Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Janet Parshall is a gifted communicator. But as she prepared for one of the True Woman conferences, she felt very challenged. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth called and asked if Janet would speak on a specific character.

Janet Parshall: Nancy's specific assignment to me for this conference was to talk about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Mary! Really, Nancy? Mary, the mother of Jesus?!

Leslie: Find out why speaking on Mary was challenging for Janet, on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, for Tuesday, December 8, 2015.  

Nancy: Around this time of year, we see lots of manger scenes, we have Christmas cards, we have carols reminding us about Mary of Nazareth. As many times as you've heard her story during the Christmas season, do you really know this young woman who said “yes” to such an incredible assignment?

Today my friend, Janet Parshall, will introduce us to Mary, the mother of Jesus in a fresh way. Janet is the the host of the daily radio program, In the Market. Even though she has a track record of bold interaction on public policy in Washington, she’s always placed the highest priority of being a woman of God as well as a wife and mom.

She’s been a regular speaker at the True Woman Conferences, and that’s where the message we’re about to hear came from. And she’ll be joining us again in the fall of 2016 at the next True Woman conference that we are calling Cry Out. This is going to be more than just a conference. Yes, you’ll hear speakers, like Dr. Russell Moore and Mary Kassian. You’ll hear music from Keith and Kristyn Getty. But this will also be a time for women to come together to cry out in one voice for God to heal our land and visit His people in revival.

I am asking the Lord for hundreds of thousands of women from  across the country and around the world to gather in small groups and join us by simulcast and LIVE stream and cry out to the Lord with us during that conference. In 2016, we will be calling women to prayer because I believe that’s one of the most important and effective things we can do for such a time as this. But this ministry can’t do anything—not the daily program, not the True Woman Conferences, not anything we are doing—without your help. This is a listener-funded ministry and your prayer and financial support is crucial for it to continue.

As we prepare for a new year of calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, some friends of the ministry are doubling every gift, up to a matching challenge amount of $820,000—the biggest challenge wev'e had in the history of this ministry. Would you help meet and even exceed that challenge? You can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Now back to Janet Parshall. She began her talk at the True Woman conference by explaining why it was so difficult for her to enter into the story of Mary.

Janet: I mean, really, couldn't you have asked me to talk about the Samaritan woman? She was sexually promiscuous? That's a whole lot easier to talk about. Or how about Martha? Who doesn't like a clean house, right? Or how about talking about Lydia? She was a successful business woman, the head of a weaver's guild. That's easy to talk about. Or how about talking about Eve? Don't we love to gossip and blame somebody else? But Mary, really, Mary? I mean, the mother of our Savior? Thanks, Nancy.

Well, as I began to study who this woman was, I mean, really dig into His Word, really dig into His story, and really start to understand His truths, I began to learn anew what it means to be a woman with a humble, submissive, obedient heart. So Nancy, thank you.

Think of all the great women in history. Talk about Cleopatra. She was the queen of Egypt; she was the wife of Caesar—a legendary beauty, still hailed to this day. Or we could talk about Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was the virgin queen who it is said when she ascended to the throne quoted from the 118th Psalm, “It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (v. 23). She was a female ruler that changed the course of history and further opened the doors for spiritual reformation.

Or you could talk about Abigail Adams, whose love for her husband and love for her country guided us through some of our early tempest-torn years. Or you could talk about Rosa Parks, a woman whose dogged, yet gentle, determination fanned the flames of liberty for all Americans regardless of the color of their skin. But added to that list, most assuredly, has to be the name of Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, revered for generations, honored, worshiped by many, and adored. But when does she first make her appearance on the stage of history? It might surprise you.

Her first appearance is not found in the Gospels, her first appearance is actually found in the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 7:14 we read,

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel.

There she is, in Isaiah 7:14. She's not named, but there she is. Now, friends, there are over 1500 prophecies in Scripture and to date, 500 or so of those 1500 or so have been fulfilled. Jot and tittle, exactly as they were prophesied, and this was another one of those prophesies. And every single one will be fulfilled exactly as it was prophesied, and this was one of them.

But our next introduction to Mary comes in two of the four Gospels, the books of Matthew and Luke. Maybe the most complete story of all is found in the first chapter of Luke. But before we turn there, I'm going to ask us to do a couple of things. I'm going to ask us to put away in our thinking, to really challenge us in our thinking, to put away the Christmas ornaments, to really stop thinking about the cookie exchange, to really not remember who is all on our gift list, and to focus, really focus on the person of Mary.

Not in the context of the Christmas holidays, which is about the only time of the year we really start to think about her, but to really pull back and see her in the context of who she was, where she was in human history, and what were the customs of the day. All of that swirls and wraps itself around the person of Mary.

Luke 1, if you turn there, and when we begin our story, we have to drop this in the context of Scripture and realize it has been 400 years since there's been a miracle. There has been 400 years where presumably God was silent. In fact, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah had there really been any sense that we had been hearing from God. That's an awful long time to be waiting and hoping and praying for the Messiah to come. But in those dark times, in those quiet times, there is always a remnant of God's people who are watching and praying and trusting and hoping.

A remnant of God's people are always watching and praying and trusting and hoping.

And that takes us to where our story begins. Luke 1:26,

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, from the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (vv. 26–33).

What amazing news! Two times in this passage, by the way, the word virgin is used to describe Mary. And later on we will see in verse 34 that Mary herself describes her condition as being a virgin. That hearkens back to the prophesy in Isaiah, a virgin. No question whatsoever on her status—she is a virgin.

Now in her day and age, Jewish men got married in their late teens, early twenties. The rabbi set the age of marriage for the woman and the age, the minimum age a woman could get married was twelve. Twelve! That meant Joseph was older than Mary. Mary was twelve, thirteen, maybe fourteen years old. She's a teenager; she's a junior high girl. Mary is a girl from a small town. She is in every sense of the word a small town girl from the tribe of Judah, the royal line of David.

Most likely she was poor. Most likely she was illiterate. Girls in those days were never given education, but that doesn't mean—we'll see this in a minute—that she was in any way, shape, or form ignorant. She knew the Torah; she knew the Word of God. Out of the abundance of her heart the mouth would speak. The Bible, by the way, never mentions her parents, never describes her physically, and the only way you really get to know Mary is the way in which she starts to react to this profound news delivered in a pretty amazing way. “And Mary said to the angel,” and we read this now in verse 34,

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God (vv. 34–35).

Now the question she asks is not a question of doubt, it's a question of curiosity. She's a teenage girl, understands she's a virgin and isn't quite sure how all of this is going to happen. The answer is this: The third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is going to enable you to conceive, and it's going to be a miracle.

Now, Scripture doesn't tell us the day, the hour, the moment when this occurs. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Scripture draws a veil of privacy across that moment, and we are not allowed to peer in. Calvin said this, “It's mysterious secrecy, withdrawn as if by a cloud from human scrutiny. That magnificent, miraculous moment was between Mary and the Holy Spirit, and none other.”

So as she goes to this experience it's amazing to me, not the question that she asks, but rather the questions she doesn't ask that really tell us who Mary is.

  • She doesn't say, “What's Joseph going to think?”
  • She doesn't say, “What's this going to do to my potential marriage?”
  • She doesn't say, “What are my parents going to think?”
  • She doesn't ask, “What is going to happen to my reputation?”
  • She doesn't say, “What will my future in this town be like going forward?”
  • She doesn't say, “How am I supposed to raise the son of God?”
  • And she doesn't say, “Why me?”

Mary takes in this news, and because of her heart condition, humbled, submissive, obedient, she says pretty profound words, “Behold, I'm the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38).

Mary doesn't argue with the illogic of the announcement. Mary doesn't wrap her response around her circumstances. Mary does not barter with God for what she thinks might be something better.

So Mary declares that she is a—and this is an interesting word—a doulos, a servant, a handmaiden. It's interesting to study handmaidens throughout history, because handmaidens would often sit quietly and wait in the chambers of their mistresses. With simply a wave and hand, the mistress would direct the handservant to do anything. Without dialogue or discussion, in immediate obedience, the handmaiden would respond when the mistress waved her hand.

And in the hierarchy of help, handmaidens were deemed to be the lowliest of servants. So when Mary calls herself a doulos, a servant, she empties herself completely of her, and allows the Holy Spirit to completely fill her. That's what a handmaiden does: obeys and obeys and obeys without question. No wonder the word “blessed” is so subscribed to the definition of Mary.

Mary knew who God was; she knew His Word and had learned to trust Him. And when His messenger sends the most incredible news to a thirteen-year-old girl from Nazareth, she is ready, she is prepared to say “yes.”

Now what would you or I have said in those set of circumstances?

Would we be willing to go where God calls? Or would we be hesitant?

  • Would we say “yes” if it meant that people would mock us?
  • Would we say “yes” if it meant people would marginalize us?
  • Would we say “yes” because our hearts are humbled, submitted, and obedient?

You can't tell the story without understanding what's going on at the same time in the life of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth. Now remember the other part of the angel's message, “And behold [the angel says], your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren” (v. 36). Now this means the angel has delivered not one, but two pre-birth announcements in one angelic appearance.

Elizabeth's story starts in Luke 1:5, so look back a little bit. Here is a quick overview of Elizabeth's story. Elizabeth is married to a man named Zechariah. Zechariah is a priest. Elizabeth comes from a long line of priests from the tribe of Aaron. The Bible uses a wonderful word to describe this couple: They are called righteous.

I don't know about you, but if you and I were fortunate enough to be named in Scripture, what adjectives would you like to have used to describe you? Righteous is pretty amazing. But it gets even better than that. Scripture says that "they walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord" (v. 6)—a pretty remarkable couple. And we learn more by understanding that they are righteous, they are walking blamelessly, but they have a broken heart.

You see, they have no children. And in that age and in that era, that would have given Zechariah the right to divorce Elizabeth, to move on, and to be able to say that he could get a different wife. Because he was entitled to children, and if she couldn't deliver, that could have been the end of it. But he didn't divorce his wife. They stayed together, and they prayed constantly. They walked blamelessly, and they were in every sense of the word, righteous. Even though they prayed for a child and the answer was a constant “no,” they still trusted God and continued to pray.

But finally in verse 13 we hear the angel say, “Your prayer has been heard.” I found this amazing when I was digging in, “Your prayer has been heard.” The tense there is the present tense. Maybe it's just me, but let me see, Zechariah is old; she's barren, but they are still praying for a child. That says something about the level of trust in our great king, doesn't it? So they are still praying. Elizabeth and Zechariah never stop praying, and finally get the answer they have been praying for. “No” gets turned into “yes.” And this is an important place for us to stop and really allow the Lord to teach us what it means to be a true woman of God.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous, walking blamelessly, but brokenhearted. They constantly had a prayer that constantly was answered "no." In fact, their dream was denied. But as we are going to see it wasn't really denied; it was delayed. But they didn't know that. They just kept praying and praying, these righteous people, blameless in their walk, trusted and trusted.

And here are words you never hear describing their marriage and their relationship: bitter, angry, spiritually dry, divorce, resentment, affair. None of those words describe this couple. Now, Zechariah knew that if there were no children, that would be it—no legacy, no history, no staff with the genealogy of his family passed down.

Elizabeth could have been cast aside years ago. That says something about their love life and how much they loved each other and how much their love of God kept them together. By the way, it's a necessary component in strong, healthy, vibrant marriages.

This is a real husband and a real wife asking for a real child and hearing a real “no.” Step into the space of the words here. These are not some plastic Bible superheroes. These are real people, and despite the ongoing answer of “no,” they continued to honor and worship God. How is that possible when God keeps saying “no," how can we still trust and obey and submit? How?

Well, I think something in Zechariah and Elizabeth's life teaches us that. They knew God. They spent time with God and trusted God and loved God. They left the answers to their prayers in His hands regardless of the result. The interesting thing is that despite the long, long, tearful years of praying for a child, and always hearing a “no,” it didn't make their faith go dry. The years of “no” actually made their faith go deep.

The years of “no” actually made their faith go deep.

That's an important lesson for us. God had not turned His back. God was not in absentia. God heard; He cared, and He answered according to His good and perfect will. And righteous, blameless people walking in all of His commandments know how to say, "Nevertheless, Lord, not my will, but Thine.”

So they submitted. But then their answer came, and their world changed dramatically, and what a result it was. Here is Zechariah on his rotation duty in the temple. This is always very interesting. As a priest, his responsibility was one week two times a year to go down to Jerusalem and serve at the synagogue, at the temple down there. It was his turn. And more importantly, because of the choosing by lots, he was given permission to light the incense. This is also a lofty position, because there are more priests than days in the year to allow incense to be burned.

It was a really a marvelous time in Zechariah's life. He had been chosen by lot to burn the incense. The incense was outside the veil from the holy place that separates it from the most holy place, so it was a marvelous day in Zechariah's life. He was being a priest doing his priestly duties, had been chosen to burn the incense, and he was near the sacred place where the Spirit of the Lord dwelled.

Could it get any bigger and better than that? Yes, and it did!

Nancy: Tomorrow we’ll hear what happened to Zechariah at the temple that day.

Some of us have grown up hearing the Christmas story all our lives. And the challenge is, that story can become so very familiar that we forget how momentous these events really were. Janet Parshall has been helping us see the Christmas story the way the characters involved would have seen it. Tomorrow, she’ll continue focusing on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Janet’s message encourages us to consider a crucial question. Will we obediently accept God’s calling on our lives, just as Mary did? Perhaps you’re hearing this story as you're waiting for some situation in your family to change. Maybe you’ve been diligently praying about a need or unfulfilled longing in your life. Perhaps the answer isn’t what you expect. It’s requiring a deeper level of faith and acceptance than you anticipated.

If so, I want to encourage you to say from your heart what Mary said when she was faced with a challenging situation. She said, in effect, “Yes, Lord. I am your servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Oh Lord, I pray that during this Christmas season, You would make us mindful of the faith of a young girl who humbly accepted Your call on her life, and as a result, was a means of blessing to the whole world? Lord, we're reminded that we don’t know how You plan to use our circumstances for our good and Your ultimate glory. Make us surrendered women who are always saying in every life circumstance, "Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. Let it be to me as You have said."

Janet Parshall picks up the story of Mary tomorrow. It’s a Christmas story that will inspire you to say “Yes, Lord.” 

Janet: A small town girl, little education, less money, visited by a messanger from God who carried news no one had ever heard before that day and no one would hear after that day. She was willing to give up her own plans, her own timeline, her own goals, her own dreams—to be a doulos. She was humble, obedient, submissive, and she changed history. If God can do that with Mary, blessed as she was among women, what could God do with a woman today who is willing to be a servant—a woman who is willing to say, "God, give me Your desires for my heart." "Lord, be first always in my life." "Father, not my will but Thine."

Henry Blackaby also said this, "He has a right to interrupt your life, He is Lord! When you accepted Him as Lord, you gave Him the right to help Himself to your life any time He wants."

Nancy: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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