Cover to Cover
Elizabeth hid her pregnancy for five months, at which point, she wasn’t able to hide it anymore. Why? One reason could be that her husband was struck dumb until John was born, so maybe she kept quiet together with him. Another reason could be she didn’t want to have to answer anyone for getting pregnant later in life. Another reason could be that she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t miscarry. Perhaps because of the disgrace she carried in her culture for failing to get pregnant earlier this was something personal between her, God, and her husband. He does mention the Lord lifting her reproach. These are ideas are simply conjectures; we really do not know why Elizabeth hid her pregnancy.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel appears to Mary and tells her that she will conceive and carry God’s child. John was the forerunner of Jesus, and he was born first. The word for conceive in the Greek is syllambano (4815). It means to conceive, to catch, to take, to seize. The word is used in Matthew 26:55 when the soldiers came to the garden to “take” Jesus. Mary was simply the vehicle that received the baby into her womb. She was highly favored for being chosen as that vessel, but she was not divine.
The purpose for the virgin birth was for Jesus to come to the earth in fleshly form so that He could become one of us and die our death. The only rightful way for Jesus to enter into the earth was by being birthed as a human being in human flesh. Jesus existed before the foundations of the world. Jesus was most likely seen in the Old Testament, known as “the angel of the Lord.”
God is the Creator. He created the world, but He has not stopped creating. He has not stopped doing the miraculous. For Jesus to take on human form is a miracle. For God to recreate our spirits after receiving salvation is a miracle. For those who have had creative miracles, where body parts are formed where there was not body part, is a miracle. For one, we have a personal friend that had no adult tooth behind a baby tooth. The x-rays proved it. But after prayer, the girl had an adult tooth push through. Where did the tooth come from? That was a creative miracle. The virgin birth was a miracle.
The first thing the angel says to Mary is, “Rejoice!”
The Messiah had been promised as early as the Garden of Eden. Multiple generations had passed, up to nearly four thousand years. It was prophesied that the Messiah would defeat sin and Satan. It was prophesied the Messiah would rule the nations from Jerusalem. REJOICE, MARY! THE REDEEMED IS COMING! And He’s coming through a teenage girl.
The angel says, “highly favored one”
Mary was highly favored for being chosen as the vessel to birth the Christ, but she was not divine. To be favored is to be pleasing to the Lord. Mary and the plan for Christ to come through her was God’s choosing, and God was glad about it.
The angel said, “The Lord is with you”
Mary is not alone. She is a young Jewish woman who loves the Lord and wants to please the Lord. God is with her, promising to watch over her, care for her, protect her, and bless her.
The angel said, “Blessed are you among women”
She is blessed by God for being chosen over other women. God saw her willing heart that was yielded to Him and would obey Him.
The angel said, “Do not be afraid”
Mary was “troubled” by the greeting. Seeing an angel can be startling.
The angel tells Mary His name
His name was to be Jesus. In the Greek, this name means, “He shall save.” In the Hebrew Jesus (Yeshua) is short for Yehoshua, or Joshua. It means “Yahweh is Salvation.” It was a fairly common name for a child; however, the meaning in naming the Messiah Yeshua has great significance, for Jesus is the ONE, the promised Christ, the Anointed One. Jesus is the Redeemer! Jesus is the promised King! Jesus the one who comes to rescue us out of sin and reconcile us back in relationship covenant with our Father, our Love, our Lord. He is our Savior.
The angel says that He will be “great”
The disciples argued over who would be greatest. Jesus said the one who is greatest is the one who serves. Jesus was the greatest who did great things. His following grew to be crowds of 20,000 or more. However, His greatest act was dying in our place. Could there have been a greater sacrifice for the blameless Son of God to die in our place? No. Anything that we can do for Him could never compare with the price He paid for us. He purchased us with His blood. Our life is not our own. We are to live surrendered the way He lived surrendered, belonging to our Father as rescued sons and daughters.
The angel said Jesus will be called the Son of the Highest
Jesus was the Son of God. Identity was given by sonship. For example Barjonah was the name of a man who was the “son of Jonah.” People were recognized by family. Jesus’s identity was found in God being His Father.
The angel said Jesus will be given the throne of His father David
Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, has a lineage that goes back to King David. He was a descendant of the king. Jesus, adopted by Joseph, put Him in that royal bloodline. It was prophesied that the Messiah would come through David’s lineage, the first king chosen of God. David was a type of Christ; Christ becoming the king, the Messiah, of the Jews. The angel was telling Mary that she would birth the promised Messiah.
The angel said “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever”
Christ’s mission was to the Jew first.
The angel said, “Of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Jesus came to establish a kingdom, one that has been expanding around the globe for two thousand years, and He will reign from Jerusalem when He returns. From the beginning this was so, and to this young teenage girl, the angel informs Mary of the magnitude of her calling.
As Mary questioned the miraculous conception, the angel spoke of another miracle, Elizabeth, in the sixth month of her pregnancy in her old age. In verse 37, the angel says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary hurried to leave to visit Elizabeth, two women with miracle children. Both would change the world in their generation. When Elizabeth heard Mary, the baby John leaped in her womb, moved by the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth also, believing, declared a blessing over Mary, and called Mary the “mother of her Lord.”
Verse 45, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” This is a blessing for all who believe, knowing that our faith will cause God’s promise to come to fulfillment.
Mary then sings a new song about the goodness of God. She stays with Elizabeth for 3 months and then returns home. Mary returning home about three months after the word of the Lord. Where was Joseph in those three months? Did Mary inform him of the angelic visitation and the word of her pregnancy?
In summary, in verse 35, the angel told Mary that she would conceive supernaturally. She was not forced to receive the conception; she received the pregnancy willingly, most likely considering what others would think, especially her fiancé, Joseph. Mary loved the Lord, and she was certain it was the Lord who was calling her. She risked it all to obey the Lord. Also, Mary did not have intercourse until after Jesus was born. In verse 35, the Lord did the miracle of conception by “overshadowing” her. To overshadow is the same word used for the cloud at Christ’s transfiguration. God’s glory has been known to be shrouded in a cloud, as in Exodus 40:34-38. God overshadowed her with His glory, and He performed a miracle. That miracle is our hope of salvation today!
Moses gives a final blessing over the children of Israel in chapter 33. Joseph is blessed, which is a blessing for his two sons, the two tribes Ephraim and Manasseh. Simeon is not mentioned in Moses’ blessing. If you recall, in Genesis 34:30, Jacob mentions the reckless behavior of Simeon, putting him in danger. In Genesis 49:5-7, Simeon was violent and told the Lord would scatter his descendants. In Joshua 19:1, 9 we see that descendants of Simeon do not have their own territory, but are absorbed by Judah.
In chapter 34 we read about Moses’ passing. I used to feel sadness for Moses that he was denied his request to cross over the Jordan into Canaan. It was clear that he wanted to go in, even at age 120. In fact, at the time of his death, Moses had vigor and great eyesight (verse 7). However, Moses did get to have a glimpse of the promised land before he moved on to be gathered with his people. He probably would have desired to go in forty years earlier with Joshua and Caleb, but the people doubted. As a leader, his responsibility was to journey with the people at the level where they were at and then help grow another generation to know the Lord. Moses can say he did his part and passed the torch to Joshua with a younger generation that came to know the Lord as sons, not as slaves with a bondage mentality. Moses ran his race and finished his course. Moses definitely went out with his boots on, working until the end.
Moses also knew the Israelites were going to disobey God after his passing, and yet, he still wanted to go into Canaan with them. If you are a real leader, especially pastors, you know that even when certain followers make wrong choices, you still love them and still want to lead them because you care about the bigger picture – God accomplishing His kingdom purpose and the faithful receiving their blessing.