Monday, January 5, 2015

Heart Pondering

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Luke 2:19 (KJV) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

That verse was shared by Bishop Walter S. Thomas Sr. of the New Psalmist Baptist Church, on their Christmas morning televised service.  It got me thinking in directions that had nothing to do with Christmas.  Follow my train of thought.

Our brain is like that 1800s low profile cabin trunk to the right.  We put things in there, perhaps placing them by some form of categorizing, perhaps mixing some together for further inspection before deciding where to place them, where they belong.  And that's where our verse comes in.

Let's take a look at the preceding verses.

Luke 2:8-12 (KJV)  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:16-18 (KJV)  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

That's quite a picture,  We see the shepherds, the common people, finding out that the Messiah had come.  And they had to know it was real, because the way it was announced was nothing less than spectacular.  They couldn't ignore what they were told.  And they couldn't ignore that this was different from all the fake Messiahs that kept popping up.  

The shepherds couldn't miss that this was real.  And then came the kicker.  Israel was under the thumb of the Romans.  Almost all the Jews were seeking and expecting a political savior, not a spiritual one.  Then, there's verse 12, where the the angel prophesies the Messiah coming as a baby, complete with where to find Him.  Jump to verse 16 and the shepherds rush to the manger and find Joseph and Mary, and baby Jesus!  Some political savior!  What's a baby going to do to deliver Israel from Rome?!?

With all of that, the shepherds still did two things that were very telling.  Verses 17 and 18 indicate that the shepherds told anyone who would listen about Jesus.  And the ones they told were amazed.  And, though we didn't quote verse 20, it indicates they were so convinced that they came back.  Those are strong testimonies,  But there's an interesting contrast,

We see the shepherds quickly become emotionally invested in the whole thing,  But verse 19 says Mary took in all of this and pondered it in her heart.  But she's the one who had gotten the full "Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee" treatment.  She knew she was anointed to be the mother of God's human incarnation.  Yet, she took the time to take all that, mentally and spiritually process it, and meditate on it.

As much as the faith of the shepherds is compelling, there's wisdom in Mary's approach, too. Understanding the importance of her position, Mary wanted to be sure she understood what was really happening.

I know there have been times when I've taken a leap of faith like the shepherds and other times when I wanted more certainty in my understanding of the things that would effect my decisions. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."  At the same time, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says we are to "Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.".  At quick glance, those seem to be in conflict with each other, but they're not.

First, we're to trust God, nothing else.  Second, we're to test everything else, including our own understanding, to avoid falling into sin.  Both the shepherds and Mary are right.  The shepherds, by the description in Scripture, trusted God.  And Mary tested circumstances and her own understanding to be sure she was aligned with the mind of God.

I'm not even going to try to say when each applies.  I've been uncertain that I've made the right choice often enough that I'm not sure I'm qualified to say.  Maybe more importantly, each of us has a personal walk with God and my answer for me might be totally wrong for you.  But Proverbs 3:5 is essential.  Sometimes that will lead to what seems like blind faith.  Other times will call for testing all things to be sure they are from God.  Either way, the closer our heart and mind are to God, the closer He will be to us.  How's your faith and testing?

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