We each have our own idea of what it means to be blessed. Most of us usually equate blessings with positive and rewarding circumstances, such as good health, warm family ties and loyal friendships. On the list we might also include acceptance and approval from those around us, or perhaps some extra status in the community. And finally, if the truth were admitted, not many would turn down financial success and some material wealth as part of the package." Yet none of these, including the best of human relationships and the loftiest of achievements, is lasting. In time they all will fade away.
There is another kind of blessing that God, from His vantage point, sometimes bestows. Sometimes He blesses in ways that to the recipient may not seem like total blessings at the time. For example, take Miriam/Mary, the mother of Y'shua/Jesus. When the angel announced to that pious young Jewish virgin that she was to be blessed among women, his message definitely portended one of those "other" kinds of blessings.
At the time, Miriam was probably only 14 or 15. That was the age at which most young women married in ancient Israel, shortly after puberty. At the threshold of her marriage to Joseph, Miriam received startling news from her heavenly visitor that challenged her faith and changed her life forever.
God had singled her out to be the bearer of the God/man Redeemer. While inwardly it must have given her great joy to be so chosen of God, in her everyday world shame stalked her. Surely there was talk that this girl was not only pregnant before marriage, but that she claimed the child within her had been fathered by the Holy Spirit of God - and that bordered on blasphemy. The gossips and doubters must have said, "God doesn't do things like that. He never did and He never will. If she is not stoned for fornication, she should be stoned for blasphemy."
Then, when at last the time came for Miriam to give birth, she was robbed of the ease and rest she needed to prepare for the ordeal. Instead of taking seclusion in a comfortable bed, she found herself the victim of an imperial decree, jogging painfully down a bumpy country road toward her distant ancestral home to register for tax purposes. And David's town of Bethlehem was far from hospitable. Seeing Joseph and his weary, obviously pregnant wife, the innkeeper shrugged, "Sorry, no room." The offer of a cattle stall for lodging was equal to tossing a half-eaten bone to a dog under the table, but in their dire need the cattle stall was better than nothing. Our Messiah, Y'shua, was born in the most humiliating of circumstances, and she who bore Him shared that humiliation.
The blessing God had chosen for Miriam carried a high price tag. It threatened her reputation and drove her from the town where she had grown up. It forced her to flee to Egypt, a foreign land of bitter memories where few Hebrews would choose to live, even 1,500 years after the Exodus. In later years that blessing made her vulnerable to severe criticism as the mother of a "religious fanatic" - a "blasphemer" who dared to equate Himself with the Almighty with pronouncements such as. "You have heard it said of old..., but I say unto you..." Ultimately, that blessing heralded by the angel broke Mary's heart as she witnessed the horrible execution of her beloved Son. And even after the worst had happened, unbelievers would have continued to regard her as an outcast because of the things He had said and who He had claimed to be.
But, as commentator Paul Harvey likes to say, "There is a rest of the story." Mary's does not stop with the death of Jesus, nor with the end of her own earthly life. Nor did the story really begin with her life. The blessing that changed Miriam's life has its beginning in eternity past. with God, who foreknew her willingness to be a pure vessel in His divine plan of redemption. It will continue long after the bright sun that warms our planet has become a cold clinker in space.
Real blessing from God is not just a here-and-now happening. It is a forever thing. Of all the heroines of Judeo-Christian history, Miriam/Mary stands out, not only because she was singularly blessed among women, but because in her obedience she was able to appropriate the future. Surely when the angel first approached her she did not fully comprehend the import of his word. Yet she was willing to submit to God's plan for her life, whatever the cost. In her submission to be a tool in God's hand, she was blessed as she became the agency for His eternal blessing to the whole world.
Mary blessed? Yes, but not much in her lifetime. In the early days she received commendation from her cousin, Elizabeth. After the holy Child was born she also received encouragement from Simeon and Anna, though Simeon's prophecy of the Child's greatness was mixed with bitter portent. Throughout the flight to Egypt and the lonely years of exile. Mary must have struggled to cling to the glimmer of that greater good - not just the circumstances of her present life, but how her yielding to God's will would be used by the Almighty to bless her and the world forever .
No, in studying the life and times of Mary, no one who merely scrutinized her earthly circumstances would have called her blessed. Yet at the end, there was great reward. Ultimately the One born to her in that stable and raised by her in a Galilean carpenter's hut conquered death, and went to prepare a heavenly mansion, not only for her, but for whomever else would come to Him in faith.
Miriam/Mary stands as an example of one who endured for God. From the moment the angel appeared to her, she was willing to sacrifice all she was and had for the excellence of her heavenly calling. From the prophetic writings she must have understood the end to which her Son would be born - that His earthly destiny was not a crown, but a cross. Surely she suffered shame and misunderstanding and endured discomfort and dishonor. Yet inwardly she must have risen above the discomfort, the dishonor, the sorrow and the anxiety because she saw in the distance that higher blessing, the result of her obedience.
Mary's submission teaches us the reality of faith in action. Indeed, Mary was honored of God. She is blessed among women forever, a shining example of faithful obedience. As we contemplate the miracle of the Incarnation, there is a lesson here for us - obedience to God's call.
God has given us the most precious gift of all - His dear Son, our Savior, Y'shua. In return He asks for our hearts and our obedience. If He calls us to serve Him in some difficult way if He summons us to some difficult task that we consider humanly impossible - we can refuse, or we can be like Mary. As we submit to God's call, we will learn that with Him all things are possible, even "impossible" miracles. And as we yield to what God asks of us, however difficult, we too may glimpse the distant gleam of a higher blessing.