God’s Plans or Our Plans?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Joseph found out the Mary was pregnant, they were not yet married. They were what we might call “engaged” in our current world. This presented a big problem. Pre-marital sex was not acceptable behavior in Jewish culture. The couple would be looked upon with suspicion and face ridicule from the community. Also, a who was the father? Joseph had to be wondering who Mary had been seeing behind his back. So, Joseph was ready to do what we would probably expect. He was ready to end the relationship.

As Joseph considered what he would do, an angel appeared to him and told him about Mary’s pregnancy and the importance of this child. Mary had not been unfaithful, but the child was of the Holy Spirit and was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. So, when Joseph awoke, he remained with Mary and they named the baby Jesus.

We should not quickly look past the impact the birth of Jesus likely had on Joseph. Mary’s pregnancy would have been a shock to the community and would have caused whispering and confrontation over improper sexual conduct. Joseph’s reputation likely suffered and he probably faced pressure to admit his sin or divorce his adulterous wife. Yet Joseph heard the word of God through the angelic messenger and accepted that this was the Lord’s plan for him. It would be difficult, but he was willing to do what God had called him to do. Would we be willing to do or go wherever God might call us, even if it meant difficulty for us? Do we trust the plans and purposes of God even when they interfere with our own plans?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

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The Mighty Has Done Great Things for Me

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Reading the Word

Luke 1:39–56 (ESV)

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel regarding the birth of Jesus, she went to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth was also going to have a child, John the Baptist. When the women greet each other, their joy is evident as Elizabeth praises Mary and Mary reflects on how the Lord has chosen her for such a great role.

Notice Mary’s words in verses 46-55, often called “The Magnificat” or “Mary’s Song of Praise.” She speaks of her humble estate and how the Lord had given her honor. From now on, people would call her “blessed.” She was the one who would carry the child Jesus in her womb and give birth to the Savior and Messiah. She was the one who God had chosen to use to fulfill his promises from the Old Testament Scriptures. She was blessed indeed and she humbly praises the Lord for choosing her.

As we reflect on how God blessed Mary in such a unique way, we must not forget that God uses all of his people every day to fulfill his plans for the world. He uses each of us right where we are to reach our family, friends, and neighbors with the message of hope that comes through Jesus Christ. He uses us to show his love and grace in a world where darkness and evil, pain and suffering, are the norm. Let us also praise the Lord for blessing us and using us for his purposes.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

A Servant of the Lord

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Reading the Word

Luke 1:26–38 (ESV)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And 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 call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses record what is often referred to as “The Annunciation.” This is the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the young virgin Mary that she was going to have a baby. Her baby would not be just any baby, but the “Son of the Most High.” Mary was told that her son would sit on the throne of his father David and would reign forever. With these words, Mary was being told that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah whom was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures and whom her people had been waiting for for hundreds of years.

Imagine how you might feel if you were face-to-face with an angel and told that you would be entrusted with a great responsibility such as giving birth to and raising the Son of God, the Messiah. Also, imagine that you are merely a young teenager and not even married yet. This was Mary. A young girl who was engaged, but not yet married in a world where pregnancy outside of wedlock was unacceptable. How would she deal with the social pressure? How would Joseph respond to this news? Who would believe her when she maintained that she was a virgin and that the child was of the Holy Spirit?

Mary’s response to the angel is something for us to think about. She said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She did not ask to be excluded even though this was going to be extremely difficult for her. She trusted God and submitted to his plans for her. Can we do the same? Are we willing to be used in whatever way God chooses for us?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.