Luke 1:28-30 :
Having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be. The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
It is interesting that when the angel appeared to Mary she didn’t think to herself, “of course, God sent His angel to recognize my good works and to give me special favor.” Instead, she “considered what kind of salutation this might be.” I think that Mary was aware that she was a sinner just like everyone else. How could it be that she could have found favor with God?
I think that those who have favor with God realize that it isn’t because of what they have done. Those who have favor with God know that it is because of God and not because of themselves. There is, however, a thing that God gives us the power to do that, when we do it, it pleases Him. Let’s look at Abraham:
Genesis 15:28-30 :
After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, since I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram said, “Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, behold, one born in my house is my heir.”
Behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” Yahweh brought him outside, and said, “Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “So shall your seed be.” He believed in Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.
Abram (later to be named Abraham) had no children much like Zacharias, but when God told him that he would someday have children too numerous to count, Abraham believed. Notice that God made him righteous even though Abraham wasn’t righteous because of his good works. God clearly favors someone who believes what He says. This is such an important point that it is repeated three times in the New Testament:
Romans 4:3 :
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Galatians 3:6 :
Even as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
The third time that this is repeated is especially interesting for our discussion today. Listen to this:
James 2:19-24 :
You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness”;* and he was called the friend of God. You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith.
An interesting thing that I want to highlight is the order of events. Notice that in the first passage, Abraham heard that he would have many children and believed. Right at that point, God favored him and gave him righteousness. God favored the faith right away, but the evidence of that faith had not been shown outwardly. That is what we see next in the James passage. Later, Abraham did have a Son and God told him to kill him as a sacrifice. This was the outward evidence of Abraham’s faith as He had to believe that God would somehow keep His promise. Fortunately, the New Testament tells us what Abraham was thinking at that point:
Hebrews 11:17-19 :
By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son; even he to whom it was said, “In Isaac will your seed be called”; concluding that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead.
Abraham believed that after sacrificing his son, that God would raise him from the dead in order to fulfill His promise.
The point I am making is that the outward evidence of Abraham’s favor with God came after the favor. God favored first and then the evidence came. That is what we will read here with Mary. God has already found favor with Mary, but as we read on we will find out more about the faith that Mary had.