Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
"And because of all this we make a sure covenant."
There are many occasions in our experience when we may very rightly, and with benefit, renew our covenant with God. After recovery from sickness when, like Hezekiah, we have had a new term of years added to our life, we may fitly do it. After any deliverance from trouble, when our joys bud forth anew, let us again visit the foot of the cross, and renew our consecration. Especially, let us do this after any sin which has grieved the Holy Spirit, or brought dishonour upon the cause of God; let us then look to that blood which can make us whiter than snow, and again offer ourselves unto the Lord. We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called "crowning mercies" then, surely, if he hath crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel. If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we should not so often smart under the rod. Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected? Has the Lord put our feet in a large room? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar, and say, "Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even forever." Inasmuch as we need the fulfilment of new promises from God, let us offer renewed prayers that our old vows may not be dishonoured. Let us this morning make with him a sure covenant, because of the pains of Jesus which for the last month we have been considering with gratitude.
"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."
Song of Solomon 2:12
Song of Solomon 2:12
Sweet is the season of spring: the long and dreary winter helps us to appreciate its genial warmth, and its promise of summer enhances its present delights. After periods of depression of spirit, it is delightful to behold again the light of the Sun of Righteousness; then our slumbering graces rise from their lethargy, like the crocus and the daffodil from their beds of earth; then is our heart made merry with delicious notes of gratitude, far more melodious than the warbling of birds--and the comforting assurance of peace, infinitely more delightful than the turtle's note, is heard within the soul. Now is the time for the soul to seek communion with her Beloved; now must she rise from her native sordidness, and come away from her old associations. If we do not hoist the sail when the breeze is favourable, we shall be blameworthy: times of refreshing ought not to pass over us unimproved. When Jesus himself visits us in tenderness, and entreats us to arise, can we be so base as to refuse his request? He has himself risen that he may draw us after him: he now by his Holy Spirit has revived us, that we may, in newness of life, ascend into the heavenlies, and hold communion with himself. Let our wintry state suffice us for coldness and indifference; when the Lord creates a spring within, let our sap flow with vigour, and our branch blossom with high resolve. O Lord, if it be not spring time in my chilly heart, I pray thee make it so, for I am heartily weary of living at a distance from thee. Oh! the long and dreary winter, when wilt thou bring it to an end? Come, Holy Spirit, and renew my soul! quicken thou me! restore me, and have mercy on me! This very night I would earnestly implore the Lord to take pity upon his servant, and send me a happy revival of spiritual life!
Today's reading: 2 Samuel 16-18, Luke 17:20-37 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
David and Ziba
1 When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.
2 The king asked Ziba, “Why have you brought these?”
Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”
3 The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?”
Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’”
4 Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.”
“I humbly bow,” Ziba said. “May I find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.”
Shimei Curses David
5 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! 8 The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
9 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”
10 But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”
11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”
13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. 14The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.
The Advice of Ahithophel and Hushai
15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”
17 Absalom said to Hushai, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him?”
18 Hushai said to Absalom, “No, the one chosen by the LORD, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. 19 Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.”
20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?”
21 Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.
2 Samuel 17
1 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
5 But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.”
7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.
11 “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.”
14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.
15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. 16 Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’”
17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. 18 But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. 19 His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it.
20 When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”
The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem.
21 After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” 22 So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.
23 When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.
24 David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. 26 The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.
27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, 29honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”
2 Samuel 18
1 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”
3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”
4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”
12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”
14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.
18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.”
20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”
21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.
22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”
But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”
23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”
So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plainand outran the Cushite.
24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.
The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.
26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”
The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”
27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”
28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”
29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”
30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The LORD has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”[n]
The Coming of the Kingdom of God
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 
37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
The Woman Honored Above All Women
Scripture References—Matthew 1; 2;12:46; Luke 1; 2; John 2:1-11; 19:25;Acts 1:14
Name Meaning —No female has been honored as has Mary by millions of peoples in all the world who have named their daughters Mary. This Hebrew name has ever been popular in all countries of the Western world, and has altogether some twenty variations, the most conspicuous being Maria, Marie, Miriam and Miriamme. Mary is about the only feminine name that has pronounced masculine forms such as Mario, Marion and Maria. Elsden C. Smith says that Mary heads the list of female names in America, the estimated number some ten years ago being 3,720,000—Marie, 645,000—Marion, 440,000—Marian, 226,000. “The name of Mary has been given at least 70 different interpretations in a frantic effort to get away from the Biblical significance of bitterness.” Today the most common name for girls is the Biblical Mary, just as the Biblical John is for boys. In Christian lands the name of Mary is first.
The name Mary occurs 51 times in the New Testament, and its prevalence there has been attributed to the popularity of Miriamne, the last representative of the Hasmonean family, who was the second wife of Herod I. As a name Mary is related to the Old Testament Miriam, to Mara, the name Naomi used to describe her affliction (see Naomi ), and to Marah, the name of the bitter water reached by the Israelites in their wilderness journeys. The original and pervading sense of these root-forms is that of “bitterness,” derived from the notion of “trouble, sorrow, disobedience, rebellion.” Cruden gives “their rebellion” as the name-meaning of Miriam. Mary the virgin, whom we are now considering, certainly had many “bitter” experiences, as we shall see.
Family Connections—According to the sacred record, Mary was a humble village woman who lived in a small town, a place so insignificant as to lead Nathanael to say, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” ( John 1:46), but out of it, and from the womb of the peasant woman came the greatest Man the world has ever known. Mary was of the tribe of Judah, and the line of David. In the royal genealogy of Matthew and the human genealogy of Luke, Mary is only mentioned in the former, but her immediate forebears are not mentioned. She became the wife of Joseph, the son of Heli (Luke 3:23 ). Apart from Jesus, called her “first-born,” a term implying that other children followed after the order of natural generation (Luke 2:7). As a virgin, Mary bore Christ in a miraculous way, and Elisabeth most spontaneously and unaffectedly gave her the most honorable of titles, “Mother of the Lord” and praised her unstintedly as one, “Blessed among women.” Later Mary was married to Joseph the carpenter and she bore him four sons and several daughters, the former being named—James, Joses, Judas and Simon, and the daughters unnamed (Matthew 13:55, 56; Mark 6:3). During His ministry, none of His brothers believed in Him. In fact, they sneered at Him, and once concluded that He was mad, and wished to arrest Him and take Him away from Capernaum ( Mark 3:21, 31; John 7:3-5 ). But as the result of His death and Resurrection, His brothers became believers, and were among the number gathered in the Upper Room before Pentecost. None of His brothers was an apostle during His lifetime (Acts 1:13, 14).
The Roman Catholic Church, in its effort to support its erroneous dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, produces two theories as to “the brethren of the Lord.” First, they were sons of Joseph by a former marriage, having thus no blood relationship with Mary or Jesus. Second, they were Christ’s cousins, sons of Mary, the wife of Alphaeus (Matthew 27:56;Mark 15:40). The term “brother” only implies mere kinship, just as Laban called Jacob, his sister’s son, his “brother” (Genesis 29:15 ). We reject, however, all theories of Rome, preferring to take the Scriptures at its face value. Mark says, “His brothers and sisters,” and we believe these to have been the natural children of Joseph and Mary, after the birth of Jesus by the Spirit’s power. Coming to the events of Mary’s life, as well as the excellencies of her character, perhaps we can group them around the following key heads—
Mary, as the mother of Jesus, is better known than any other female character in the Bible, and has been the best-known woman in the world since those days of the manger in Bethlehem. After the centuries, the statement still stands, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28 ). While we have no word as to her beauty or pedigree, we know that she was poor. Yet in the Bible and outside of it she came to occupy the highest place among women. Madonnas abound in which eminent artists have vied in trying to imagine what she looked like. What she did possess was beauty of character. In spite of the fact that he was a Roman Cardinal, Gibbons rightly says—
The word is governed more by ideals than by ideas ; it is influenced more by living, concrete models than by abstract principles of virtue. The model held up to Christian women is not the Amazon, glorying in her martial deeds and prowess; it is not the Spartan women who made female perfection consist in the development of physical strength at the expense of feminine decorum and modesty; it is not the goddess of impure love, like Venus, whose votaries regards beauty of form and personal charms as the highest type of female excellence; nor is it the goddess of imperial will like Juno. No; the model held up to women from the very dawn of Christianity is the peerless Mother of our Blessed Redeemer. She is the pattern of virtue alike to maiden, wife and mother. She exhibits virginal modesty becoming the maid, the conjugal fidelity and loyalty of the spouse, and the untiring devotedness of the mother.... The influence of Mary, therefore, in the moral elevation of women can hardly be over estimated.
Although the Roman Catholic dogmatic and sentimental exaggeration of Mary’s eminence has removed her from the clear and vivid picture we have of her in the gospels, we cannot fail to be impressed with her character even though we are not told more than we have in sacred history. “Highly favoured of the Lord” and having “found favour with him” ( Luke 1:28, 30) surely gives her a pedestal all her own. Mary belongs to those grand majestic females inspired with the spirit of prophecy, who is capable of influencing those who become rulers of men and also the destiny of nations.
Among all the godly Jewish maidens of that time in Palestine why did God select such a humble peasant young woman as Mary? Her choice by God to be the mother of the Incarnate Son is as mysterious as her conception of Him within her virgin womb. When the fullness of time had come for Jesus to be manifested He did not go to a city, but to a remote and inconsiderate town—not to a palace but a poor dwelling &--;not to the great and learned but to lowly partisans—for a woman to bring the Saviour into a lost world. The gentle and lowly Mary of Nazareth was the Father’s choice as the mother of His beloved Son, and that she herself was overwhelmed at God’s condescending grace in choosing her is evident from her song of praise in which she magnified Him for regarding her lowly estate, and in exalting her.
Mary, then, was selected by divine wisdom from among the humblest and it was in such an environment that the Father prepared His Son to labor among the common people who heard Him gladly. The one of whom He was born, the place where he was born were arranged beforehand by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Centuries before Mary became the mother of the Saviour of mankind, it was prophesied that it would be so ( Isaiah 7:14-16; 9:6, 7;Micah 5:2, 3 ). Born of a peasant maiden, and having a foster-father who eeked out a frugal living as a carpenter, Jesus was best able to sympathize with man as man, and be regarded by all men as the common property of all.
Because Mary’s divine Child was to be “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners,” she herself had to be holy unto the Lord. When Gabriel announced to the virgin whose name was Mary that she was to bring forth a Son to be called Jesus, he recognized her spiritual fitness for such an honor when he said, “The Lord is with thee” ( Luke 1:28 ). The woman who was to give Him birth, whose breast would be His pillow and who would nurse and care for Him in infancy, who would guide His steps through boyhood years, and surround Him with true motherly attention until His manhood, had to be a sanctified vessel and meet for the Master’s use. That Mary excelled in the necessary, spiritual qualities for her sacred task is evident from the record we have of her character. Augustine says that, “Mary first conceived Christ in her heart by faith, before she conceived in the womb,” and the testimony of Elisabeth expresses and stamps the whole character of the Virgin, “Blessed is she that believeth,” implying that she wore the crown of faith above all others.
Mary exhibited a true and genuine piety, as well as a profound humility—the accompaniment of holiness. As we read the narrative given by Luke, to whom, as a physician, Mary could speak intimately of her profound experience, we are impressed with her quietness of spirit, meditative inwardness of disposition, admirable self-control, devout and gracious gift of sacred silence, and a mind saturated with the spirit and promises of the Old Testament. All who reverence Mary for her true and womanly character are pained by the way in which some of the early Church fathers treated her. Origen, for instance, wrote that “the sword which should pierce through her heart was unbelief.” Chrysostom did not control his “golden mouth” when he accused Mary of “excessive ambition, foolish arrogance, and vainglory,” during her Son’s public ministry.
Advanced as she was to the highest honor that could be granted to a woman, Mary yet retained a deep sense of personal unworthiness. She would have been the last to claim perfection for herself. Born like the rest of women in sin and shaped in iniquity, she had her human faults and needed a Saviour as others did—“My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”—but the witness of Scripture is that in circumstances of unparalleled responsibility she was a true and godly character, and in spite of any female weaknesses she may have had, she was “the most pure and tender and faithful, the most humble and patient and loving, of all who have ever borne the honored name of Mary.”
What amazes one about the Annunciation is the way Mary received it. She was in no way credulous or skeptical. Certainly she asked intelligent questions of Gabriel as to how she could become the mother of Jesus, seeing she was a pure virgin. Following a full explanation of how the miracle would happen, she, with a tremendous feat of faith, replied, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” In these days when reason is seeking to dethrone revelation, and the Virgin Birth of Christ is rejected as a fundamental fact and treated in a mythical way, we affirm our faith in this initial miracle of Christianity. We accept by faith the Biblical statement that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit as He overshadowed the virgin. Thus, as Fausset states it—
Christ was made of the substance of the Virgin, not of the substance of the Holy Spirit, whose substance cannot be made. No more is attributed to the Spirit than what was necessary to cause the Virgin to perform the actions of a mother.
When Mary willingly yielded her body to the Lord saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word,” the Holy Spirit, by His gentle operation, took Deity and humanity and fused them together and formed the love-knot between our Lord’s two natures within Mary’s being. Therefore, when Jesus came forth it was as the God-Man, “God manifest in flesh,” or “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Son of Mary—humanity! Son of God —Deity. We may not understand the mystery of what happened when Mary yielded up her body that Christ should be formed within it, but believing that with God nothing is impossible we accept what Scripture says as to the birth of Christ. Further, there is the unanswerable argument Donald Davidson reminds us of, namely, “that Jesus Christ Himself is such a miracle that it is no straining of faith to believe that His birth was also a miracle.” We cannot account for His perfect holiness apart from His Virgin Birth. Born of a woman, He was yet clean.
Taking the Lord at His word, Mary praised Him as if what He had declared had been fully accomplished. What a marvelous song of rejoicing the Magnificat is! It reveals poetic and prophetic genius of the highest order, and takes its place among the finest productions of the world. This extemporaneous ode expressing Mary’s joy is indeed one of the choicest gems of Hebrew poetry. As given by Luke (Luke 1:46-55 ) this lyric expresses Mary’s inward and deeply personal sacred and unselfish joy, and likewise her faith in Messianic fulfillment. It is also eloquent with her reverential spirit. Her worship was for her Son, for her spirit rejoiced in Him as her own Saviour.
Her “hymn” also spoke of her humility, for she was mindful of the fact that she was but a humble village maiden whose “low estate” the Lord regarded. Mary’s “firstborn” Child was to say of Himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart,” and such poverty of spirit is the first beatitude and the very threshold of the kingdom of heaven. By her “low estate” Mary not only had in mind the material poverty she was accustomed to, but also the sharpest of all poverty, the low estate of one of Royal birth. Mary never claimed anything for herself, but Christendom wrongly selected her as the object of worship and one entitled to a consideration above her Son.
What must not be forgotten is the fact that Mary not only bore Jesus, but also mothered Him for the thirty years He tarried in the poor Nazareth home. Thus from childhood to manhood she did everything a devoted mother could do for the Son whom she knew was no ordinary Man. “Hers was the face that unto Christ had most resemblance.” While Mary did not neglect her motherly duties to the sons and daughters she bore Joseph, because of all she knew Jesus to be she surrounded His early years with character-forming influences. From the divine side we know that as Jesus grew “he waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him,” and that He “increased in stature and in favour with God and man.” But from the human side Jesus was subject to the home control of Joseph and Mary.
There were some things Mary was not able to give her Son. She could not surround Him with wealth. When she presented the divine Infant in the Temple all she could offer as a gift was a pair of pigeons—the offering of the very poor. But little is much if God is in it! Then she could not introduce Jesus to the culture of the age. Being poor, and enduring an enforced exile in Egypt, she had little of the acquired education of one like Luke who recorded her story. But she gave her Saviour-Son gifts of infinitely more value than secular and material advantages. What did she give Him?
First of all, from the human angle, she gave Him life, and He became bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh, and, until He was weaned, her warm milk nourished Him.
Then, along with Joseph, she gave Jesus a home, which although it was most unpretentious, was yet the only home He knew in the days of His flesh. Because of the character of Mary, we feel that her home was permeated with mutual trust and love and sympatheic understanding.
Purity of heart was among the flowers of character Mary cultivated in the home in which Jesus—and the other children—grew up. Can it be that when Jesus left home to become a preacher, He had His pious mother in mind when He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”? Christ’s holiness was a part of His divine nature, but it was also a part of His humanity received from His mother who thought of herself as “the handmaid of the Lord.”
Another quality Jesus grew to appreciate in His mother was the sense of the presence of God. Gabriel said to Mary, “The Lord is with thee” and this divine awareness surrounded the holy Child Jesus. To Mary, God was not a being afar off, uninterested in her life or in the world. He had created but One who was so near and real. Why, because her Son was “very God of very God,” Mary was ever in the divine presence, and must have realized it.
Obedience, a trait prominent in Mary’s own life, was another quality in which she trained her Son. There is an old saying to the effect that a child who is not taught to obey his parents will not obey God. Mary submitted to the Father’s will as the channel of the Incarnation, and her holy Child grew up not only obedient to Mary and Joseph but also to His heavenly Father whose will was His delight.
Further, the one book in that Nazareth home was the Old Testament. That Mary’s mind was saturated with its promises and prophecies is evident from her song of praise. Like Timothy, Jesus, from a child, was familiar with the Holy Scriptures ( 2 Timothy 3:15). As His mother read to Him the records of the saints and prophets, how interested He must have been. Then there came the time when He knew that the Scripture testified of Him; that He came to be the Living Word.
When Mary brought her infant Son to be dedicated in the Temple, the aged, godly Simeon, taking the Babe in his arms and blessing Him, said to His mother, “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.” Mary was to experience darkness, as well as delight, as her “first-born” went out to fulfill His mission in the world. She would see Him as the “sign spoken against.” Manifold sword piercings were to be hers as the mother of the Lord. We cannot imagine the bitter trials of the years of her Son’s sojourn on the earth, particularly His last three and a half years ending in His death. Mary had listened to those angel voices rending the air as they hailed her new-born Baby as the Saviour of mankind, and heard the shepherds as they recounted the vision they had seen. She had witnessed the worship and homage of the wise men when, guided by a star, they came to the feet of her Child; and “she kept all these in her heart.” Whether she recounted these things to her growing Child we are not told. Personally, we believe that born the Son of God, Jesus had an inner awareness of who He was, from whence He came, and what His mission in the world was to be, from His earliest conscious years. During the years that Jesus was at home, Mary must have had many an inner pang, but by divine grace both then and after, she remained silently submissive, patient and trustful, knowing that the sword, piercing her heart from time to time, was in her heavenly Father’s hand.
Following the records of the gospels concerning the conversations between and about Jesus and Mary, the first event we notice took place in Jerusalem where Mary and her husband, Joseph, and Jesus had gone for the annual Feast of Passover. When the ceremonies were over Joseph and Mary, with their relatives, left for home, lost in animated gossip about each other’s affairs. Mary suddenly realized that Jesus, now twelve years of age, was not near her, and searching for Him among her kinsfolk and acquaintances could not find Him. Retracing her steps to the Temple she found Jesus where He had been left, and came upon Him in conversation with the fathers of the sanctuary. Remonstrating with her Son, Mary said, “Thy father and I have sought thee.”
Christ’s reply was like a sword piercing her heart: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” He had no earthly father for He came as the only babe to enter the world without any earthly father. He was born of a woman, but not of a woman and a man. Young though He was, He knew of His divine parentage that separated Him from others, and He expected His mother to realize what such a gulf meant. Perhaps now, for the first time, Mary understood that her Son knew God to be, in a special sense, His only Father. There in the Temple, Nazareth faded from the mind of Jesus and earthy ties receded into the distance. He felt only one presence—the Father above in whose bosom He had dwelt from the dateless past. Mary had left her Son behind—behind with God. Her divine, “lost” Boy was to be God’s only hope for a “lost” world.
The mixed feelings in the mother’s heart, and her almost reproachful language as she sought to charge Jesus with having disregarded His mother’s natural feelings, must have been checked by a sort of awe as she looked at Him in the Temple with rapt countenance and then heard Him say that His place was in His Father’s house. Thus the narrative develops so naturally, tenderly, and in a most human way.
Being only twelve years of age, Jesus knew that every Jewish son must be subject to his parents. He indicated this in His reply to Mary, for He “went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” For the next eighteen years He yielded to His home authority. It is felt that during this period Mary lost the protection of her husband, for if he had been alive he would have been certainly mentioned in succeeding events (Mark 3:31; John 2:1; 19:25). Joseph had been a carpenter, and on his death Jesus took over the village business. In that carpenter’s shop we have “the toil of divinity revealing the divinity of toil.” “Is not this the Carpenter?” Then Joseph’s place in the home would be filled in measure by Jesus the first-born, who would care for His mother and give her years of peace.
We now come to recorded incidents causing Mary to realize that Jesus had severed Himself once and for all from her control. There were to be further sword-thrusts as she understood that her illustrious Son was absolutely independent of her authority and of human relationships. For thirty years Mary had carried in her heart the secret of His birth and the prophecy of His Messianic mission. Now the moment of parting comes when Jesus leaves the home that has sheltered Him for so long. And the striking thing is that we do not read of Jesus ever returning to it. In the home Mary had made for her Son, God had been preparing Him (for thirty years) for a brief but dynamic ministry lasting just over three years. As Jesus began His public life, His first miracle gave Him the occasion for impressing His mother with the fact that she must no longer impose her will and wishes upon Him (John 2). There must have been a pang in Mary’s heart the day Jesus left her home for good, and another heart-wound as she encountered the lack of official recognition as His mother. Whenever He met her it seemed as if He repelled her.
At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, at which Jesus and Mary were guests, a predicament arose when the stock of wine failed, and Mary, who failed to see that the youth had become a man, sought to order her Son to meet the crisis. His mother, conscious of the supernatural power Jesus was to manifest, approached Jesus and said suggestively, “They have no wine.”
Jesus replied abruptly: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” He was not disrespectful when He used the term “woman,” for such was the common mode of respectful address among the Hebrews. Thus, in the original the words addressed by Jesus to His mother are free from any element of disrespect or of hardness. Mary said to the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you do it,” and a short time later Jesus performed His first miracle. His purpose in speaking to His mother as He did was to check any undue interference on her part of His mediatorial work. As Augustine put it—
He does not acknowledge a human womb when about to work Divine works.
Although blessed among women, Mary was to learn that she must not be permitted to control the operations of the One sent of the Father. As the Son of Mary, Jesus was willingly subject to her, but now as the Son of God, Mary must endeavor to be subject to Him. The very fact that He addressed her as womanand not as mother must have had but one meaning for her, namely, that from now on the direction of His course had entered into His Father’s hands. Fausset’s comment is—
The Christian’s allegiance is solely to Him, not to her also: a prescient forewarning of the Holy Ghost against mediaeval and modern mariolatry.
After a double circuit of Galilee during which crowds gathered around Jesus for teaching and healing, so much so that He had little time, “to eat bread,” His mother and brothers came to remonstrate with Him to take care. Had not the men of Nazareth sought to throw Him over the brow of the hill (Luke 4:29 )? Now, anxious for His safety and fearing He would destroy Himself by His constant work and lack of food and rest, Mary and her sons “sought to speak with him, and to lay hold on him, for they said, He is beside himself” (Mark 3:21, 31-35 ). It was natural for a mother to be concerned about her Son wearing Himself out. He might fall exhausted under His load of work and perhaps sink into an untimely grave.
Thinking, perhaps, that she might save Jesus from the effects of an imprudent enthusiasm, Mary receives another mild rebuke in which He hinted that the blessedness of Mary consisted not in being His mother, but in believing in Him and in His God-given mission, and in obedience to His words. Jesus again denies any authority of earthly relatives, or any privilege from human relationships. “My mother! Who is My mother and My brothers?” Then pointing to those sitting around Him who had believed His word and followed Him, He said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” ( Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 11:28 ). In effect Jesus said, “I, in working out the world’s redemption, can acknowledge only spiritual relationships.” So the distance between Mary and her Son widens, and the piercings of the sword, which old Simeon had prophesied, were keenly felt. Although all generations were to call Mary blessed, yet privileged and highly favored beyond all members of the human family, here was a bitter cup of sorrow she was compelled to drink.
Mary’s deepest sword piercing came when in agony she stood beneath that old rugged cross and witnessed the degradation, desolation and death of the One whom she had brought into the world and intensely loved. She heard the blasphemies and revilings of the priests and the people, and saw the lights go out—but her faith did not die. If Calvary was our Lord’s crown of sorrow, it was likewise Mary’s, yet how courageous she was. Others might sit and watch the suffering Christ, or smite their breasts and cry, but “Mary stood by the cross.” Should she not have been spared the agony of seeing the Son of her womb die such a despicable death? No! It was in the divine order of things that she should be found beneath that cross to receive the parting benediction of her Son and Saviour, and His committal of her to the affectionate care of the disciple whom He loved.
At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.
At previous meetings with Christ, Mary expressed her feelings. Now, as He dies, she stands in silence. Those around her had no conception of her inner grief as she stood where her Son could see her. No Spartan mother ever displayed such fortitude as Mary manifested at the cross. How impressed we are with the valor of Mary, as the sword pierces her heart again “now that which she brought forth was dying”! Before He died Jesus recognized His human relationship to Mary, which He had during His ministry put in the background, that His higher relationship must stand out more prominently. Commending Mary to John, Jesus did not address her by name, or as His mother, but as “Woman.” To John He said, “Thy mother” (John 19:26, 27). But even then she did not desert her Son. Some of His disciples forsook Him and fled, but her love never surrendered, even though her Son was dying as a criminal between two thieves.
To John, His much-loved disciple, Jesus left His mother as a legacy. In the last moments of His life, and in the crisis of His deepest sorrow, His thought was of the future of His brokenhearted mother whom John took to his own home. Thus, as Augustine expresses it, “He needed no helper in redeeming all; He gave human affection to His mother, but sought no help of man.” The transference of the bond of motherhood from Himself to John raises the question, “Why did He not entrust Mary to one of her older sons or daughters?” Evidently she was a widow, otherwise Jesus would not have called upon His beloved disciple to perform the duties of an elder brother. But why not commit Mary to His own brother who would become the elder in that Nazareth home? Perhaps in John’s home Jesus knew that Mary would find the spiritual atmosphere more suited to her thirst for God, and that in John Mary would find a soul on fire similar to His own zeal for God.
We may feel, that because of the steadfast tie of tender love and mutual understanding between Jesus and Mary, Jesus should have used a softer word and said, “Behold My mother!” and not “thy mother.” Was this the final sword thrust Simeon had predicted some thirty-three years before? No! He knew that Mary would be a true mother in Israel to John, and that he, in turn, would care for the blessed among women in her declining years. Further, as Donald Davidson reminds us, “In that moment the tremendous truth must at last have dawned upon Mary, that He who hung upon the cross was not her son; that before the world was He was; that so far from being His mother, she was herself His child.” On the morning of His Resurrection Jesus did not appear first to Mary His mother, but to Mary Magdalene—surely an evidence of His matchless grace.
The last glimpse we have of Mary is a heartwarming one. We find her among the group of believers gathered together in the upper chamber. She is mentioned, not first in the list, before the apostles, where the Roman Catholic Church places her, butlast, as if she were of less significance than they (Acts 1:12-14). Her Son is alive forevermore, and life has changed for her. So she takes her place among those awaiting the coming of the Spirit to equip them for the beginning of the Christian community. Mary was present in that upper room not as an object of worship, not as the directress of the infant church, but as a humble suppliant along with the rest, including her sons, who, by this time, were believers. So the last mention of Mary is a happy one. We see her praying, along with her sons whom she had possibly led into a full-orbed faith, as well as the other disciples who had met to pray and await the gift of Pentecost.
This is the last glimpse we have of Mary. Her name is not mentioned again in the rest of the New Testament after the upper room appearance, which plainly teaches that she did not have the superhuman powers the Roman Catholic Church has assigned to her. With the gradual development of Roman Catholicism from the third or fourth century, there emerged the Mariolatry so foreign to the Scriptural presentation of Mary as the most tender and lovable of women, yet a woman still. If Rome had only observed the reticence of the New Testament concerning Mary, it would not have been guilty of blinding the eyes of multitudes to the ineffable glory of the One who, though the Son of Mary, came as the express image of the Father and the only Mediator between God and men.
Mary does not stand apart from the rest of the sinful human race, born immaculate and remaining sinless throughout her life. As a member of a fallen race she recognized her need of deliverance from sin and guilt when she sang, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” The “culture” of Mary does not have its origin in the Bible for “there is not a word there from which it could be inferred; not in the Creeds, nor in the fathers of the first five centuries.” Titles such as The Tower of David; The Arch of Holy Alliance; The Door of Heaven; The Queen of the Apostles, Confessors and Martyrs; The Co-adjustrix with God in the work of salvation , as applied to Mary, are the invention of Rome. Mary never magnified herself—only her Lord. Her glorification as the object of worship, her function as an intercessor through whom prayers must be addressed to Christ, her perpetual care of Christ and her present influence over Him, are the false creations of Rome. Therefore, “Mariolatry belongs, historically, to unauthorized speculation; and psychologically, to the natural history of asceticism and clerical celibacy.” The elevation and worship of Mary is most unscriptural and idolatrous. The Bible portrays her as a woman “blessed among women,” but only as a mere faithful, humble, godly woman. Rome’s exaltation of Mary consists largely of fictitious and unreliable legends and dogmas. The true Christian portrayal of the mother of Jesus is that to be found only in the gospels in which the Master taught that man has access to God only through His all-sufficient mediatorial work (John 14:6).
Gershom [Gûr’shŏm]—a stranger there.
- The first-born son of Mosesand Zipporah. He was born in Midian (Exod. 2:22; 18:3; 1 Chron. 23:15, 16).
- The eldest son of Levi, and referred to as Gershon (Gen. 46:11; Josh. 21:6 ).
- One of the family of Phinehas, and one of the “heads of houses” who returned with Ezra from Babylon (Ezra 8:2).
- Father of Jonathan, the Levite who became priest to the Danites who settled at Laish (Judg. 18:30). The Danite tribe was guilty of the evil of setting up a graven image.
When a Muslim comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the one thing they plead for is a Bible.
And now we have been offered a $10,000 Challenge Grant to provide these desperately needed Bibles! But we needyour help to meet this challenge!
Sadly, Bibles are scarce in most Islamic countries where it's illegal to be a Christian. Which is why we have set a goal to deliver at least 4,000 Bibles to our suffering brothers and sisters in these countries over the next four months.
And now—if we meet this $10,000 Challenge Grant—we can meet this goal! But we need your help—which is why I'm asking you to give an online gift to Open Doors today.
Through your gift, you'll not only help meet the challenge—but help deliver Bibles to Muslim converts who risk their lives every day to follow Christ. You'll be giving strength, hope, and encouragement to those who so desperately need it!
So thank you for your gift. And thank you for standing with those who are suffering the most for their faith.