Outward AppearancesSeptember 28, 2010
Do you ever look outside and think, “What a beautiful day! The sun is shining. It looks warm and inviting.” But then when you actually go outside the sun is deceiving and it’s colder than you thought. Or, what about the opposite… It looks gray and gloomy. It feels as if you should slip on your wool socks and a warm sweater only to discover that it’s really warm and humid. And putting on a sweater would be the farthest thing from your mind. As I am reviewing my Bible study lesson on Luke, chapter 1 this week there seems to be this same sort of contrast going on. Not everything is as it looks from the outside.
Elizabeth, who is “well along in years” suddenly finds herself pregnant. Verse 12 says that Zechariah’s prayers had been heard and that he and his wife will have a son and his name will be John. Elizabeth, in verse 24, says “the Lord has taken away my disgrace.”
In contrast, Mary finds herself pregnant with the Son of God, the Messiah. While Elizabeth’s disgrace (from an outward view) has been removed by having a child, it’s likely that Mary now faces disgrace by having a child. It’s possible that Zechariah could have been urged by friends & family to divorce Elizabeth because she was not able to give him children. Likewise, Joseph in Matthew 1 contemplates quietly divorcing Mary because of her pregnancy. Both couples find themselves expecting a child and yet from the outside one circumstance looks favorable and the other looks disgraceful. The Bible declares all of these men & women upright in God’s eyes yet the world sees them differently. Zechariah & Elizabeth were upright in the sight of God. Mary had found favor with God. Joseph was a righteous man.
How many times have our own lives, or the lives of those around us, appeared to look one way and yet from God’s perspective completely different? It’s certainly true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. And we can’t always judge the conditions of our lives or each others lives by their outward appearances. It encourages me that God has a plan for each of our lives. We may not be able to see it. It might look really different on the outside. But if we could see it from God’s perspective, it would make perfect sense! My prayer is that we walk through life more like Mary and say, “I am the Lord’s servant,” regardless of what outward appearances may look like.