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Mercy in God's Hand

Luke 1:50

Unlike many god-figures who are worshipped today, the true God has a remedy for human failure: mercy.  Mercy is God's privilege to withhold judgement from those who deserve it.  It 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.

Transformed Values

Luke 1:51-53

Mary's song, of which this is a part (Luke 1:46-55), has inspired every Christian generation to rejoice in God’s grace.  It expresses an understanding about what really matters, because Mary knew what was important to God.  It is a song of contrasts: the Almighty God who lifts up His humble servants compared to the proud rulers whose power hangs by a thread in God’s hand.  Although we may applaud the best human achievements, they are all temporary, faulted and incomplete.  But God's powerful deeds are irresistible, history-making and of eternal significance (Psalm 73:28).  No human agency c

Covenant Memory

Luke 1:54-55

Mary, like every Jewish child, would have been taught that the Messiah would come one day.  It was God’s promise, recorded in God’s Word (Isaiah 9:6-7).  We can still trace the trail of prophetic promises all the way from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 4:1-2 - the whole of the Old Testament looks forward to Jesus.  God is the only person who keeps all His promises and they will all be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  The covenants God has made will all be fulfilled (1 Chronicles 16:15) including Genesis 12:2-3 – the covenant promise of blessing to Abraham which would be fulfilled t

Preparation Time

Luke 1:56

Wise people schedule time to prepare.  Although most busy people have to multi-task (ask any mother of small children), any special new challenge needs dedicated time to rest, reflect, refresh and get ready.  God knew that Mary needed to get ready for her unique role as the mother of God's Son.  But there were other pressures too.

What's in a Name?

Luke 1:57-60

Everybody has a name: it is their most precious and personal possession.  Their name is their external identity and reflects their parents' choice and family bonding.  Naming customs vary throughout the world, some follow family names and others invent new names.  The custom in Britain has been a combination of the two, the first (Christian) name being the parents' choice, the last (Surname) name being the family name of the father and middle names which honour other family members.  The custom in Israel, when John was born, was to name a son with the father's name.  However, God sometimes

Faith at Last

Luke 1:61-66

Zechariah, the elderly priest, had not believed the angel Gabriel.

Praise at Last

Luke 1:67-68

After 9 months of silence, Zechariah spoke again (Luke 1:59-64).  His dumbness was God’s rebuke for not believing the message that his aged wife Elizabeth would have a son (Luke 1:18-22).  When God’s Word was fulfilled, the old priest gave his son the name ‘John’ in obedience to God’s command (Luke 1:13).  This act of repentance and faith was marked by God in filling him with the Holy Spirit.  His action confessed that God had been right all along, and so the Holy Spirit let him express praise and prophecy in the presence of his family.  

Salvation Described

Luke 1:69-75

Zechariah now believed that God's Word was true.  He had moved from disbelief (Luke 1:19-20) to faith (Luke 1:62-63); from silence (Luke 1:22) to open confession (Luke 1:64).  He was filled with the Holy Spirit who put God's words into his mouth (Luke 1:67).  And so, the father of John the Baptist was privileged to start the prophetic ministry which John would continue.  Zechariah's prophecy remained in the family archives (and our Bible), and would have been a ministry model and encouragement to John through the tough times he was to face (Matthew 14:3-12).  Fathers: the best way to encour

Job Description

Luke 1:76-79

Fathers should feel a responsibility to guide their children.  But Zechariah's prediction about his son's future ministry was different.  It was not a parental idea, but God's.  The Holy Spirit had filled the old priest, who then issued God's job description for John the Baptist.  His was to be a unique role, preparing Israel to receive God the Son, Jesus Christ, and marking the beginning of His ministry at baptism (Luke 3:2-22).  Although John's role was special, the same principles apply to anybody who introduces people to Jesus: they may well apply to you as well.

Hidden Growth

Luke 1:80

John the Baptist is absent from the Bible between his circumcision-naming ceremony and the beginning of his public ministry.  This verse is the only clue to his upbringing and preparation for serving the Lord.  Of course, we know that his parents were very old before his birth.  Presumably, they died when he was a child or early teenager.  We do not know who may have looked after him; all we are told is that he lived a solitary life in the desert.  We also know that he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born (Luke 1:15) and became 'strong in spirit', as did the Lord Jesus (Luke 2