Luke 1:26-38 God dispenses grace according to the posture of our hearts
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God. 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
God sends the archangel Gabriel to a virgin girl of remarkable spiritual perceptivity, and with great favour announces the conception of His Son, Jesus. Today’s devotion teaches us that God dispenses grace according to the posture of one’s heart.
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
God chose a certain virgin (a young woman who has never engaged in sexual intercourse) named Mary and sent Gabriel the archangel to her. The archangel’s greetings addressed Mary as one who is highly favoured. Mary was shocked because she has never seen herself as one who is favoured by God. Mary, a simple woman in her youth with no earthly achievements received God’s highest favour.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
Following the salutation was the announcement to conceive a son and name Him Jesus. And He will be divine (Son of the most High), and will reign over Israel forever. The depiction of Jesus is one who will exercise kingly dominion over an eternal kingdom.
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Mary’s question arose from the fact that she, being unmarried was disqualified from the task of childbearing. The angel responded with an astounding directive that she would conceive by power of the Holy Spirit. And only by way of this conception can the Son of God be incarnated into the world: for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary’s response (despite her youth) revealed her extraordinary qualities of courage and spiritual perceptivity. Despite the enormity and the impossibility of what lies ahead, she needed no convincing but accepted the mission.
What is the favour of God?
Favour, synonymous with the word grace comes from the God of love who desires all to be saved. Favour or grace comes from the Greek word charis, which connotes blessing, and kindness. God’s ultimate display of favour is in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, man’s heart may be regenerated towards peace with God and through perseverance obtain eternal glory. The evangelist wrote,
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 (NASB)
Here, the grace of Jesus is contrasted with the Law of Moses. The Law punishes man for their transgressions. But it has no power to regenerate man’s heart from wickedness towards righteousness. On the other hand, the grace of Christ frees man to choose righteousness while turning away from wickedness. Grace imbues man with divine virtues, wisdom and power to accomplish His will.
Elsewhere in the bible, divine grace or favour is manifested in the following:
- Protection and safety (Genesis 6:8, Noah)
- Protection and promotion (Genesis 39:21, Joseph)
- Protection and liberation (Exodus 2:25, Israel in Egypt)
- Acts of salvation (Exodus 33:12, Moses)
- Wisdom for righteous repute and divine promotion (1 Samuel 2:26, Samuel)
- Restoration and prosperity (Psalm 67:1)
- Revival and salvation (Isaiah 33:2, Isaiah’s prayer for revival)
- Prosperity of the nation (Isaiah 62:4, Isaiah’s prophecy)
- Revelation and salvation (Daniel 9:17, Daniel’s prayer for revival)
- Wisdom for righteous repute and anointing (Luke 2:52, Jesus)
- Strength and faith to accomplish God’s calling (1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul)
- Regeneration and salvation (Ephesians 2:8)
- To imbue man with Christ’s attributes to obtain eternal glory and honour (1 Peter 5:10)
That said, divine favour is not given uniformly to all people. But to those who possess a pure heart, who are courageous and who love God single-mindedly, He grants them unreserved favour.
God became human so that through grace man may become divine
The manner in which Jesus is conceived attests to His divinity and humanity: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. It is indeed the Holy Spirit that conceived Jesus, the divine-human.
What are the implications of Jesus’s incarnation? The apostle Paul taught that only in God becoming a divine-human (fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form… Colossians 2:9) can He do the following:
- Make man complete, which is to become righteous and divine as Christ is (Colossians 2:10,12,13)
- Disarmed demonic rulers, and rule over them (Colossians 2:10,15)
- Canceled out the certificate of debt (curse of sin) on man’s behalf (Colossians 2:14)
Unless God put on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:2), there is no way God can exercise His saving power or omnipotence over humanity. Christ’s saving grace is to result in making sinful man divine. Man, in becoming divine, can begin to live out Christ’s virtues, wisdom and power.
Many churchgoers having misunderstood the gospel, do not endeavour to live out Christ’s virtues, wisdom and power. The end of faith for them is not to become divine, but rather to escape the torment of hell. Regrettably, grace for them is nothing more than an unconditional pass into heaven. But the purpose of grace is to make man perfect and divine in the likeness of Christ, the divine-human.
God dispenses grace according to the posture of man’s hearts
The angel’s salutation speaks (“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”) of Mary as possessor of unprecedented honour and favour. Certainly, as mother of the Son of God, she would require an unlimited supply of divine grace. The question: how did God arrive at the decision of having Mary as the mother of Jesus? She is supposed to be a young girl of scant education and of humble background. But shouldn’t one who is more educated and of more priestly descent be more suited for the role? To strike a comparison, take Zacharias, the chief priest who met the same angel six months before… who despite years of religiosity, pales in comparison with youthful Mary in areas of faith and spiritual perceptivity. Zacharias’s unbelief was revealed by the archangel’s response, “… because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). Whereas Mary responded with faith, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
God dispenses grace NOT unconditionally, but conditioned upon the posture of a man’s heart. Mary is a woman of remarkable spiritual perceptivity, being wholly dedicated to God’s service. It is no wonder that Mary is granted unprecedented honour and grace. Therefore, believers seeking divine favour must do all to set their hearts right before God and men. Many despite praying for a long time did not receive divine favour. The issue is with their hearts’ posture, many of whom are self-serving while having little regard for God’s kingdom work. The apostle James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. When Esau and Jacob were born, God predestined their paths even before they did anything good or evil. For Jacob who fears God, He loves and predestines him for greatness. As for Esau, despite his father’s preferential treatment descended into historical oblivion.
1. When you see faithful believers suffer, do you wonder if God is just and active? When you see evil people grow in fame and riches, do you wonder if God is blind? Is a life of comfort and riches sure evidence of divine favour? Do not fret when the wicked seem to prosper, but continue in the way of righteousness. For God promises that the righteous will surely be vindicated. The psalmist wrote,
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:1-5 (NASV)
2. How can believers obtain divine favour? By doing the following:
- By the prayers of faithful believers. (Exodus 33:12, Isaiah 33:2, Daniel 9:17).
- By fearing God and living in truth and righteousness (Proverbs 3:4, 8:35, 12:2).
- By continually devoting oneself to the work of the gospel (Luke 2:52).
Dear Lord, as I humble myself, I sanctify my heart with your truth. Grant me grace so that I may live out the virtues of Christ in love and purity… to exercise divine wisdom to overcome the evil one… to exercise authority over the elements of the earth. Use me as a channel of divine grace to the poor and marginalised. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.