The book of Luke opens with the angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias, an elderly priest, and to a young girl, possibly in her early teens, named Mary. In both instances he tells of the coming of a baby, one unexpected, the other looked for through several centuries. Both recipients were astonished at the angel’s appearance. Both asked a question. But how different were the motives of these questions and how different the angel’s response.
Zacharias had been chosen by lot to offer incense in the temple. As he was doing this, Gabriel comes to him. He tells him that his wife, Elisabeth, is going to have a son in her old age. He gives details about this child. How does Zacharias respond? He is afraid.
His question: How will I know for certain? He did not believe. He was filled with doubt. He wanted proof. I suppose you could say he got his proof, but not in the way he expected. He became deaf and mute until John was born.
On the other hand, when the angel comes to Mary, she responds in faith. Her question: How will this be since I am a virgin? She only wanted instruction as to what to expect. She believed Gabriel. The angel answered her question and told her all the details of how this miracle would take place.
Gabriel makes a third appearance–to Joseph, engaged to Mary. His first response when he heard of Mary’s pregnancy was to secretly divorce her to save her the public shame. But after Gabriel comes to him in a dream, he follows the instructions given to him and takes Mary as his wife.
One would expect the elder to have more faith than the younger. A priest should not doubt God where youth may not have lived long enough to gain that strength of faith. But here we find just the opposite.
We have no idea how these three people felt about the messages divinely brought to them. I’m sure if an angel suddenly appeared before us we would be afraid. If the message was something impossible to happen in the natural, we might doubt. But if the message was as great as that to Mary about the birth of the Christ-child, I think we might feel very humble and wonder how we could possibly carry out such an undertaking. Joseph must have wondered about taking a pregnant woman supposedly carrying the coming Messiah and how he could possible have a part in the fulfillment of this prophecy.
How often does the Lord send His messengers to us at unexpected times? How do we respond? Do we doubt, or receive by faith? Do we want proof, or do we want instruction as to the how-to?
These people were ordinary people, not kings or noblemen or famous or particularly gifted. But they were chosen by God for a specific purpose. He supplied them with everything they needed to carry out His will. We need not fear even the greatest task given by the Lord because He knows what He is doing. He always equips where He calls. And He is with us always to help us along the way.
With another year ending and a new one just ahead, let’s choose to respond like Mary and believe, receive and carry out God’s will for us on a day-to-day basis so that when those big things come along unexpectedly we will be ready to say a resounding “Yes!” to the Lord. And we will hear His “Well done, good and faithful servant” when we have finished the final task.
I pray God’s blessing on you. May you have a prosperous and healthy 2019.
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