Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mary's Song: A Sure-Fire Way to Get Favor with God!

Two of  my favorite passages in Scripture are the songs that two different women of faith sing when they know they are going to have a baby.  Familiar is Mary's song in Luke 1:

Luke 1:46-55
(46)  And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
(47)  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
(48)  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
(49)  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
(50)  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
(51)  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
(52)  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
(53)  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
(54)  He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
(55)  As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
The other, which sounds very similar, and which Mary may have been thinking of, comes from Hannah, after her prayer begging God to give her a child was answered.
1st Samuel 2:1-10
(1)  And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
(2)  There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
(3)  Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
(4)  The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
(5)  They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
(6)  The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
(7)  The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
(8)  He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
(9)  He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
(10)  The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
You know one of the primary virtues about God I see both women acknowledging in these prayers and songs?  How God lifts up the poor and puts down the rich, causes the barren to bear, and the mother of many children to wax feeble.  How He exalts the poor, those of low degree, the beggar, the feet of His saints, fills the hungry, sends away the rich empty, breaks the bows of the mighty men, scatters the proud, puts down the mighty from their seats, and breaks His adversaries in pieces.

Isn't that epic?

God is a God who looks out for the poor, the despised, the down-trodden, the weak, and lifts them up to a place of honor.  It's what every great story describes, and the makings of every epic that has ever been told.  There's something in our hearts that loves the old story, because God loves it!

But bummer for those who aren't poor and suffering, huh?

If you fall into the above category of being poor and suffering, rejoice, because God is on your side!

If you don't see yourself in that place, living in wealthy, suburban America where all your needs are essentially provided for though, you might be wondering about my title: A Sure-Fire Way to Get Favor with God.  After all, Mary found favor with God.  And that should be something we all desire.  But according to these poetic praises, He mostly finds favor with the helpless that are naturally that way from their circumstances.  What if we don't see ourselves in that place?

Before I go on, I want to clarify.  Just because someone is rich or in a position of honor at this current time doesn't mean they're beyond the reach of God's favor.  There's a reason we all love the simple picture of the manger scene, isn't there?  Despite it being Biblically inaccurate and historically flawed, the principle it communicates rings true with us.

I could be wrong, but I think what we like about it is that it combines two classes of people.  The poor and lowly shepherds and the rich, powerful, wise magi meet together at this stable to worship Jesus.  Both found favor with God.  But there's a simple reason found in the attitude of humility in both.


Another word to describe 'the favor of God' is 'grace,'  I didn't use it initially because I think sometimes in Christendom something turns off in our brains when we hear the word 'grace.'  It's been used so often in pulpits and songs and Bible studies, and we think of it as the means of our salvation that's offered freely that we don't have to do anything for, so we don't really think about it except to thank God for it.  Favor with God or "grace," however, isn't something we always sense, even after we believe we've been saved.  But did you know the Bible actually describes a way to receive grace that God can't refuse?  True story!  Before you block my blog for blasphemous content though, take a look at a verse that describes exactly who God gives grace to.
Proverbs 3:34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
God gives grace to the lowly.  Sounds very similar to Mary and Hannah's songs of praise, doesn't it?  How does that apply to us?  Peter quotes this verse, and gives our application of it in his first letter.
1st Peter 5:5-7
(5)  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
(6)  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
(7)  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
God gives grace to the lowly or to the "humble,"  That means if we want grace, we need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and cast all our care upon Him.  We need to subject ourselves to one another.  If we feel that God is resisting us, we may need to examine our hearts for any vestiges of pride.  Because it's clear that God resists the proud.

James also describes this as a way to deal with conflict in the church and eliminate it...from fightings and quarrelings to favoritism and prejudice.  His answer is this verse to combat our own naturally envious and lustful spirit is this verse from Proverbs.
James 4:6-10 
(6)  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
(7)  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
(8)  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
(9)  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
(10)  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
There's a very simple reason that I say this is a sure-fire method for obtaining God's favor, or grace.  It's because He promises that He can't resist this spirit.
 Psalm 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise
 Psalm 34:15-18 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
I know this is a simple post.  But sometimes when life gets complicated I have to go back to the very foundational and simple elements of faith, and what I absolutely know to be true about God beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Whether you're struggling with how to get along with others, or wondering if God despises you because it doesn't seem like He's close to you...examine your heart.  Clothe yourself in humility, fall on your knees, cry out to God, cast all your cares upon Him, and become broken and contrite.  He promises if you draw night to Him, He will draw nigh to you.  Because in order to draw close to God, you have to be humble, and He is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and a broken and a contrite heart, God will not despise.