Misread Text: Luke 1:37

Often times, people tend to look at a Scriptural text without having any interest in the context of the passage. Instead, the passage is used to reflect one’s own view or to teach something that is not the intended meaning for the text. I call these specific texts that are associated with improper exegesis “misread texts”, for most of the time they are indeed misread. This will be a recurring series on the blog as there are far too many verses to deal with in one post.

In the past, I have tackled many verses that were taken out of context and abused to match someone’s misguided theology. Most of these texts are taken out of context because of this new move of Evangelicalism that is centered around “self”. Basically, things concerning “my health”, “my needs”, and “my wants”. Many people’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds are packed with verses misquoted to boost self-esteem or to make someone feel good. Does that mean Scripture isn’t encouraging? Absolutely not.

The most encouraging book ever penned is the Holy Bible. It is the only written word that contains the truth and hope of Christ’s work of redemption. Without the Bible, there is no comfort and there is no hope. Our source of encouragement is the proper understanding of the God of the Bible: sovereign ruler, righteous King, and loving Savior. Instead, we take Philippians 3:14, Matthew 7:1, or Jeremiah 29:11 out of context to validate our own selfishness, and claim that God supports us unconditionally. It’s tied to the prosperity movement, an understanding which says God wants you to prosper, which is infiltrating many believers’ hearts even as I write this post.

Supposedly, God wants you to have the biggest home, the most luxurious car, the fastest boat, etc. American Dream meets Christianity is the new norm. Not only that, it is believed that God doesn’t want anyone to be sick, broken, or hurt. It is the devil that causes any suffering according to many Word of Faith preachers. So, we now have books such as The Power of I Am, which preaches that you can declare prosperity in your life by taking God’s name in vain. We have so-called “preachers” like Benny Hinn who teach that God wants you to prosper. These preachers will say that anything that you want, anything you can imagine, and anything you have ever dreamed of will be given to you by God. They always use the same verse: Luke 1:37.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Joel Osteen or Dr. Charles Stanley (please don’t stone me fellow Baptists; TBN fanboys…go for it), Luke 1:37 has been taken out of it’s original context to reassure someone’s dreams and ambitions. This provokes people to believe that God is concerned with earthly, temporary prosperity. You want a Mercedes? Then God will give it to you! After all, Luke 1:37 (ESV) says,”Nothing will be impossible with God.” This has to mean that as long as I pray, tithe, and be a good religious boy or girl then God will give me what I want, right? Wrong…absolutely wrong.

God is not a genie lamp that you rub to get what you want, and God is not a gum-ball machine which gives you a treat for money in return. This is worse then a childish understanding of God; it is a false, heretical, and dangerous view of God. God is the sovereign Lord who preordains all things to come to pass. However, the misreading of Luke 1:37 makes people honestly believe that nothing that they could want is impossible for God to give. Is that what the verse is trying to say? In order to figure out the message of the verse, we must always read within context.

The verse comes from a passage that details the account of archangel Gabriel’s message to virgin Mary. Gabriel says these things to Mary in Luke 1:28-33 (ESV): “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!…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.'” This was an amazing news from the Lord to His people, but Mary was frightened.

Like any person would react in this situation, Mary was startled and moved. She was a virgin and she heard the Savior of the world would grow in her womb. Her Son would have a Kingdom that won’t end, and He will be called the Son of the Most High God. How could one not think in their minds, “This is impossible!” How could a virgin give birth to a baby when she has not known a man in the biblical sense? How could a lowly woman from Nazareth give birth to the Son of the Most High? How can all this be done? It is a difficult thing to grasp which is what led to Mary’s response in Luke 1:34 (ESV) saying,”‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?'”

Mary’s response, unlike Zachariah’s, was not unbelief. Her response was one of worry and concern. The coming of the Savior depended on her womb and she didn’t think she could be the right person for it. However, Gabriel continued in Luke 1:35-37 (ESV) saying this, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

This passage’s focus is very clear as each time Gabriel speaks he glorifies Christ. He esteemed the Savior and even told Mary that the power of God overshadows Mary. God didn’t esteem the desires, wishes, or dreams of Mary. There was a miracle that was about to take place: the birth of Jesus Christ, from the womb of virgin Mary. This was supposed to come to pass as it was foretold by Isaiah long ago. Mary was the chosen vessel, and God would not let His will be thwarted. Christ’s glory was on the line and the salvation of the elect was in order. Gabriel didn’t tell Mary to “keep dreaming”, “dream big”, or my personal favorite “test God”. The context of this verse is simple: if God plans something to take place, then it’s fulfillment is not impossible.

There is a reason that the text says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” If it is God’s plan then it will be done. This has nothing to do with God fulfilling our own passion. After all, Gabriel himself says that the God’s power overshadowed Mary (basically meaning that God would do the work in Mary’s womb). This case was to prove that God was great, not our own desires. If we are to do anything, then we are to make sure our will is going to match the will of God. Only then can what we desire be possible in Christ, for our deepest desires would match the desires of God. May we seek the will of God and let our hearts flee from any carnal desires.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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