Mercy in God's Hand
Unlike many god-figures who are worshipped today, the true God has a remedy for failure: mercy. Mercy is God's privilege, to withhold judgement from those who deserve it; and is closely linked to grace, which is God's privilege to give blessings to those who could never earn them. Mary had a realistic view of herself. Her humility was honest, she was nothing and had nothing, but she feared the Lord and was willing to trust Him. That is the sort of person to whom God extends His mercy, so that they will not be crushed but lifted up to be usable in His service.
Mary's testimony was that God's character had perfectly matched her situation. The mighty honour of bearing the Son of God was not a prize for her perfection, but because she feared the Lord and did not trust in herself - so God could trust her. This principle had been part of the Old Testament teaching for centuries and is expressed in the Hebrew word 'hesed' which combines the qualities of mercy, steadfast love, and kindness. All these come from God and He dispenses them as He pleases. But this verse implies that there is a condition ... mercy is given to those who treat God as the awesome person He is, and who do not either take His Name in vain or despise His kindness.
Mary's example of how to relate with God is an important lesson for us. Some may treat Him carelessly, presuming on His goodness. Some may shrink away from Him assuming that He has no desire to be kind. Some may wrap up their worship in such mystery that they have no way of knowing if they are engaging with a loving Heavenly Father. Some may simply ignore Him and His rightful demands on their lives and lifestyles. All of these miss the point, and are at risk of missing the privilege of Divine mercy meeting their need and preparing them to fulfil God's commands. The workaday world does not understand the virtues of humility, awe, fear and mercy; so those who follow Jesus will live a countercultural life. However the suffering world needs God's mercy and when people can see that Christians can both receive and share God's mercy, then a window of hope is opened.
© Dr Paul Adams