I wonder what Mary of Nazareth was doing when Gabriel showed up.
Maybe she was praying. Maybe she was sweeping her floor. All we really know is that she was alone until Gabriel appeared. It’s one of the most beloved scenes in the Bible. Imagine being called by God to give life to the Messiah. There is an ancient word in this scene that gives us a huge clue about Mary of Nazareth’s heart and her love for God. I pray our hearts would be the same. I’ve written about this in my book, A Mary Like Me. Here’s a sliver:
I love Mary’s humility and her humanity. Mary’s humility is vividly painted with her reply to the angel. I imagine her face down before Gabriel, knees in the cold dirt. The King James translation of her acceptance of the assignment God had given her reads like this: And Mary said, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), (emphasis mine).
The King James translates Mary’s referral of herself as the handmaiden of the Lord while the NIV translates this word as servant. When I realize a discrepancy in translations such as this I can’t get to the Greek text fast enough! The Greek word translated differently here is doule (doo’-lay) which means “a female slave.”
In my mind, it’s one thing to be a “servant” of the Lord and another to be a “slave.” There’s a much stronger, negative connation to think of oneself as a slave. But Mary didn’t speak these words with dread.
I believe she had spoken these words often to the Lord.
Remember, Mary’s language was Aramaic rather than Greek. And the language of her heart, the language of the Jewish Scriptures she learned as a child, was Hebrew. Whether her response to Gabriel was Aramaic or Greek, the true meaning of her response can be found in the language of the Jewish faith. The Hebrew counterpart for the word doule is ebed (eh’-bed).
Mary’s heart reply was: “I am the ebed of the Lord.”
In the Old Testament this Hebrew term was spoken in reference to slaves and one’s submission to God, but it was also used in the context of one who worshiped Yaweh.[i] She spoke her acceptance of the assignment from God with confident humility and grace because she was a worshiper of God. Her worship of God bound her heart to His.
She had accepted what God had planned to do in her life. Disgrace. Hardship. She had also accepted the opportunity to be the mother of Yeshua, the long awaited Messiah.
The Son of God.
What if God told you that He had chosen you for a “position” on the heavenly ministry team that would change your life?
Test your engagement or marriage?
Threaten your reputation with your family and community?
Please take a minute with me to step into Mary N.’s sandals deeper than you ever have.
[tweetability]What would you say to God if He told you that your reputation would be at risk if you followed His plan for your life?[/tweetability]
God’s call is never easy. Are you an ebed–a worshiping servant?
Worship my friends. It prepares our hearts for His plans and calling.
Much love and grace,
[i] Zodhiates, Spiros, TH.D. Executive Editor. The Hebrew-Original Key Word Study Bible, New International Version. Lexical Aids to the Old Testament. Ebed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1996), 1538.
Amen! Mary found favor with God. And, as is typical of others in this position, with the favor of God comes mind blowing wonders and heart wrenching trials and those who have it wouldn’t trade God’s favor for anything in the world. Love your posts!
Hey Margaret! Thanks for reading and commenting kindred spirit! Blessings!
What a beautiful post and life-challenging question. Your words painted a picture of Mary that I hadn’t imagined before. God created her with free will and before the big question came, she had already chosen to enslave her heart to His. This choice simplified life to its essence: Worship God.
Thanks Cheryl! Your words are beautiful too. :) I love this aspect of Mary, but I also love her humanity which ran to Elizabeth’s house the minute the angel left. Love. It!