so many people receive Christ. Was it because Dr. Bright was more winsome or had a better gospel presentation? Dan finally decided it was because God knew He could trust Bill Bright. His implication was that since God knew that He could trust Dr. Bright to share the gospel, He would put people in his path who were ready to respond to the message.
That’s what comes to mind when I say that God could trust Mary. Here was a girl who knew Him, both personally and theologically. And because she knew Him, she would trust Him with miracles and follow Him in full surrender, no matter what the cost. Exactly the kind of person who could be trusted to be the mother of the Messiah.
Mary challenges me. To some extent, I do know God. I have seen miracles. I have followed Him to challenging places. But Mary inspires me to excel still more. To arrive at the place where I am quick to say, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word,” in things both big and small. (Sometimes it can be the smaller, annoying things that are harder for me embrace willingly than the big, life-changing ones.) To be a woman of faith about whom people could say, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” To never stop digging deeply in the Word, seeking to know and understand God more. To be someone God can trust to be a part of His story.