Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:26-28 God speaks to Mary

Luke 1:26-28 “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’”

With these verses Luke introduces us to new personalities, to Mary the future mother of Jesus and her husband-to-be Joseph. The overlap with Zechariah the priest is immediately underlined when Luke writes that it was “in the sixth month” that is, of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that God sent Gabriel to Mary. Later on it is the angel himself who reminds Mary that Elizabeth is her relative (v.36) and that “she is going to have a child in her old age.” No one except her husband knew that she was pregnant because Elizabeth had been in seclusion since she discovered the fact. In other words, she hadn’t left her house (v.24). Soon Mary and Elizabeth will meet and talk together of their pregnancies. So the two births are intertwined, and thirty years later these two babies will have become men who will meet under totally different circumstances with the most enormous respect for one another. During one twelve month period they are both preaching and baptizing and awakening Israel, but back here is where it all began. Firstly, I want to look again at the angel Gabriel.

THE ANGEL GABRIEL IS SENT ON ANOTHER MISSION.

There is an innumerable company of angels, billions and billions perhaps, and yet they exist with some hierarchy structure, and one of the arch-angels is Gabriel. God discriminates; whether it is men or angels the Lord chooses as he sees fit, and he specially uses his most glorious beings on his most crucial missions. We actually meet Gabriel in two other places in Scripture, one we’ve already considered as it was described a few verses earlier as he was a divine messenger speaking to Zechariah in the temple, but he appears in Scripture once before that in the Old Testament in the book of Daniel. The prophet Daniel was a high official under four kings in Babylon, there living in captivity with his people. He was longing that they should be given permission to return to Jerusalem. In fact he was in deep distress about it; he was agonizing that the captivity be ended, and to him suddenly Gabriel comes.

You remember certain parallel details about Zechariah, that he too was a burdened man, longing in his prayers for God to intervene in his life. Also that it was at the time of the sacrifice that Gabriel appeared to him, and also that the angel’s coming filled him with holy dread. We are actually told that Gabriel said to him, “I have been sent to speak to you,” which are the same words he tells Zechariah. We are even told that Daniel was struck mute as was Zechariah. All these things, I say, had happened to Daniel in Babylon when Gabriel appeared to him.

In Daniel chapter eight and verses fifteen to nineteen, “While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, ‘Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.’ As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. ‘Son of man,’ he said to me, ‘understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.’ While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. He said: ‘I am going to tell you what will happen later.’” You see the pattern of what happens when God draws near to men? They don’t fall backwards laughing uncontrollably or crowing like cockerels, they are utterly terrified and long for it to end. God who is a consuming fire and the Almighty Creator of the universe has come near to them and they are very afraid.

Turn again to the tenth chapter of Daniel and read what happens when Gabriel again spoke with this prophet. We will read from verses four to twelve, “On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold round his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel . . .”

You see the parallels with Zechariah meeting Gabriel? We are even told in the fifteenth verse of that tenth chapter in Daniel that a result of this encounter with Gabriel Daniel was speechless until his lips were touched and he began to speak. Daniel says, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe” (v.17). So I am saying that the response of Zechariah and of Mary too (verse twenty-nine in Luke one) is exactly the same as that effected in Daniel when Gabriel deals with him. Who are you dealing with? One of the holy angels of the God who is light, in whom is not darkness at all. Just one of those angels wiped out the entire Assyrian army. Now perhaps you can understand better what it meant for Gabriel to appear to Mary and the great turmoil of heart she experienced, and why Zechariah had also been gripped with fear.

But what is more significant than the parallel emotional reaction to Gabriel in Daniel is this, that that Old Testament prophet had begun his praying with a longing for the ending of the captivity of his people. However, after he had heard the message from God of what will happen when the Messiah comes, Daniel was now longing for the even greater deliverance that Gabriel tells him about, the coming extraordinary work of God “for your people and your holy city, to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy” (Dan.9:24). This is going to come one day. Transgression finished; hear the cry – “It is finished!” Sin ended in the death of the Messiah! Wickedness atoned for! An everlasting righteousness brought in! The Holy One anointed! That is going to happen, and now 500 years have passed since that word of God came to Daniel by Gabriel and here we are told that the same angel Gabriel is active again. He has appeared to Zechariah with news of the forerunner coming to prepare the way for the arrival of the Lord himself.

Now Gabriel tells Mary that Jesus (the name that means ‘salvation is of the Lord’) the Christ is coming. Jesus will be great because all that Gabriel once told Daniel is certainly going to be accomplished by Christ. Half a millennium has passed, but the same God who picked up the threads of discourse of his words to ancient prophet Malachi and repeated them to Zechariah 400 years later in the temple now sends the same arch-angel to amplify the message he had given 500 years earlier to Daniel but here to Mary. Soon he will preach it to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.” The coming of this message by such a messenger creates the same response in all to whom it is brought – even the tough worldly shepherds were terrified (Lk. 2:9). Little wonder that Mary was greatly troubled. Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth and the shepherds of Bethlehem were all on the spot when God fulfilled his word. The boys to be born to Elizabeth and Mary, John and Jesus, are respectively the herald and the King who are going to accomplish all this. You see God tying together his purposes, showing how none of these things is a coincidence, the choice of Zechariah and Mary, the sending of Gabriel to them and to Daniel 500 years earlier. None of this is deviating one iota from the plan which God had set forth from before the foundation of the world rather it is the divine accomplishment. So this is Gabriel who appears her for the third time in the Bible having appeared to Daniel and Zechariah before now addressing Mary.

JOSEPH OF NAZARETH WAS BETROTHED TO MARY.

The second person named in this section is Joseph. We are told of “a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph” (v.27). We are told his name before Mary is named. They both came from Nazareth and this hamlet features much in the New Testament. I counted twenty-seven references to that village. The town of Bethlehem appears in Luke chapter two and Matthew chapter two and that is all. It is simply the place where the birth of Jesus took place and then it is ignored. Bethlehem was the town where king David was born and the beloved centre of the homeland of all David’s descendants. Joseph was not indifferent to being of this royal line; he was a Davidid. There is an argument to the effect that Joseph would have married within his own tribe and house and so Mary would have been of the family of David too. I don’t accept that. Luke tells us that Mary’s relation is of the house of Levi or Aaron not the house of David. She comes from a priestly line not a royal line; that was Joseph’s lineage. In chapter three it is he whose genealogy is traced back to King David. I wonder if he might have owned property in Bethlehem? It is very unlikely that he had been born there, or had any family living in Bethlehem. If that had been the case surely he and Mary would have stayed with them and Jesus would have been born in their guest room.

However, it is evident that being of the royal line of David was crucial enough for Joseph to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem to register his name for the census there. Imagine it! You take your wife for a sixty mile walk the week before she is expecting a baby. Yet there was a greater reason why he did this – which Joseph was not aware of. Bethlehem was the town prophesied as being the place in which the Messiah would be born. We know that Jesus was there for the briefest period. Most people of his time had no idea that he had been born in Bethlehem and he never told anyone. In their eyes he was a despised yokel from Galilee. He came from the one horse village of Nazareth where country bumpkins lived, as did his parents and grandparents. He spoke with a Nazareth accent as did his whole family. When people later argued about Jesus some of them dismissed the claim that he might be the Messiah with these words, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” (Jn. 7:42)?

He was Jesus ‘of Nazareth’, as were Mary and Joseph. So we must think of Joseph’s father Jacob and Mary’s father (who may be the ‘Heli’ mentioned in Luke 3) getting together, no doubt with much advice from their wives, and the two fathers settled the dowry and the terms of the marriage of their children Mary and Joseph. The couple were thus formally betrothed, but they were still living with their parents while details of the housing arrangements were worked out. A new dwelling would have to be erected and then they could marry and move in. They were to live their entire married life in a small village on the side of a hill surrounded by thorn bushes and narrow tracks, rut-filled baked mud lanes (the important road was a few miles away), a scattering of small houses and a well. It was nowhere, just a community of subsistence farmers. Joseph throughout his life made posts, fences and yokes, doors, window frames and shutters, chairs, cupboards and tables, carts and wheels. The family were poor people, but they were not beggars. Yet they were certainly poor; we can tell that from the fact that when they presented their new-born son on the eighth day of his life to be circumcised they offered two young pigeons (Luke 2:24), the sacrifice of the poorest members of the nation.

So that was the setting for the first three decades of Jesus’ life. There were no holidays by the Sea of Galilee. It was years before Jesus saw the Mediterranean. Times away from Nazareth would have been spent attending the feasts in Jerusalem. Jesus, once he attained twelve years of age, worked with his father in the carpenter’s shop from dawn to dusk and he did this for almost twenty years. That is how they survived in their little house, with a couple of bedrooms, gentle godly Mary cooking and washing for the family, the grandparents, uncles and aunties living in the neighbourhood. Jesus must have owed much to the influence and example of his father the righteous Joseph. But as important as that was it was more important that the legal relationship Joseph had with Jesus put Jesus in the Davidic line, and so enabled our Lord to fulfil the promises made to the Son of David. Through Joseph Jesus in the eyes of the law became great David’s greater Son.

So our Lord was ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ He was never ‘Jesus of Bethlehem.’ Even the demons cried to him, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Blind Bartimaeus was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Pilate nailed this superscription on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Peter, preaching at Pentecost told the people of Jerusalem, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God . . .” And then the risen and exalted Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and this is how he introduced himself, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” Christ was not ashamed to be identified with sinners in their low condition, to be a Galilean from insignificant Nazareth. That was his earthly home town where he loved every neighbour as he loved himself.

IT WAS TO MARY THAT GOD SENT THE ANGEL GABRIEL.

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (vv.26&27). Women can see things as clearly as men; God speaks to them as lucidly as he speaks to their husbands. Many women are better readers of greater books than their husbands. Many wives seem to pray more earnestly than their husbands. We are entering the new covenant dispensation in which God pours out his Spirit on women as well as men. I was reading this week about Jenny Geddes, a 37 year-old Edinburgh stall-holder, famous for a solitary act of defiance. The leaders of the Church of Scotland were attempting to draw it away from the simplicity of the gospel and no one seemed to be doing anything about it, not in Jenny’s eyes. She sold vegetables on a stall outside the Tron Church and she worshipped in St. Giles whenever there was a service, but she was becoming increasingly alarmed at what she was seeing and hearing. Some time in 1637, she became so irate during one church service that she stood up in the congregation and threw a stool at the Dean of Edinburgh there in St. Giles Kirk protesting at the introduction of the theology of the much resented English prayerbook, which was not biblical enough for her and many in the congregation. She cried out, “Villain! Dost thou say Mass at ma lug?” and her actions almost started a riot, with the Dean and Bishop having to quickly withdraw to the street followed by a volley of sticks and stones. She had been taught by God the truth of salvation by grace. God had made her a reformer. Thank God that he deals as lovingly and faithfully with women as with men, teaching them the catechism and the confession, giving them the theology of the Bible, making them as Christlike as their menfolk. So here we see God’s grace coming to an insignificant place and to this woman.

Who was she? Mary was certainly a teenager; she had no personal experience of what motherhood involved. Obviously she would have seen how other mothers behaved, and she would have been taught from a child some of the necessary details. It was customary for Jewish women to marry as teenagers and Mary may have been as young as fifteen years of age. Do you realize the implications of that? That God placed the most precious and beloved being of the whole universe, his eternal and only begotten Son, in the care of an inexperienced teenager in an obscure location. What a risk! There was no hospital nearby, and no doctor on call. What madness, if it were not for the loving power of the omnipotent One who does according to his will in the armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth.

Take courage men and women! God is saying to you today, “You can cope. I never put my children in situations where my grace can’t keep them.” You can handle the responsibilities of parenthood, and can cope with sickness, or caring for your loved ones with an incurable illness, or the pressures of a new job – or the lack of a job. God supported Mary for thirty years, living in the same house as the Son of God with all the tension and glory that that entailed, and God can also support you. She knew that the holy one born to her was the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, whose kingdom would never end. She was a very young woman when Gabriel told her what was to happen to her and it came like a bolt out of the blue. Whatever shocking news you’ve had in your life it is a molehill compared to the Everest news Mary was given by God. Or let me turn it this way that shouldn’t some of you fifteen year olds display as much maturity as Mary had to show here?

However, the most important thing that Luke wants us to realize is that God’s choice of Mary was not because of her own inherent and unique worthiness, much less her sinless perfection. God’s choice of Mary was a display of how he exalts the humble. She herself will praise the Lord in response to Gabriel’s news saying that God “has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (v. 48). It certainly was very humble. Mary thought of Nazareth, and the two room shack with its mud walls, and her family called it home; the bedroom she shared with her siblings. She had hardly any possessions at all. She had no jewels; she had no beautiful clothes; her toys – maybe a doll, a skipping rope and her whip and top – were made for her by her Dad. Maybe she had a special pussy cat. She had nothing; she was a nobody, and she was the one in the entire world who got this message from God. She understood that the reason for God’s choice of her to be the special servant in whom he would do the greatest of all miracles – “our God contracted to a span” – was not because ‘somewhere in her youth or childhood she had done something good.’ Rather it was a display of how God loves to manifest his power in our weakness, his sovereignty in our inability, his plan in our lostness. So Luke focuses our attention on God sending Gabriel from his presence to the cosmos, to Galilee, to out-of-the-way Nazareth, and in the cluster of peasant-farmer families he homes in on one particular young teenager called Mary, and he freely bestows his immense grace to her. He is showing us that his purposes are always to exalt the weak and lowly. That is what God does. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It is the principle seen in the Lord’s dealing with Gideon and his group of men, how he whittles them down in number, smaller and smaller, until in the end he uses a mere 300 to win the day and obtain the victory. It is not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord. He sends one man, Jonah, to take his message to the great city of Nineveh, and in spite of all his reluctance and cold spirit, when Jonah preaches to them the message God has given to him one man is sufficient for the task. The whole city repents of its wickedness from the greatest to the beggar in the gutter. Who does the Lord use to bring the message of the coming of his kingdom to Israel? Does he call for a march of a million men on Rome? No. Just twelve men he chooses, and they are fishermen or work in the tax office and he passes by thousands of others. Here is the principle seen in the preparation of the woman who is given the task of looking after the Lord Jesus’ family needs and material needs for thirty years. She is not Pharaoh’s daughter; she does not live in Herod’s palace; she is from Nazareth and she is a lowly anonymous teenager. When she walked down the lane she didn’t wear a blue or white full length robe. Her clothes were clean but hand-made and patched. There was no halo permanently moving along with her, suspended above her head. She said of God, “He is my Saviour. He lifts up humble people. Blessed be his name.”

How unique a privilege it was for Mary to be the bearer of the Lord Jesus, and for Christ to share her flesh and blood, and yet I want to impress upon you the fact that there is a closer relationship to Christ than Mary’s flesh and blood relationship, and every believing sinner possesses it. Can you believe it? That closer relationship with the Lord is the union of believers with him, a faith union in which they believe right into him. Henceforth they shall live in him, and he lives in them, not for nine months, or thirty years of sharing a house together, but for ever and ever. There was one occasion later on when Jesus was whispered a message by one of his followers during a meeting. People were packed all around him listening to him teach, and then his mother and brothers turned up. They seem to want to have taken him home, back to Nazareth. They were unhappy with this new turn of events, his leaving home, gathering men around him and becoming a wandering rabbi. They stood on the outskirts, not belonging to the people listening so avidly to Jesus, and they sent a cold message asking him to come and join them. Somebody told Jesus, ‘You know, your mother and your brothers want you to go to them.’ Do you remember Jesus’ response? “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Lk. 8:21).

It is possible to live in the closest physical proximity to the Lord Jesus and still not know who he was. There was his home synagogue in Nazareth where he went every Sabbath day with the family. They all knew him in that assembly, but when he began to preach to them they were so filled with hate at what he said that they dragged him out of the building with the intention of murdering him by throwing him off a precipice. They knew everything about him physically but spiritually they were in the dark. His brothers had shared a bed with him for years but they didn’t know who he was, and his mother Mary who had had his coming explained to her from God and carried him the full time in her womb was greatly unaware of the implications of what Gabriel had told her. She had experienced everything and yet she remained unenlightened until the resurrection and Pentecost. She had cared for him in her home for years until that day he waved her good bye leaving Nazareth for good, to take the gospel throughout Galilee and to Jerusalem. But those in whose hearts Jesus has come to live by faith have him there for ever and ever. He never waves goodbye to them. He is their prophet, priest and king for ever. They are his brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. They share the closest possible relationship to the Lord Christ. It is appropriate that we honour the special place that Mary had in the dispensation of the plan of God, but we must not suppose that because of her unique role as the bearer of the Christ that we (all the rest of us in Christendom) are relegated to a second-class relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. No, no! We have been given the privilege of limitless access to an indwelling Saviour. We have become the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. By grace we have been made eternal brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, united to him by faith. What a Saviour!

How does this happen? How does he become our Saviour? Look at the greeting of glorious Gabriel to this teenage girl who possessed nothing at all. See three elements in verse twenty-eight;

i] Greetings! This was a plain sincere word, the familiar word of greeting used all over the Greek speaking world when you met someone you knew. When you climb the steps to the entrance to this church the men on duty in the vestibule smile at you, and they give you a hymn book and they will respond to any queries you have. Sometimes they will actually say, “Greetings!” and “Welcome to Alfred Place,” and if it is not always suitable or possible to use those actual words their smile and warmth speak of their pleasure at your being here with us that day. We greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doors of this church will always be open to you. If we can help you in any reasonable request we will. Greetings! That is the least we can say to you when you come to us because we’ve tasted and seen that the Lord has been a good Master to us and we want you to share what we have experienced.

But in our text it is not men speaking to men, it is God speaking to a poor teenager in an insignificant cluster of houses in the Middle East. It is the voice of the God who is a Spirit, infinite eternal, unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, goodness and truth that Mary hears through his servant. I am saying that he is here today – Gabriel’s God, your Creator and your Judge and he is actually addressing you. The One from whom every good thing has come into your life is talking to you; he is not ignoring you, let alone blaming or scolding you. He is extending his warm greetings to you. Where two or three gather together in his name there is our Lord. He is with us and I can say with all the authority of the New Testament that he is delighted to see you here; he loves you so much that he has brought you here to discover how he sent his Son Jesus Christ, born of a woman born under the law, and he says to you, “Greetings! You are most welcome to this place.” Though he knows everything about you and seen you at your worst he is speaking kindly and graciously to you at this moment. If he did not love you he would not have brought you here.

ii] You who are highly favoured. Mary had been especially favoured by God in that he had chosen her to become the mother of the Messiah. There hadn’t been a competition in Israel and Mary had got through all the grueling heats getting to the semi-final and then reached the final to be chosen and crowned by religious leaders, “Miss Mother of the Messiah, Year One.” There was nothing like that at all. Mary was certainly a righteous and godly and pure girl, but she was not agonizing to become the mother of the Christ. God had favoured her before the foundation of the world; God blessed and chose her; God gave this honour to her.

How big do you believe God is? Really big? When we Christians affirm that he is ‘really big’ we mean that he is king, that he reigns with real power, that he reigns over sparrows and galaxies, that every single thing is under his sway. He is sovereign over everything, including you, even over your will, that is, over the decisions you freely make. We believe that we would never have become Christians, we would never have chosen Jesus Christ as our Lord in faith, unless he had brought us to the feet of Christ and made us bow before him. We would never have done that without him. His favour was shown to us in making us constraining us come to him. You’re thinking, ‘this lot must have been utterly helpless.’ Yes, we believe we were, because we came to discover that the Lord Jesus once said that “no one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:37). Isn’t that a terrible blow to your pride? You thought you could come here and give us a once over and maybe if you thought it wouldn’t be too demanding and wouldn’t upset your lifestyle and beliefs too much you might condescend to become a Christian. Here am I telling you that it’s not like that, that you cannot come to Christ unless God brings you to him. You can’t. The choice is too stark. “Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

A Christian pours contempt on all his pride. A Christian takes up his cross and denies himself and follows Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. A Christian is blessed when men despise him and say all manner of evil against him. A Christian has this priority of seeking first God’s highest and best in every decision he takes. A Christian loves God more than he loves his father and mother and wife and husband and children. A Christian will pluck out his eye or cuts off his hand if it offends God: “Better I go to heaven with one eye than hell with two,” he says. If I should say to you, “Now it is all up to you. Choose this lifestyle” Left to yourself you would always say No to the Lord. You won’t come to Christ that you might have life. It seems foolishness to you. You cannot understand or appreciate what I say. It is utter suicide for everything that is important to you to turn from it and begin to follow Christ. You are quite unable to come to Christ by yourself.

God the Father must work in you; he must change your desires and values; he must remove the selfishness within; he must show you the glory of the Christian life; he must give you the faith to trust in Christ and the repentance to turn from your sin, and that is what he had done in the life of Mary. So she was properly afraid as God’s messenger spoke to her, but she was not antagonistic, and not scornfully unbelieving. She was curious. She wanted to know more, and all that was the evidence that God had highly favoured her and set his love on her. No one comes to Christ because they think it is a good idea. If anyone hears a message from God and entrusts herself to Jesus it is only because God has drawn her to him and shown his favour towards her. If you are scandalized that I do believe in this then argue with Jesus – he’s the one who said it.

iii] The Lord is with you. That is the third thing Gabriel told Mary. Of all the people in Israel at that time why should God be with Mary? Of all the people in the world why her? Why would God care a wink about an impoverished teenage girl living in the back of beyond? I haven’t got the foggiest idea. It doesn’t make sense to me at all, that a holy God should give a moment’s thought to sinners, to rebels, to sleazeballs, to a man who deserved to be crucified for what he’d done, to a son who has taken all his father’s hard-earned money and blown it all on women, drink and parties – I have no idea why God should love people like that. There was a man who was a cheating tax-collector who robbed everyone in the area of their money. If they didn’t pay up he would have them thrown into prison. Why should God set his favour on a man like that and draw him to his Son as the great forgiver of such sins? There is no explanation except that that is how God is. That’s the way Jesus delights to be, the Lord of lost teenagers who have nothing to live for. The Lord promises that he will be with them for ever and ever. He will love them and help them, and when they fall he will personally pick them up and clean them up and keep them going. He will never forsake them. “I will be with you.” Don’t you want such favour to rest on you, welcoming you with warm greetings, and accompanying you through this lonely world and home? God has brought you to read this message and given you grace to keep reading it to the end because he loves you and wanted you to hear the truth, of his sovereign grace to inconsequential people. His desire is that you receive these words into your mind, cry to God that you understand them, count the cost and then determine to receive him – the merciful One – into your life.

27 May 2007 GEOFF THOMAS