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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Highly Favored

 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
- Luke 1:28
. . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
- Ephesians 1:6

When we look at the Bible account of the incarnation of Jesus we see that Mary was referred to by the angel Gabriel as “highly favored.” The words “highly favored” (χαριτόω - charitŏō, khar-ee-tŏ´-o) come from a single Greek term and mean to give grace, to bestow favor, “ to endue with special honor; make accepted, be highly favored.”[1]  God looked down on Mary and bestowed special honor on her by showing she was acceptable to Him for a very special task.

Some people have taken this “highly favored” reference to Mary and exalted her to a position of adoration and even worship. But the Bible tells us to worship God alone:

·         Exodus 34:14- 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

·         Matthew 4:10 - 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

·         Revelation 19:10 - 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

·         Revelation 22:9 - 9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

It’s important we have a correct understanding of what it means to be highly favored. And there is a blessing for us in this understanding.

When we look at Mary, the words spoken to her by others, and the words of response she herself gave to her “highly favored” status, it gives us insight into this status. What did being “highly favored” by God mean for Mary?

1.      It meant she was “blessed” – Luke 1:28b

2.      It meant she was troubled and surprised by her encounter with God’s messenger – Luke 1:29

3.      It meant she was afraid – Luke 1:30a

4.      It meant she had found favor with God – Luke 1:30b

5.      It meant being called to fulfill God’s purpose – Luke 1:31

6.      It meant connection with a King (Jesus) – Luke 1:32-33

7.      It meant not understanding – Luke 1:34a

8.      It meant being challenged culturally – Luke 1:34b

9.      It meant being empowered by the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:35

10.  It meant full surrender and trusting God for the impossible – Luke 1:36-38

Later in what is called Mary’s Magnificat we see more of Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status when she says:

·         Luke 1:46-55 - 46 And Mary said:  “My soul magnifies the Lord,  47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 54  He has helped His servant Israel,  In remembrance of His mercy, 55  As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

In these beautiful words we see Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status was to:

1.      Magnify, rejoice and worship the LORD – Luke 1:46

a.       Because God was her Savior – Luke 1:47

b.      Because God regarded her even though she was lowly  - Luke 1:48a

c.       Because God’s calling on her would cause other generations to call her blessed – Luke 1:48b

d.      Because God had done great things for her – Luke 1:49a

e.       Because God’s name and therefore His works are holy (unique; special) – Luke 1:49b

f.        Because God is merciful – Luke 1:50

g.      Because God shows His strength through the humble and defies the proud – Luke 1:51-52

h.      Because God fills the hungry and empties the rich – Luke 1:53

i.        Because God is faithful to fulfill His prophetic word – Luke 1:54-55

Mary’s response was to worship God, not draw others to worship her. We can learn a lot from Mary’s humble surrender to God and humble worship of God.

But where is the blessing in all of this for us? What does this matter to us? Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status matters to us and is a blessing to us because God uses the same word in regard to us; His followers.

In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he is inspired to write:

·         Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The phrase “made us accepted” is a translation of the same Greek term (χαριτόω - charitŏō, khar-ee-tŏ´-o) used with Mary in Luke 1:28. Mary is “highly favored,” but so are we! Therefore we should understand God has given us the honor, grace and favor, the privilege to serve Him. That’s incredible! But what does that mean to us?

When we look at the context of Ephesians 1:6 it should cause us to burst into our own Magnificat as we consider the grace and favor God has bestowed on us. Look at what God has done for us:

·         Ephesians 1:3-14 - 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

A summary review of these verses reveal some of the particulars of God’s highly favored status bestowed on us:

1.      We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ – Ephesians 1:3

2.      We are chosen in Christ to be holy in His love – Ephesians 1:4

3.      We are predestined to adoption as His sons by Jesus Christ – Ephesians 1:5

4.      We are accepted in Jesus our Beloved – Ephesians 1:6

5.      We are redeemed from sin through His blood – Ephesians 1:7a

6.      We are forgiven our sins in Christ – Ephesians 1:7b

7.      We are products of His wisdom and prudence – Ephesians 1:8

8.      We are enlightened about His will, good pleasure and purpose for us – Ephesians 1:9

9.      We are included in God’s plans of bringing all together in Christ – Ephesians 1:10

10.  We are receivers in Jesus of a rich inheritance – Ephesians 1:11

11.  We are worshipers who get to bring praise to God’s glory in Christ – Ephesians 1:12

12.  We are sealed with the Holy Spirit who gives us assurance that all of this is real and will be fully realized in the culmination of God’s plans – Ephesians 1:13-14.

What a glorious thing it is to be highly favored by God! Like Mary we should humbly bow in full surrender to the Lord. We should surrender for God to use us as He sees fit. And then we should worship and praise Him for the honor and privilege of what He has called us to do in life. You are highly favored by God! He has made you accepted in Christ! Rejoice! Worship Him! Serve Him! Enjoy!

[1]Strong, James: The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. H8674

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