Ken Alexander – In 1996, I became an Episcopal minister and later entered the Anglican Church of North America, and am now retired. Although retired, I am an assisting priest at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Mount Pleasant, where I was on staff for six years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors and as the Drawing Near to God Chaplain.
While reading Joanne’s devotional about Mary pondering the events related to Jesus’ birth, I found myself comparing Mary’s response to that of Sarah. God promised each one that they would bear a son. Neither of them was pregnant at the time.
Although there are men involved in these two stories, it is the comparison of the two women’s responses that caught my attention.
Sarah and Mary lived over 2000 years apart. Their circumstances in life were quite different, and so were their responses to what they were told. It appears that they both had a different relationship with God.
Sarah was not the one in the family with whom God spoke. Her knowledge and information about God came through her husband Abraham. Nonetheless, she did know who God was
and that he was powerful. Their life was a nomadic tent life moving from one place to another. She followed her husband to a land that God told him that his descendants would one day possess.
Unlike Sarah, Mary grew up in a village among the descendants of Abraham. She had an understanding of the covenant relationship that God had established with Abraham centuries before. She was betrothed to Joseph.
However, their different circumstances have no real bearing on their responses. It was their individual response to the prophetic word from God that counted, Each one’s response was different from the other.
Earlier in their marriage, God had promised Abraham that he would have a son who would inherit the land of promise. Sarah knew this, but as the years went on she bore him no son.
Perhaps she began to doubt God’s trustworthiness and lost faith in God. She took things into her own hands and gave Abraham her female slave, Hagar, to provide him the promised son.
One day, years later, the Lord and two angels appeared at Abraham’s tent disguised as men.
When Sarah, in her late eighties, overheard the Lord say to Abraham, for a second time, that she would bear a son, her laugh was one of unbelief—“Not possible. Not gonna happen!” Sarah had no faith in what was said and apparently little or no faith in the One who said it.
It was centuries later that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Galilee. He told her she was going to have a son. Mary, who was in her mid-teens, was deeply puzzled and asked, “How? I am a virgin.” Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would bring it about. Unlike Sarah, instead of looking at her life circumstances, Mary believed what she was told. Her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 2:38)
The promises in both situations seemed impossible. No doubt both of the women pondered long and thoughtfully about what had been promised. Each chose a different path and the results of their choices have had very different effects upon the world.
Abraham’s first son, born to Hagar, was Ishmael. Later when Isaac, the son of promise was born, Ishmael’s presence proved problematic and brought turmoil and division into the family, and eventually into the world. And it has continued down to this day. However, God’s faithfulness in keeping his promise through the birth of Isaac has been a means through which God has blessed the world—which has also continued to this day.
Mary believed Gabriel’s message. She did not go to Joseph–her husband to be–and tell him of the angel’s visit in order to get married and have a son. She waited on the Lord to bring about what and how he had promised it would be. Her waiting and trusting the messenger from God brought great good to the world: Jesus, God’s son and our Savior.
What God told both Sarah and Mary came to pass because God has plans for this world and those who are in it—which includes us.
An ongoing challenge for us today is to be a Mary instead of a Sarah. How do we, or how will we respond to the Lord’s leading from Scripture, from the prompting of the Holy Spirit or from what God says to us in our conversations with him? It is worth pondering.
*Pondering God’s Word