Six months after her cousin Elizabeth was shown favor by God and became pregnant with John the Baptist, Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel in the city of Nazareth with these words, “Greeting, O favored one, the Lord is upon you!’ (Luke 1 28).
Its easy for us to understand her reaction, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). After all, its not every day that you are greeted by an angel speaking words that are hard to understand. “How is it that I am favored and what am I favored for?” “What does it mean that the Lord is upon me?” “Am I in danger?” There were many reasons for her to be afraid.
As she would soon learn, there was little reason for fear at the time because the angel came bearing good news of great joy. God’s favor upon her was great for she had been chosen among all women to bear His only Son.
The Greek term for “highly favored” is an active verb meaning “endued with divine grace to the full.” Mary was to receive the greatest of blessings and people would remember her for the rest of time both temporal and eternal. Her heart was such that its purity allowed for God to work within her the miracle of our Savior’s birth.
Mary was highly favored indeed, but she was far from the only one to be shown God’s favor throughout time. Before her Noah and Abraham and David and Solomon and a host of others were shown special favor from God. He used them all to do great and mighty things in His name. After her the Apostles and millions of other since have experienced the favor of God in their lives in both great ways and small.
In fact, God’s favor is showered on people every day. Every blessing is from God whether you believe it or not. Food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like to quote Martin Luther.
We may not be asked to build an ark or carry the Christ Child, but we are surely given favor in many ways. God’s favor, in fact, is so common that we take it for granted. Blessing upon blessing is bestowed on people to such an extent that it would seem wrong not to have them.
But only a few are given the kind of special favor that was given to Mary because very few are in such a place in their relationship with God that they could be given it. God didn’t choose Mary because she was extra nice, or “built to have babies.” God chose Mary out of all other women because of her faith.
Because we know God, we know that Mary was someone very special. Her heart had to be pure, her dedication to God had to be firm, her willingness to follow God no matter the cost had to established beyond a doubt. Among all other women, Mary was the one who most fulfilled the qualifications to be the mother of the Messiah.
To find special favor requires a righteousness beyond what the world looks for. Psalm 5:12 says, For You bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover (them) with favor as a shield.” To find special favor from God requires a life lived for Him, one that makes every deed a ministry. It requires a life surrendered to His control and a trust that is unrelenting.
Again, special favor is granted to those who have become the hands of Christ to the world. From Psalm 90:17, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” This is not work done to find favor, this is work that has been established by God for us to do which we have done willingly.
Finally, God’s special favor is granted on those who walk with integrity and faith, boldly holding to that faith no matter the circumstances. From Psalm 84:11, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Walking uprightly means to walk with confidence in your God and in who He has made you to be.
May we all find favor with God by how we chose to live our lives. May His favor shine on us because of His Spirit within us. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Your favor, even when we have done little to deserve it. Help us to walk with integrity and faith so that Your favor may be righteously earned. Amen.