Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Father's Favor

In Elizabeth and Mary, the Lord gives us two examples of highly favored women of great faith. In both instances, their husbands stumble at unbelief but the women do not falter. They hear the word of the Lord and readily submit to it. While their situations were highly unlikely, they both embraced God’s work without doubting either that it was God that was doing the work, or that He could and would fulfill that which was spoken. They did not waver in unbelief.
         This passage (Luke 1:26-56) is remarkable for several reasons. First, it shows us that little babies, even tiny babies in the womb, can know God and be known by God. They can know even more than this. John Baptist recognizes the voice of his relative, Mary, even though he had never heard her voice before. And through what can only be a spiritual and emotional connection, he also recognizes that the Lord Jesus is near.
         Another remarkable thing about this passage is related to the personhood argument, if you want to give it any time of day. Jesus is Jesus even though He is just a very tiny embryo, not even yet up to the status of fetus, in the womb of His mother, Mary. He is probably only a couple of weeks in utero at the time of this occurrence and yet, Elizabeth and John Baptist recognize Him as the Lord, the Messiah. Mary receives this, acknowledging this truth, as well.
         When we see such women of great faith, we should all be encouraged and exhorted to such belief. These women did not doubt the sovereignty or power of God. When God acted in their midst, they simply believed Him and submitted to His will. When He spoke, they did not doubt that it was Him that was speaking or that He would now do His will.
         While we do not have these divine utterances from the Lord, we do have His Word. In His Word, God reveals His will. He makes promises and He comes to us in the power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that will, to dispense the promises. What will you do? Will you doubt, like Zacharias? Will you disbelieve like Joseph? Or, will you humbly submit yourself to God’s will and God’s promises, like the faithful Elizabeth, like the highly favored Mary?
         There is another important thing to point out in this passage. The Bible says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous. It also says that Mary was highly favored of the Lord and that John Baptist was great in the eyes of the Lord. What can we good Presbyterian folk make of this? I thought we were all by nature objects of wrath? I thought all of our righteous deeds were as filthy rags? I thought that no sin can stand in the presence of the Lord and that we are full of sin? There is some truth to these statements but we are out of balance. We hardly have room in our minds and hearts for the Father looking at us with favor.
         We need to think balanced Bible thoughts, not puckered Presbyterian thoughts. It is true that we sin. It is true that we, who sin, need a Savior Jesus and His Holy Spirit to justify us and to make us into His image. But we should not slander the Father’s love towards us. The Father, Himself, favors His people. He looks upon them, us, with love and desires to save them to the uttermost. It is the Father who sent the Son to save us from our sins, for God so loves the world that He sent His Son.
         When we sin, we should repent. When we sin grievously, in an open or big way or over a long period of time, we need forgiveness and we also need healing and reconciliation. In such scandalous sins, we have a reason to wonder if a Spirit-filled man, woman or child could act in such a way. In such cases, there should be soul searching, deep sorrow and thorough repentance.
But for the ordinary faithful Christian, who is seeking to be obedient to God today, who by all appearances is actively walking in God’s goodness, we should understand that the Father’s pleasure and favor is directed towards that person, towards you, towards me. We should not be fearful to come into His presence, but rather, we should desire to come to the Father and He to us, for He favors us.

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