And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

Luke 1: 45

Mary believed what the angel told her. It might seem natural to say something along the lines of, “Certainly, of course. Why wouldn’t she accept and embrace this great thing that she was singularly selected to do?” Yet, think about this for a moment. How might any of us respond to being told that our world was about to be completely interrupted and turned upside down by an event of this magnitude? This might not be the sort of thing that would even seem plausible or possible to comprehend. Still, Mary’s acceptance and belief are portrayed as complete, absolute, and without hesitation or doubt. In looking at her story, it strikes me that this little line of scripture that is buried in the flow of the narrative is very significant to others of us, as well. Her faith in God’s goodness and love is so complete that she is ready in body, heart, and mind to follow the Lord’s leading and to serve His will with all of her being and in every aspect of her life.

The Lord makes promises to all people. He did not start or stop in this sort of engagement with us with Mary, with the Apostles, or at any other point in history. From the beginning of time until the very end of it, God is a covenant making and keeping being. His word is given with great care and consideration of the purpose behind the promise that is made, and He does not waiver of recant on follow through and completion of His word. Creation was promised that God would provide a Savior for us when we rebelled and grabbed ahold of death as our new destiny. Then, in due time, Mary gave birth to the One who is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus the Christ was miraculously born to this young woman, and our lives are redeemed from the state of separation from God and the living and eternal death that was the natural result of that estrangement. This is the greatest of all of God’s promises, and He has made it available to everyone who will respond to Christ’s appeal, “Come to me!”

There are many other ways that God has made promises to me and to others who follow Him. The Lord is generous beyond my ability to count or to measure; yet, I do not fully appreciate the breadth, depth, and scope of God’s commitment to me and to His kingdom on earth. Although I do not doubt God’s presence or the reality of what Christ means to and in my life, I admit that I do not think and act in a manner that fully and continually reflects a state of existence that is absolutely infused by the love, grace, mercy, justice, and righteousness that is the outworking of Christ’s presence in my life. I do not operate out of the simple, direct, and unwavering faith that are so apparent in this description of Mary’s response to the Lord. This lack of such a faith is something that demands repentance on my part and submission to Christ in any and all areas of my life where I continue to hold onto my flawed and much weaker form of control. So, I pray, “Lord, my faith is incomplete. I hold onto parts of my life when You have asked that I give it all to You. I repent of my sin, and seek to follow Your will and way in all that I think, say, and do. Lord, please grant to me the full and absolute faith that Mary knew. This is my prayer and my plea. Amen.”  

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Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5: 5

 

There is something about pride that just gets in the way. As it controls our thoughts and the actions that result from our thinking, pride seems to inevitably construct barriers to relationships. It is that human characteristic that keeps us from saying that we are sorry even when we know that we wronged someone. As pride separates us from others it also seems to talk us through the rationalizations that tell our minds and our hearts that we are right and that those we are now distant from are wrong. Yet, the most significant negative effect that pride has in people is found in the way that it keeps us away from God.

 

There is something about this self-directed and self-energized quality in people that makes us take on life without the counsel, wisdom, or direction of God. It is often a form of pride that seems to be holding the throttle down on our drive to control all and to know all of the answers. This thing that we call pride tends to tell us to look within for our strength and competency and to gain our sense of worth and satisfaction from that same source. As our pridefulness separates us from God, it also pulls us away from other people.

 

So, it seems to me that relationship is the primary reason that God holds such a negative attitude when it comes to our pride. He sees the degree to which human pride contributes to our sinfulness. The Lord witnesses the struggle that so many people have when it comes to kneeling in humility before Him in order to admit that we are lost and that we need Jesus in order to know life, for it seems that pride is often the personal element that keeps the knees locked and the heart hardened to accepting the grace and the love that Christ so freely offers. Even when we know Christ, pride continues to be a cause of our relational struggles; so, God desires for us to set it aside, be humbly submitted to loving each other, and open our hearts to the grace that has been given to us so that we can, in turn, grant that same grace to others.

Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,

that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughters of my people!

Jeremiah 9: 1

 

The tracks of his tears stain the cheeks of the prophet as his sorrow and mourning pour out onto the dust that has gathered on his face from the miles of traveling the hard road that God has sent him along. Jeremiah feels what God experiences. Our rebellion and refusal to follow His Word are painful to God. But His pain is not the frustration of a ruler whose orders are disobeyed. Rather, God’s grief is the deeply felt response of a loving father who sees His child choosing the hard path through life. The pain is as real today as it was on the day that Jesus felt it in His flesh on the cross as He took all of our deserved separation from the Father upon His body and spirit.

 

Jeremiah would find that there is much to weep about in our world today. It would seem that we have not gained any real ground in living righteously with the passage of centuries. We murder our unborn children with ease, and our governments wage war with frightening skill and with an easy indifference to the cost that is paid in the blood of God-image bearers. Our society redefines sacred relationships and holds covenant as something quaint and archaic as we set aside the scrolls of its writing as relics that are suitable for display in a museum where their truths are dismissed as useless ideas from a darker time in history. Yet, it would appear that the clouds of darkness with its horror of death are rising around our feet.

 

Yes, I think that Jeremiah would be weeping even harder today, for I am certain that God is grieved greatly by the condition of our hearts and the separation from Him of too many souls. So, it is fitting and right for us to weep and to express the pain that our world is causing in God’s Kingdom. However, Jeremiah was a man who God called to action in the face of the condition of the world where he lived. Likewise, we can grieve, but we can not remain silent. We should pray for deliverance for our world and for direction for our steps, but we must respond as Christ calls us to action and as His Spirit leads us onward. This is a world that needs people who speak eternal truth with faces that reveal our deep sorrow and with voices that echo the love and grace of our merciful and compassionate Father.