Advent Podcast Day 8: “Treasuring God’s Word”

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Luke 1:26-34

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 10, 2017, and you’re listening to Day 8 of my series of Advent podcasts. You just heard the pioneering Christian heavy metal band Stryper, and their original song, “Reason for the Season,” a single they released in 1984.

Today’s scripture is Luke 1:26-34, which I will read now.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

In yesterday’s episode, when Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife were going to have a child, even though they were too old and they were unable to have children when they were younger, Zechariah asked: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel punished Zechariah for his doubt.

In today’s scripture, which takes place six months later, we read Mary’s response to Gabriel in verse 34, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” and we wonder if there isn’t a double-standard: Doesn’t Mary doubt? Isn’t her question similar to Zechariah’s?

And the answer is, “No—it couldn’t be more different.” Zechariah doubts God’s power to perform this miracle. Mary, by contrast, accepts that God is somehow going to work this miracle—she only wants to know how. Zechariah wants to know whether it will happen; Mary wants to know how it will happen. Big difference.

Mary is inquisitive. She ponders things. She thinks things through. We see this in a few different places. After the angel greets her, Luke tells us that she was “trying to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Later, after Jesus was born and the shepherds come to the manger and tell her about the angels’ announcement to them, Luke tells us, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Twelve years later, when Mary finds Jesus in the temple, astounding the Bible teachers with his wisdom and insight, and Luke tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things in her heart.”

How do we follow Mary’s example today? How do we “treasure up” the things of God in our hearts? That’s straightforward enough… By devoting our lives to God’s Word: reading it; meditating on it; studying it; memorizing it.

I am a sucker for Bibles. Granted, I’m a pastor; I’m sort of in the Bible business. But I have too many. Just the other day I read about a new Charles Spurgeon Study Bible. Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of all time, and I think this new Bible cross references ideas and illustrations in his sermons with different parts of the Bible. I’m like, “That’s going on my Christmas list!

But like I said, I’m a sucker for new Bibles. But I have a favorite Bible, the ESV Study Bible. I’m not making an endorsement; if the fine folks at Crossway want to pay me, I’d be happy to endorse it. Are you listening, Crossway? But it’s just the Bible that I’ve been reading nearly every day for the past six years. And I’m happy to report that I’m literally tearing it up. The cover is starting to separate. The onion skin pages are getting badly wrinkled and worn. To make matters worse, pages are starting to fall out. In fact, pages 1985 and 1986, which includes most of Luke chapter 13, has come loose entirely. I tuck it in before I shut the Bible so I won’t lose it entirely.

Listen… It is a very good sign that this Bible is worn out! Because let me tell you a true story: Not long after I became a Christian in 1984, I saved my money to buy an expensive Bible—for me. It was the NIV Study Bible. I loved it. By the time I graduated high school, the cover had fallen off. It was worse for wear.

So someone gave me, as a graduation gift, a new NIV Study Bible to replace it. Only this one was leather, and it had my name engraved in gold on the cover. It was beautiful.

Friends, I’m sad to say I never needed to replace that one—through four years of college and well into my professional life. Not only did I not wear it out, sometime around 22, 23, I misplaced it. Maybe I gave it away, I don’t remember.

It’s not that I no longer considered myself a Christian. But I had “abandoned the love I had at first.” Frankly, I fell out of love with Jesus. Like Zechariah, I was skeptical—but much more so than he was. And here’s the thing: Before I fell out of love with Jesus, and before I was plagued with doubt, something happened first… I got distracted by the worries of life. I got caught up in school, in friends, in professional ambition, in trying to make my way in the world…

And I stopped doing what Mary does in today’s scripture: I stopped treasuring God’s Word. That came first! That preceded all my trouble. Anyway, I’m happy to say that I repented many years ago. So this badly worn ESV Study Bible reminds me of the many ways God has saved me through his Word.

All that to say, “Don’t follow my example! Please follow Mary’s: Keep on treasuring the things of God by turning—daily—to God’s Word.”

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