From the moment God made Eve, He had special plans for women. Even when her own act of disobedience brought about the discipline of her Creator, God, He was gracious – He made her a mother! The miracle of having a child, the honor and great privilege of motherhood, was her Father’s loving hand once more giving her life. After reading Eve’s story, it is no surprise to find, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, Jewish women taking part in much of community life. From commerce and trade to Temple worship, women were held in high regard. Proverbs 31 is but one place lending us a peek into the active life of a godly woman. She looked well to the ways of her household, and could be found to be a willing worker, even active in selling linens to merchants and in the buying and selling of land. And, above all this, she feared the Lord, served Him and her family – these were her most precious attributes of wisdom and kindness.
A glimpse into the lives of other Old Testament women of faith as well only solidifies the reality Jewish women were active in their community of faith. So, one might ask this question – as I did when studying the life of Christ’s mother, Mary – why did the early first century life for women look so different than their foremothers of the Old Testament?
It seems quite certain the subtlety of Satan present in Eden has been active through the years post-Eden, even through today. The Jewish people have been on a journey for centuries, from the Flood to slavery to exile to the Diaspora and the years that followed. First-century Mary grew up in a society deeming women “less than.” Although Jewish women were, in theory, esteemed, it was in private, not publicly. Jewish women were to be homemakers and lead quiet lives of prayer and holiness, but not in open concert with the men in their community of faith. They could hear a sermon, but most likely, they were to not ask questions nor voice opinions. According to Jewish history, Mary most likely would have had to stay in the “Woman’s Court” when she went to Temple. She would not have dared venture past its confines. According to all the research and reading of the Scriptures I have done thus far, I believe Mary was a young pauperess, probably in her teens, when she was betrothed to marry Joseph. She lived out her normal days in Nazareth – a tiny nothing of a town in the corner of Galilee. According to the world around her, Mary was ordinary, nothing too special at all.
God thought differently.
Her Father God trusted her character.
He knew she would question yet surrender.
He knew Mary would know the Scriptures (even if she had been discouraged from gaining any learning or education.)
I know I may take liberties here, but I imagine Mary listening daily to her father and the other men quote and talk over the Holy Scriptures.
At that time in history, it would have seemed revolutionary (and offensive) for a Jewish woman to speak and interact with a Priest/Rabbi, let alone have a conversation with one of God’s messengers from Heaven. Nonetheless, God sent Gabriel to Mary first instead of her espoused, Joseph. Think of this considering what we have learned about first century Jewish culture. From the onset – before Christ was even in Mary’s womb – God challenged culture and traditions made by man (and not God.)
Let that sink in.
This common girl from Nazareth, and her surrendered faith, gave birth to the Rabbi of rabbis, King of kings, the Messiah – Jesus – our Savior. When I think of what she must have thought the day Gabriel told her what was to come, my mind goes crazy with questions. But one question I will ask her one day in eternity will be this, “did you ever falter or doubt?” I know me – tiny steps forward in faith and giant leaps backward in doubt and fear. I simply cannot fathom the call on Mary’s life, what it must have been like to raise the Son of God, knowing He was also your Savior.
Can you imagine?
In Luke’s account of Mary’s life, we see she was bewildered by Gabriel’s greeting and could not fathom what he was saying to her. She was a virgin; how could she have a child, let alone be mother to the Son of God?! Yet at the end of their conversation, Mary’s surrendered faith was the foundation upon which God built the rest of her life.
Trusted by God. Highly favored by the Creator. Unlearned and young, Mary was wise beyond her years. She knew to trust in the Lord with all her heart and not lean unto her own understanding of things. Mary’s astounding and sweet story sheds grace on my own inadequacies. It brings truth. And with that truth, freedom. Mary is teaching me a thing or two about how God uses the foolish things to confound the wise – especially when we surrender all to Him.