To Exalt the Humble

from the Advent 2020: Jesus Christ Is Born reading plan

Luke 1:26-56, James 4:6-10

We love underdog stories, tales of unlikely success and “out of nowhere” heroes. Scrawny Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. The Ducks beat the dreaded Hawks on the ice and earn the moniker “Mighty.” Robin Hood wages guerrilla warfare for justice against the sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John. This isn’t an accident; there’s something wired into us that looks for and admires the rags-to-riches or pauper-to-prince stories. As Christians, we know why that is.

Throughout Scripture, we see the heart of God for the weak, the poor, the unlikely, and the marginalized. God lifts up the least of these and says the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16). Time and again God’s leaders and heroes are those who the world might overlook. Every instance of this points to Christ, the perfect pauper Prince.

It began with His unlikely mother from Nazareth, Israel’s version of flyover country. God sends His messenger there to the home of this young unwed girl, a person with the fewest rights and the least status in their day and age. What follows is a story we are familiar with, but one that ought to leave us speechless with wonder (and a fair bit of confusion). Gabriel tells her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). He goes on to tell her that she will be the mother of the Son of the Most High, a King in the line of David whose kingdom will never end. Then he clarifies that this baby will be the Son of God by a miracle of the Holy Spirit.

So why did God select Mary for this honor and position?

Her response tells us a lot and reveals the kind of heart that God values so much—a humble one. At first, Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s honor of her, not smug or inclined to believe she deserved it. She asks with wonder, not skepticism, how this could possibly be, since she is a virgin (Luke 1:34). But by the time Gabriel’s message is completed she simply says “I am the Lord’s servant… May it happen to me as you have said” (v.38). When she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, she breaks into a song of praise to God (vv.46–55). Throughout, she extols the kindness, favor, and mercy of God. She describes His mighty deeds and the raising up of His lowly people. Mary, the mother of our Lord, understood her place (and ours) before God.

In James 4, we read: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). We’ve seen that God shows favor to those who are in a lowly position, but this command is for our hearts. God lifts up those whose hearts are lowly before Him. This isn’t a promise of riches or fame or ease; just look at Mary and Jesus. It’s a promise of fulfillment and favor in His eyes. This promise is available to all who follow the pauper King from Nazareth.

Written by Barnabas Piper


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