Luke 1:38 (ESV): And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
If there is a singular benefit that comes with the abstinence (from food and other luxuries) observed as part of the discipline in Lent, it is the sharpening of our spiritual antenna, as carnal cravings are suppressed to perceive more clearly the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to hear the language of Heaven in unmistakable tones. At such times also, our wills are empowered, as the flesh is subdued to respond more appropriately to God’s Word.
God’s Word is never meant to entertain us or be subject to debate. It is never to be treated as just another opinion to be weighed before we decide how to respond. Just as God tolerates no rivals, so His Word stands above the kind of critical evaluation that makes man doubt its reliability. Biblical criticism and all theology should lead to doxology. As we sometimes hear expressed, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our admirable example here. God had sent Angel Gabriel to Zechariah the Priest with great news when he was on duty burning incense. But he queried: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18, ESV). By this, he was saying, the reality of my situation makes your pronouncement unrealistic. He was immediately stricken dumb till the word came true and made nonsense of his reasoning. The Virgin Mary, on the other hand, had every reason to question such a prospect that was laden with turbulence. The angel understood and affirmed Heaven’s commitment to the fulfilment of the message delivered. Her understandable consternation gave way to this sublime expression of faith: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). That response was great news in Heaven and even among men, for Elizabeth exclaimed, upon sighting Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
Standing on God’s Word means staking our lives, our reputation, our hopes on the promises and commitments of God in the Bible. Our circumstances, our feelings, and even the counsel of well-meaning family members and friends may be contrary, the prospects staring at us may be gloomy, but God’s Word stands sure; it cannot fail. It is not only when the expected result of our obedience is favourable that we may trust God’s Word. If Mary waited for that assurance, she never would have made that response.
Lent is a time to evaluate our attitude and response to the Word of God. The Lord Jesus saw the cross ahead, but He went to Jerusalem all the same. We live in days when the stress, hostility and frustrations are almost overwhelming. Some have begun to question the value of prayer and loyalty to God, and their love is growing cold as predicted. This is the time to make these verses of the Bible our watchword, whatever our circumstances: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it? (Numbers 23:19); “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).