Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Mary Was a Humble Woman

Leslie Basham: There’s no better day to slow down than Christmas Eve. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some of us move so quickly through life, as I have a tendency to do—from one appointment to the next, from one city to the next, from one responsibility to the next, from one meeting to the next, from one day to the next—that we don’t stop to ponder, “Where is the hand of God active in my life?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Wednesday, December 24, 2014.

Nancy's continuing in the series "Mary of Nazareth." 

Nancy: One of the greatest hymns ever written in the history of the Christian church is found in the passage that we’re looking at today. We’re in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. We’re looking at characteristics out of the life of Mary of Nazareth, and these are the same characteristics that God is looking for in our lives. They’re the qualities of the woman that God uses to fulfill His purposes in our world.

In our last session, we looked at the account beginning in verse 39 of Luke chapter 1, of Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth who has also just found out that she who was considered barren is going to have a child. And that child, of course, was John the Baptist.

When Mary reached Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth said to her, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (v. 45). We saw in our last session that the woman who believes God is a blessed woman. That’s a woman that God can use.

Then Mary responds, beginning in verse 46 with this great hymn of praise. We know it as The Magnificat. Mary said, “My soul magnifies.” 

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercies extend to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm (vv. 46–51).

Then you go down to verse 53,

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and to his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers (vv. 53–55).

So Mary launches out into this great hymn of praise, and that’s what I want you to notice—that Mary was a praising woman, a woman of worship, a woman who gave thanks to God and recognized that this was the work of God, and she was determined to magnify God.

In every circumstance of life—the good ones and the negative ones—we choose how we will respond. Some of you have heard me say before that basically we either worship or we whine. Mary, in the face of this great circumstance, is going to be a worshiper. She’s a woman of praise.

She’s a woman with a grateful spirit, and she expresses to God, in front of her cousin Elizabeth, her great praise and adoration of the Lord. She speaks words of prayer and praise and even music—song—to the Lord. Mary worships God through this passage for His wonderful acts, for His mercy, and for choosing her.

She’s just overwhelmed—humbled—that God would choose her and use her, and that sense of wonder finds itself flowing out of her life in praise. She’s conscious that this is something that God has done; that she’s a recipient of God’s grace and His mercy. It’s as if she can’t help it. What comes overflowing out of this full life is a song, a hymn of praise.

What comes overflowing out of your life when you experience the goodness, the grace, and the mercy of God?

  • Do you just go on as if nothing had happened?
  • Do you find yourself taking time to stop and say, “God is great. God is good, and I thank Him, I bless Him for His goodness”?

Praise was not just something that Mary felt inside, though she certainly did that, but it was something she expressed verbally so that others could hear it and be blessed. I know there are times in my own life when I feel thankfulness for the goodness of God, but so many times I just hurry on and don’t stop to say it, to say it to others, to say to the Lord, “You have been so good, and I worship You; I thank You.”

So let me ask these questions:

  • Is your life characterized by a spirit of praise?
  • Do you respond to the circumstances and challenges of each day by expressing gratitude for the greatness and the mercy of God, and do your responses give the world a proper opinion of God?
  • As you respond to those circumstances, can the world hear what you say and be drawn to a God who is good and who is great—the God that you praise?

As we read this passage, we see something else about Mary, and that is that she was a woman of the Word. She was a woman of the Word. In Mary’s prayer that we’ve just read, there are at least twelve quotations from Old Testament Scriptures.

Now most of us, if pressed, would have a hard time in a prayer coming up—by memory—with a dozen Old Testament quotations to work into our prayer. But she used the Word of God, with which she was obviously very familiar, as a part of her worship, her prayer, and her praise. Those quotations are all woven together.

It’s not something that she had to say, “Now, wait a minute, let me go get my Bible so I can read a psalm of praise to the Lord.” That’s what I would probably have to do, but instead she knew these psalms. She knew these passages. They were imbedded in her heart. They were part of her thinking.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Mary probably was not able to read. She probably did not have any kind of formal education as a young woman growing up in that culture, and furthermore, even if she had been able to read, she didn’t have a copy of the Old Testament at her house. She would have had to have heard the Word of God read at the synagogue as she had gone to worship, but she obviously loved the Word. She had listened to it. She had retained it.

How often do you and I sit in church and hear the Word of God being read and, just as if with glazed eyes, let it go over us—we’ve heard that, we’ve done that, we’ve seen that, we’ve been there, and it’s nothing remarkable to us—and we leave and maybe forget what we actually heard at all? In fact, I’ve had that experience in my own quiet time where I can read through chapters of the Scripture and don’t have a clue what it is I just read.

I see in Mary someone who listened to the Word of God attentively, who made it a part of her life, made it a part of her heart, and out of, then, the overflow of that Word, came this prayer as she prayed the Word back to God. Ladies, if we’re going to be used of God in our generation, we’ve got to become women of God’s Word, women who know the Word of God.

Twice in the last week I’ve been exposed to some sobering illustrations of what happens when women don’t know the Word of God. A lady wrote me recently and said that she’d been in a conversation at a church retreat—a well-known evangelical church, a Bible-preaching church—and over the lunch table she had talked with one of the other women who was attending this conference.

My friend who wrote to me had just recently lost her mother, so she said she began talking with this other woman who had just lost her mother. She said, “For the second time in six months, someone said to me, ‘You need to talk to your mother and communicate with her—your now deceased mother—and try and get her to communicate with you.’”

Now my friend wisely said to the lady she had just met, “Where do you get this in God’s Word?” And that’s the right question to be asking. The problem is, today, even some of us who’ve been in the church for years, being exposed to biblical preaching and teaching, we don’t know the Word of God for ourselves.

This past week I read an article about a cult in a part of the United States that has had some disastrous consequences because the founders claimed that what they were teaching was the Word of God. They claimed that this was what the Bible taught, but their followers never bothered to check it out for themselves. As a result, they believed what someone else said the Word of God said. They followed the leader rather than following the Word of God.

Now, if we women want to be used of God in our day, we need to get this Word into us. We need to get into it, get it into our minds, get it into our hearts so that when we are challenged, when we are having to respond to the circumstances of life, what comes out will be the Word and the ways of God. That is the only reliable, unchanging source of authority for our lives.

So I ask you these questions:

  • Do you love the Word of God? Do you really?
  • Do you make it a part of your everyday life? Or is it just a category of your life?
  • Do you read the Scripture?
  • Do you memorize it as Mary evidently had?
  • Do you meditate on it? Do you mull it over?
  • Do you apply it to real-life circumstances and situations?
  • Do you share it with others?
  • Do you pray it back to God?
  • Do you share it with others who may be in your pathway?
  • Do you use the Word in practical ways, in real-life situations?

As we move into Luke chapter 2, we’re going to see some more characteristics of the woman that God uses. We read in verse 19 of Luke chapter 2 that after the shepherds left the manger scene, after the birth of Christ, the Scripture says that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” Luke chapter 2, verse 19. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Then twelve years later, as we go to the end of Luke chapter 2, we read another incident in Mary’s life, this is after Mary and Joseph had found Jesus at the age of twelve talking with the teachers in the Temple, and once again, verse 51 of Luke chapter 2, we read, “[Mary] treasured all these things in her heart.” 

These verses tell me that Mary was a reflective woman. She was a reflective woman. That’s something that I don’t know a lot about, to tell you the truth, and it’s something that very few people today experience on a very consistent basis. What is this passage telling us about Mary?

The word treasured—where it said “she treasured all these things in her heart”—it means "to keep them there, to guard them, to preserve, to keep them safe, to keep them close, to keep them carefully." What picture does that give you of Mary? It says to me that Mary took time to meditate on what God had done.

Shortly after the birth of her child, and even years later when he was an adolescent and they were experiencing these unusual things happening in their lives, Mary took time to think about what God was doing, to ponder, to meditate, to treasure these things in her heart. Mary had a quiet spirit. She contemplated what was happening.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that oftentimes when something exciting is happening in my life, something that God is doing, the first thing I want to do is tell everybody about it, and there is a time to tell everybody about it.

In fact, one of the verses we didn’t read says that the shepherds left the manger scene and they went into the town, and they told everybody all about it (see 2:17). That’s a great example that at times we need to follow as well. Sometimes we’re much quicker to speak than we are to meditate, to ponder, to treasure these things in our hearts. We need time to reflect on what God is doing, and if we don’t reflect, we’re often going to miss what God is doing.

Some of us move so quickly through life, as I have a tendency to do—from one appointment to the next, from one city to the next, from one responsibility to the next, from one meeting to the next, from one day to the next—that we don’t stop to ponder, “Where is the hand of God active in my life? What is God saying and doing in my circumstances?” If we don’t stop and think about it, we’re just going to run pell-mell through life and not see the hand of God, not recognize the involvement of God in our lives. We need time in this very hurried world to be quiet.

Some of you may be thinking, When in the world am I going to get time to be quiet? Let me say this, it won’t just happen. You’ve got to make time. You’ve got to take time. You’ve got to be willing to be away from the people and away from the crowds at times and say, “I’m just going to be alone with the Lord, to be quiet, to listen to Him, to reflect on what He is doing in my life.”

We need time to sit still. That’s not a behavior that most of us are very experienced with—particularly if you have children. Some of you never sit still in the course of a whole day, and from a human standpoint, that’s understandable, but I will say your spiritual life and usefulness will suffer if you don’t take time to sit still.

Now the other extreme would be those who want to sit still all day long and want to be, as it were, the Mary in the Mary and Martha combination of sisters. To some of those women, God would say, “You need to get up from sitting still and begin to serve, begin to be active.”

But I find for most of us as women today, our problem is not that we’re sitting still too much. Our problem is that we’re too active, mentally, physically, always having to do something, always having to be with people, always having to have noise on around us. We need time to consider, time to think.

The tendency today in so many of our lives is to fill all the empty spaces with noise, so we get into the car, and what do we do? We turn on the radio. We walk in the house, what do we do? We turn on the television.

Let me just say, ladies, if you want to be a woman that God uses, you can’t always have noise around you. Get in your car, and if you have one of those times when you can be alone in your car, don’t turn on the radio—be still, be quiet, listen to God, reflect on what He’s saying and doing, even in the seemingly mundane circumstances of your life. Say, “Where are You at work here? What are You up to? What are You trying to accomplish in me and through me?” Meditate on who God is.

So here’s the question for this characteristic:

  • Do I take time to remember what God has done and to meditate on what He is doing in my life and in my circumstances?

Mary was a reflective woman, and we need to learn to reflect and meditate on what God is doing in our lives.

Now I see also that Mary was a humble woman. It’s interesting to me that very little is said of Mary in the Scripture after the birth of the Lord Jesus, and that suggests to me that she was content to be in the background. She was content not to be a well-known woman. Now, she’s well known to us today, but she didn’t know that she was going to be well known. She was content not to have others know who she was.

I believe that’s because the deep driving motivation of her life was to make Jesus known. What mattered to her was that people would know who He was. In her humility of spirit, she said, “It’s okay if nobody knows who I am. What matters is that they know Him.”

You see, when the angel came to tell Mary that she was going to have a child, the angel had said of that Son, “He will be great. He will be the Son of the Most High God,” and Mary just embraced the will of God (1:32 paraphrased). The angel didn’t say, “You will be great.” The angel said, “He will be great.”

Even among those of us who wouldn’t think we aspire to fame or to be well known, there’s something inside all of our hearts that wants to be recognized, that wants to have others notice what we do. But the woman God uses is the woman who is content not to be recognized, not to be appreciated, not to be noticed.

Some of you, day after day, are being faithful in tending to matters of your home. You’re being keepers at home. You’re extending hospitality through your home. You’re extending mercy to the poor and needy, as we’re told that the virtuous woman does. But in some of your cases, no one knows what you’re doing.

Are you content not to be recognized, not to be appreciated, not to have people make a big deal about what you’re doing because you’ve accepted the goal for your life that you will make Him to be known? Your goal is to make Him to be seen, to be great, and it really doesn’t matter then what others think about you.

When Mary prayed her great prayer in Luke chapter 1, verse 48, she said, “[God] has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” She did not see herself as worthy of the favor of God. She knew that it was all of God’s goodness and His grace that He was using her. She really had the spirit of John the Baptist. Remember how he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

Are you willing to decrease—to be less known, to take the place of humility—in order that He can increase? You can never go wrong on the pathway of humility because it’s not about us—it’s all about Him. It’s about what God is doing through His Son Jesus in our world, and we’re just instruments.

Some time ago I remember meeting a woman who was a well-known violinist in an Eastern European country. She talked about this matter of humility, and she held up her violin and she said,

It would be foolish for this violin to think that it is anything. What makes it something is when someone who knows how to play it begins to play it. We are as that block of wood in the hands of God, and if any beautiful music comes through our lives, it’s not because we were anything. It’s because the Master knew what to do with us and how to use us as simply an instrument in His hands.

So we realize it’s not about this block of wood. It’s about the Lord who wants to make beautiful music through us, reflecting His glory to others.

  • Are you content to serve God without human recognition?

If no one ever knew or saw or applauded the things that you’re doing to serve your family, to love your mate, to serve the body of Christ and minister in your church or your community, if no one ever saw or knew or said “Thank you,” would you keep doing it anyway?

  • Is it your goal that He might increase and that you might decrease?

That’s the pathway to joy. That’s the pathway to being a woman that God can use—a humble woman walking in the pathway of humility so that He can be seen, to be great through us.

Leslie: Mary modeled incredible humility. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been explaining how to develop that heart attitude in our lives. Today’s program is part of a series called “Mary of Nazareth,” and this teaching has brought the Christmas story to life in a unique way.

This series has been about accepting God’s call on our lives. To say, “Yes, Lord,” when He wants us to do something.

Nancy’s here with the story of a woman who is serving the Lord where He has her in South Africa.

Nancy: Retha DeVilliers is a women’s ministry leader there in South Africa. Our team met and talked with her at True Womn '14 in Indianapolis. As Retha speaks to women, she thinks of a story from 2 Kings. In that story, Elisha told a woman to find as many vessels as she could. Then God provided enough oil to fill as many vessels as she had prepared. In the same way, Retha wants to prepare women to receive the oil of the Holy Spirit.

Retha: I must get vessels ready. He wants to pour His oil—the revival. He must pour it. I think the Lord has asked me to get some vessels ready. For when the revival come, the leaders must be ready.

Nancy: I’m so thankful that as Retha teaches other women and prepares leaders, Revive Our Hearts can be an encouragement to her all the way over in South Africa.

When she’s about to lead a Bible study on a topic, she goes to ReviveOurHearts.com and searches that topic in our archives. Then she passes along what she reads and hears with other women as part of her ministry.

Retha: I use it in my Bible study and when I do women camps. It’s a source for me.

Nancy: Retha first came across the ministry when she found a copy of my book Brokenness translated into Afrikaans. That led her to ReviveOurHearts.com and the daily program. She had a passion for knowing biblical truth but wasn’t getting a lot of support. 

So the Lord used Revive Our Hearts . . . 

Retha: . . . to know I’m not alone in my thinking. Revive Our Hearts helps me thrive in Christ through the resources, the Facebook, the emails. Things like that help me to be a part of something. They help me to carry on with the good work I do here and to carry it to my country.

Nancy: Revive Our Hearts is available to Retha thanks to friends like you who faithfully support this ministry. So when you give to support Revive Our Hearts, you are helping Retha pour into women’s lives in South Africa.

 

In order to continue resourcing and encouraging leaders like Retha all around the world, we need your help. We have significant needs as we come to the end of this year. Donations during the month of December typically account for over 40% of all the donations that come for the entire year. And a significant portion of that amount comes during this last week of the month.

In order to continue current ministry initiatives and to move forward where we sense God leading, we’re asking Him to fulfill the $650,000 matching challenge and then provide well beyond that amount by December 31. Humanly speaking, the amount we are believing God for seems impossible. But we are on our knees calling out to the Lord asking Him to do what only He can do.

Would you join us in praying? Would you ask the Lord what He’d have you give to meet these needs. If the Lord prompts you to be a part of His provision for Revive Our Hearts here at the end of this year, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Thank you for your part in helping women thrive in Christ in your community and around the world! 

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

If a husband wants to show spiritual leadership in a home, what exactly does that look like? How can his wife encourage him to take those steps? Nancy will address that as we continue looking at Mary of Nazareth tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted. 

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