The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God" Luke 1:30.
Before Gabriel's visit, Mary was an obscure Hebrew young woman who worshipped and obeyed God. She was virtuous in all her ways, even in her engagement to Joseph, a carpenter.
Mary found favor with God just as Gabriel announced to her. FAVOR. What does it mean to find favor with God? At first pass, it means to be blessed by Him. Yet, much more is wrapped in its meaning than blessing alone. FAVOR bears scrutiny and investigation. After all, in the case of Mary, Jesus' mother, what did God's favor look like in its totality? An examination of the Bible and history reveals much more.
Mary was honored to miraculously conceive, carry and birth the Son of God as a helpless infant.
Mary was privileged to raise Him as her son until He reached adulthood.
Mary would be and has been acclaimed throughout history for her pious role in God's plan of salvation for all mankind.
However, that is not the end of the search for Mary's favor. The favor of becoming Jesus' mother continued throughout Mary's life time. It included many events and happenings Mary could not have anticipated when she humbly answered Gabriel:
"...behold the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word" Luke 1:38.
From the day of Gabriel's announcement and looking forward, Mary's favor meant that
she was to bear a child without first consummating a marriage;
it meant she was marked as a woman who should have been stoned to death for alleged immorality;
it meant she would be gossiped about for the pregnancy's timing;
it meant she would travel painfully by donkey in her ninth month of pregnancy so Jesus could be born in Bethlehem and fulfill the prophecy of Micah;
it meant her son would be called illegitimate and a bastard;
it meant that when she and Joseph traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, her heart would suffer on their way back to Nazareth when they searched for three days before finding Jesus teaching in the Temple;
it meant as a young woman her heart would be pierced as she watched her son nailed to a Roman cross to die for sins not His own.
But there's more!
Favor meant that way back in Leviticus 12:8 God had intentionally made provision for women too poor to afford a lamb so that Mary could use two pigeons (Luke 2:24) as the sacrifice for her postpartum cleansing in the Temple;
it meant she would see and hear old Simeon take her baby into his arms and bless Him, then prophesy that Mary's own soul would be pierced with a sword;
it meant that Anna, the aged prophetess, also would praise God for letting her see the Savior who would bring redemption to the world;
it meant that all travel expenses to hide from Herod in Egypt would be provided miraculously by God through the regal gifts for Jesus from wise men from the East;
it meant she would witness Jesus' first miracle as He transformed water in big pots into the best wine at a wedding feast;
it meant that before Jesus breathed His last, He made the apostle John responsible for Mary's continued care;
it meant she would pray in the Upper Room for 14 days with the rest and receive the Holy Spirit's baptism just as Jesus had promised.
Undoubtedly, many other joys and wounds were hidden in Mary's heart that are not recorded by the Gospels. All of them were wrapped in the word 'favor'. Mary could not have anticipated them when she accepted the responsibility God placed on her. Had she known, would it have made a difference?
To be a recipient of God's favor means that God has found you faithful in seeking His heart and that He can trust you with a responsibility He considers essential to His purpose. It does not mean you will be spared pain and suffering. It does mean that every step of the way He will be with you and will provide for you according to your need.
Mary had not sought special notoriety when she daily loved on God. She found favor with God by being faithful to Him every minute preceding Gabriel's announcement to her with his admonition not to be afraid. She did not know what lay ahead for her when she praised God for Gabriel's declaration to her. She simply expressed her utmost belief in and love for God and trusted Him for each step forward. The rest is history as recorded in the Gospels and the book of Acts.
If we seek God's favor, we are asking for more than we realize. His word says that "all who will live godly will suffer persecution" II Timothy 3:12. That's part of the package. As Mary did, will we receive the whole lot thankfully? Part way through the journey into that favor, will we fall apart or renege like the seed sown in Matthew 13:5-7?
All that God requires from us is that we be found faithful. His favor will supply the rest!