Publication: Pastoral Letter, October 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
In my previous letter to you, I wrote about “Before We Proceed” from Isaiah 55. We looked at God’s offer of abundance if we seek Him; He promised to pour out His Word like rain and give “seed to the to the sower and bread to the eater.” We “would go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” I said that the Lord would provide our “GPS” for the unknown road ahead.
This letter comes from the angel Gabriel’s encounter with Mary, from Luke 1:26 38. It is about receiving the Word of God. The prophetic Word of God brings Him to our door, but we must open the door to His voice.
Many years ago, I brought a prophetic word in a meeting, and on the way home, my wife did what wives often do – she asked me a question: “How do you know the Lord is speaking that way?” She wasn’t asking in disbelief; she really wanted to know. I wasn’t ready to answer “how”, I just knew. Then, I was like the man who had a long beard and someone asked, “Do you sleep with your beard on top of the cover or under it?” He had never thought about it. He finally cut it off because he could not sleep either way!
I’ll say more about that later, but the focus must not be on the means by which He speaks, but the message that He speaks. God uses many means: prophets, pastors, friends, and even a donkey! But we must learn to recognize His voice however it comes, and receive His Word. God’s Word is given to us for many purposes: to reveal Himself, to impart truth, to guide, to correct, comfort, rebuke, bring about repentance, encourage, or save us from destruction. Sometimes He foretells events, but in any case, it prepares us for a better future. What I want to discuss now is our hearing and responding – as Mary did.
Jesus is the eternal Word of God made flesh. He is the same One who spoke in the beginning and the same One who has sustained all things ever since (see John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:16-17). The Word Who was God, came from eternity into time and space by the Word of God spoken by the angel Gabriel (whose name means, “Yaweh is mighty”). He was sent and authorized by the Father to deliver the incomprehensible message that a virgin would conceive the Son of God (see Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7). The angel was sent to a particular person in a particular place. It wasn’t Gabriel’s idea, it was the Father’s.
The message was specific. “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord will give 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.” Mary’s response was one of amazement, “How can this be, since I have not known (had intimate relationship with) a man?”
Gabriel then went on to tell her how: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy One Who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Mary’s response was simple and believing, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
Gabriel had also told her that her relative, Elizabeth, who was way past child-bearing age, was also pregnant. Mary did two significant things: she believed and she made the long (more than fifty miles) journey to see Elizabeth!
It is interesting to note that “Mary” means bitter, and I’ll tell why later on.
It is important to look at the elements in the conception of Jesus, because it tells us volumes about how the Word of God is formed in us.
The spoken Word of God is the means that the Lord used to incarnate the living, eternal Word. There is something uniquely powerful about the spoken Word (see Psalm 29; Romans 10:14-17). Notice that Jesus often speaks about hearing. Sound has power, uniquely so when that sound is the voice of God, by whatever means He may use.
The messenger must be sent. The authenticating element in prophetic ministry is that the messenger is sent by God (see Jeremiah 23). Even a false prophet can tell the truth, but since a prophet claims to speak for God, they must be sent by God_Gabriel and all of his true angels wait before God and are at His disposal. The angel simply brought the Word; the Holy Spirit did it. When God speaks and we deliver His Word, we do not have to try to be the Holy Spirit. God performs His own Word.
Jesus was sent from the Father to deliver the message of the Father’s Kingdom. And Jesus has sent us to do the same (see John 20:21). He did not send us to simply go to the Church; He sent the Church to go to the world!
The Word was specific and to a specific individual. The Word of God is not vague. The angel knew exactly who he was looking for and what he would say. The Word was personal and taken personally.
Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word is sharp, dividing soul and spirit. It penetrates and separates self-awareness from God-awareness; self-centeredness from God-centeredness; self-service from Christ’s service. “It gets into our bones.” It goes beyond “feel-good” to find God.
Let’s go back to my wife’s question, “How do you know?” I look for three things: inspiration, revelation, and clarity. Is the Holy Spirit moving upon me? Is He illuminating my understanding, and is it clear to me_clear enough that I can speak it succinctly? These three issues determine whether or not I have something to say. The final issue is timing: is this the appropriate moment to say it?
I am not a “psychic”, just a messenger. If I think about it too much, my own reasoning will pollute the purpose of God. His reason for giving us a word may have nothing to do with what we think it to be.
Earlier in this letter, I mentioned that the name “Mary” means “bitter”. That knowledge could spoil an otherwise beautiful name. But there is a reason why she was bitter. The message may be sweet in our mouth but bitter in consequence (I’ll say more in the next letter). Jeremiah, John the apostle, and all who speak the Word will experience some bitter consequences of telling or bearing the truth.
The Word to Mary was in line with the prophet’s words. Prophecy is not new revelation; while it may be new to us, it is always embedded in the written Word. Isaiah and others had said that the Incarnation would come to pass. It’s important to know the words of the prophets and all previously approved messengers.
The Word to Mary was confirmed, not only by the Old Covenant, but by others who were hearing from God: Zacharias, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna. It was also confirmed by the facts: It came to pass! I am amazed how many people listen to others whose words often fail, but yet people continue to listen and give credence (see politicians and self-styled prophets).
The Word sanctified Mary; it set her apart. She kept herself from a physical relationship with Joseph until the Child was born. The Word is intended to set us apart from the pollution of “pop culture”. We are chosen to bear the Word.
The Word of God overcame physical limitations. The Word overcomes us, then we overcome the world (see I John 5:1-5). Jesus, the Living Word, overcame all opposition, even the Cross, hell, and the grave. If Christ be in us, we are more than conquerers through Him and His Word (see Romans 8:37).
The Word of God does not overcome because of us; we overcome because of it. Faith is not reasonable or circumstantial; it comes by hearing from a Sovereign God, and enables us to do God things! He watches over His Word to perform it, when we believe it (see Luke 1:45).
Mary’s faith and Mary’s womb give us a model of receptivity, faith, and how to treasure what God says, by whatever means. If we do, Christ will grow mightily in us and work mightily through us. The Word of God is not merely to be studied or to be learned; it is to be lived.
So, Mary is a beautiful model; she gives us an example. It was God’s initiative, not hers; God’s Word, not just the messenger’s; and her receptivity … all of this gave us the Son of God. She is to be called “blessed” indeed.
Ours is to seek, wait, listen, and obey. Speaking is His decision and in His time. Ours is to say, “behold the servant of the Lord”, believe, and make the journey. Ours is to seek confirmation, endure any bitterness, and not count the odds. Ours is to behold how He wonderfully works through His Sovereign Word and Spirit.
Is He saying something to you? If not, will you seek him? If so, will you obey Him? The question is not “Do you believe in God?” The question is “Do you believe God?” I pray that the prophetic Spirit returns to us in great power and that the Word of God grows and multiplies through us.
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We invite you to check out our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook pages, and you can also visit our main website at www.csmpublishing.org, where you can find news, resources, and regular updates. Thank you for your prayers and watch for next month’s message on “The Prophetic Spirit.”
P.S. Mark your calendar now for the 2012 CSM Gatlinburg Conference, which will focus on receiving and sharing the prophetic word of the Lord. We will gather May 16-18 at the beautiful Park Vista Hotel adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Watch our website for more details!
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Luke, John, Colossians, Romans, Psalms, Jeremiah, 1 John,
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.