UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2019) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2019)
Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?
Luke 1 26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:
- A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were teenagers or close enough.
- A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal (kiddushin) was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
- Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
- A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then, under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
- At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
- If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.
Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Mary today (last Christmas Eve, if you remember, we focused on Joseph). Just like Joseph, Mary was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:
- Mary had a choice. Keep in mind that everything that the angel said was in the future tense. She was going to be pregnant and it was not going to be Joseph’s child. In fact, she would be a virgin when she became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine Mary wondering how people would laugh at her. I can imagine Mary thinking how her friends and family would treat her. What a scandal! What a shame…Mary must have gone through a range of emotions: shock, unbelief, anxiety, helplessness, isolation, frustration, and even anger.
By the way, God sends his people in our path to help us during such difficult moments in our life. Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Through her, the Holy Spirit encouraged Mary and confirmed to her that this was from God. This is when Mary sang her famous song starting in Luke 1 46 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” This song is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn.
- Mary had to carry the child for the next 9 months. This was not some one point in time decision. Can you imagine the trauma she had to go through every single day of those 9 months! Keep in mind that she would not be claiming that she had made a mistake or she was raped. She would be claiming to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine people telling her to fess up. I can imagine friends and family telling her to admit that she messed up or was raped. She couldn’t do that. Again, imagine the emotions she must have felt: anger, helplessness, embarrassment, and unbelief. Nonetheless, she stayed the course.
How could she do all this? If you read the Magnificat carefully, its Mary’s love prayer to God. She loved God unconditionally. God would not have sent his Son to her if she wasn’t a loving person. Would you!
The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally. I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Mary loved God.
Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.
What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and even common sense.
Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?