Luke – Doors Wide Open
Some wonder why blessings seem to come more to others than themselves. Maybe we don’t understand what blessings are. Maybe those who look at others’ blessings are not seeing what God is doing in them. We humans compare ourselves with others and are disappointed or encouraged depending on how we feel that day. When we compare and rank blessings, based on feelings, we miss how God, who we say we believe and trust, is blessing us continually. Comparisons come when we don’t really know what blessings are. Our small minds think only materialistically. Our minds need to think higher than earth level.
What does it mean when God “blesses” us?
Here is an example, in Genesis 12:1-3, God makes a promise to Abram, saying, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God is promising good fortune, and a good future, to the descendants of Abram, and He is saying that others will gain good fortune through him. It can be said that all who believe in the God of Israel are consecrated with blood–the blood of Jesus Christ—through faith. The Hebrew word barak means literally “to kneel” and when used in this context, it indicates a relationship between man, who adores God by kneeling, and God, who benefits men with His presence.
Another word translated “blessing” is the Hebrew word esher, which indicates a state of happiness. This word occurs frequently in the Psalms and Proverbs. When the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1), he is saying “you will be happy if you do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, etc.” Obedience to God is not a pre-requisite for salvation—while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)—but obedience to God and living according to His Word is a recipe for blessing, for happiness in life (Proverbs 3:1-4).
There are two Greek words in the New Testament which are translated as “blessing.” The first is makarios, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew word esher. The other is eulogeo, which is used to give a good report or say a good word; it is more similar to the meaning of barak. We bless God for all the blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and we are to bless those who mistreat us, because we were called to receive a blessing from God (1 Peter 3:9). The relationship of believers to God, our submission to Him and His gifts toward us, are described in terms of blessing, and indeed, there is no blessing as meaningful or as permanent as our inheritance in Christ (Galatians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:4).
Sometimes blessings come with confusion and fear of the unknown. So many of us run from God’s blessings or favor. This was Mary’s first thought as she was trying to understand God’s message through His messenger. To those who believe, like Mary, with all their hearts, minds and souls, God quickly follows up his message with calm assurance…”Don’t be afraid, Mary.” He will do that for us, too. We need to calm down and listen. When we do listen, we “get it”. Joy enters where fear once resided.
Mary received the affirmation she needed from Elizabeth who knew before Mary told her the whole story of “the visit”. It is amazing how God orchestrates others to come into our lives to affirm us when we believe in the blessing of God and what He is telling us He will do in us and through us. Elizabeth’s words could not be more loving and kind, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
Sometimes we have to wait. Elizabeth waited past her childbearing years to have a baby. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” God blessed her as the mother of the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. Elizabeth was blessed because she believed. When Zechariah heard the news he responded, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Because of his unbelief, his blessing came with a reprimand, “since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” Not being able to speak would be hard on a priest! So be careful. Learn from Zechariah. Don’t mess with God’s blessings! Just say thank you.
If you read yesterday’s passage closely (most of us miss this) you will read that John was filled with God’s Holy Spirit even before he was born! “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” Could that be the reason “at the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,” too? Yes!
Two women, chosen, and called by God, to deliver two sons who would forever change the world. One would be a man filled with the Holy Spirit, set apart, ordained to prepare the way for the other, the Son of God, who was the Holy Spirit, the three-in-One. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. John would get the attention of the people to repent and turn back to God. Jesus would be the perfect sacrifice to complete our total redemption so that we can enter the open doors to God! Wow!
Let us wrap our minds around this truth as we read, imagine the scene and be blessed just from reading and thinking about how John and Jesus entered this world filled with the Holy Spirit. They will open wide the doors to the Kingdom of God! Salvation is for everyone.
Luke 1, NLT
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
Do you feel favored, blessed by God, in your walk with Him?
Count the many ways God has intervened in your life with Him so that you could overcome and be less fearful.
“For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.”
Let the praises of gratitude begin…
Dear Heavenly Father,
It’s never about the things of this life, it is about the blessings you supply to feed our souls. It is about the knowledge of you to wash over and cleanse our minds. It is about the abiding of Your Presence that fills our hearts to overflow with Your Holy Spirit. You are, indeed, with us. Continue to transform us by guiding our every thought and action. May our thoughts go higher, closer to where you are as you bless us.
In Jesus Name, Amen