Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!
Let it be to me according to your word"
(Luke 1:38).

In a class by herself. Has there ever been a woman about whom those words more aptly applied? I don't believe so. And yet it wasn't Mary's beauty or her social status or even her virginity and purity that set her apart in that special class; it was the fact that the God of Israel sovereignly chose her to bring forth His Son into the earth—and her faith and submission to God that enabled it to be so.

Could Mary have chosen not to submit to God's plan for her life, to yield to fear and doubt instead of faith? Of course she could. God has given us all free will, and that means we can choose to submit to God's plan for our lives—or not. If Mary had said no to God, He could certainly have used another virgin to bring forth His Son. Our disobedience or lack of faith does not thwart God's plans.

But God knew Mary's heart before He ever sent the angel Gabriel to speak to her, and so the outcome was assured. A study of the life and faith of this very special mother can help the rest of us find that place of assurance and fulfill God's purposes in our own lives, as well as in the lives of our children. And in the process we may find that we relate more to this very special mother than we would ever have imagined.

A Nice Jewish Girl 

We don't have to be Jewish mamas to hope and pray that our little ones grow up to marry godly spouses and establish godly homes, but we can relate to those Jewish mamas, can't we? Joseph was, no doubt, somewhat older than his betrothed, as Mary was probably a young teenager when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. But I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Joseph's Jewish mama had prayed that her son would one day grow up and marry "a nice Jewish girl." And so he did. In fact, Jewish girls—or any other girls—probably didn't come any nicer, or more pure or chaste or humble, than Mary of Nazareth. And so, I'm sure, both Mary's and Joseph's families rejoiced when the couple became engaged.

Some time later, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, as recorded in Luke 1:26-38, the young woman's first recorded reaction is that she was "troubled at his [the angel's] saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was" (v. 29). What was it about the angel's saying that troubled Mary? The angel had greeted her with the words, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women" (v. 28). Mary wasn't necessarily shocked to see an angel, as she had been raised in the strict interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which included a belief in heaven and hell, angels and demons. What shocked her was the fact that such a being would not only come to earth to visit her but would also address her as "highly favored one" and "blessed…among women."

Mary had a humble heart. That quality, more than anything else, made her a candidate for this awesome honor. She didn't respond to the angel's announcement with pride at having been chosen, but rather with a humility that recognized her own shortcomings and disqualifications for such a privilege. Once the angel had explained the situation, Mary humbly moved forward, trusting God to fulfill His plan through her. And so He did.

A Devoted Jewish Mother

Like every woman who awaits the birth of a child, Mary no doubt wondered what the future would bring, particularly since this was obviously no ordinary child, but rather the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. What joy there must have been in that anticipation! And yet…did she even suspect what heartache and suffering would accompany that joy?

Without doubt there were hardships accompanying this unique pregnancy and birth, even from the beginning. In addition to the community's reaction to what seemed a premature physical union between Joseph and Mary, this very special couple had to contend with the difficulties of the long journey to Bethlehem just at the time when Mary was ready to deliver her baby. This was no easy journey under the best of conditions, and certainly not in the last stages of pregnancy. And yet they went, possibly arriving at the same time as Mary's first labor pains.