Yesterday, I was skipping through some different blogs and websites, some new to me, some not, and I came across a certain reference to the passages in the Scriptures that discuss finding favor with the Lord. (Or favour if you are good buddies with King James — looks fancy.)
I can’t get it off my mind.
And the more I think about it, I realized that I’m not even really sure I know what it means. It’s one of those churchy phrases that I’ve heard since the beginning of my darkening-church-doorways time, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really looked into what it actually calls for.
Hmmmm…… God’s going to do me a favor? I’m God’s favorite? God likes me? God is pleased with me? I’ve done a good job? Because I’ve been uber-obedient, I get rewarded?
Really, I wasn’t sure…so I went digging. I busted out every ink and paper translation of the Bible that we personally own and then found the rest of the translations online. I lined them all up and tried to make sense of what finding favor really meant and why God kept impressing it on my mind and was guiding me to figure it out.
Here’s what I found out:
Basically, lots of folks in the Word found favor with the Lord. (I find it interesting that the Scriptures use the equation of So-and-so found favor with God over and over. May just be me and my highly unsuperior knowledge of the semantics of the Word, but just off the cuff, I would think it would be God finding favor with the people…not the other way around. It puts all the work on the person…not God. Interesting.) Abel, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, David, the Israelites, Mary, Jesus as a boy….all these people are listed out as favor-finders, favor-growers, and favor-enjoyers. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t get them all. Queen Esther is said to have found favor with the king. Zechariah names a staff “Favor” in a parable about God’s covenants with His people. The angels sing about peace being given to the people with whom God’s favor rests when they announced Baby Jesus’ birth. And there are numerous references to the “time of God’s favor” or the “year of God’s favor.”
That’s a lot of favor.
In cross-referencing and translation-comparing, I discovered that finding favor with the Lord is used different ways. In Psalm 90:17, favor is refered to as having the Lord’s beauty or loveliness rest on us (I especially like that one). When discussing Abel, Genesis 4:4 uses “favor”, and Hebrews 11:4 says he was “commended with righteousness.” Exodus 33:12 says that Moses found favor with the Lord and that He knew Moses by name and was pleased with him. In Numbers 11:15, Moses pleads with God to release him from the burden of the whiny Israelites and even spouts back to God something like “just do me a favor and kill me.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 and Isaiah 49:8 speak of the time of God’s favor or the time of God’s choosing or the time being right.
And I could keep going and going. But at risk of sounding sermonesque….I’ll stop.
Perhaps, though, my favorite reference of all the references to finding favor is Mary.
Sweet, innocent, village-girl, barely-a-teenager Mary.
Luke 1:30 tells us that the angel, in his announcement, seems to comfort Mary and her fear by letting her know that it would all be okay because “you have found favor with God.” (NIV)
Ummmm….I’m all about finding favor with God. Really, I am. But, without in any way trying to be sacrilegious or disrespectful, I’m not sure that would calm my fears. Just sayin’. I think I’d still be scared out of my mind.
Finding favor has really good connotations. From what I can gather, in a nutshell, it means that God is pleased with us, that we’ve proved faithful, and so, God is going to give us a great blessing. The Message translation uses the phrase “God has a surprise for you” (Boy, did He ever!) when the angel talked to Mary. The Good News Translation says “God has been gracious to you.” The Amplified Bible says Mary “found grace with God.” And “God is pleased with you” is how the New International Readers Version describes what the angel spoke to the frightened girl.
So what is God trying to teach me about finding favor with the story of the young mother of our Savior?
I think God wants to tell me that faithfulness matters. All the folks who are favor-finders were just that. Faithful. They often stepped out on faith and did crazy stuff for our Sovereign God. And when they did the crazy….God was pleased. And gracious. And He knew them by name. And commended them as righteous. And justified them through faith. And, He tended to give them lots of surprises.
So…God has asked me to be faithful. And just trust Him. And believe. And hope. And do the crazy.
Now for my reward? It’ll come in my perfect timing and in perfect ways and all wrapped up in Christmas bows and ribbons, right? Because that’s the warm-fuzzy feeling I get about this whole finding favor thing.
Not so, says God.
Abel was murdered by his own brother. Noah had to spend over a year on a smelly, stinky boat with only his ornery family to look at and talk to, and that was after he was the laughing-stock of the entire land. Moses had to lead a mass of ungrateful whiny people through the desert for an unsightely amount of time, only to gaze at the Promised Land from afar. Gideon started out a coward, and though he ended up being a significant ruler and leader for God’s people, after he died, his family was treated horribly by the people that he had worked to save. Samuel, though a phenomenal leader, had to deal with corrupt and disobedient sons. David succumbed to the temptation of adultery and murder. And then…
I will, in no way, negate the beauty of the virgin birth. Of the portrayal of absolute love that God the Father lavished on us by using this young sweet girl as a vessel to bring life to our Immanuel here on earth.
But…just thinking about Mary and her favor finding….it wasn’t so glamorous. Not by a long stretch.
She was a child loaded up with heavy responsibility. She had to leave her family. Her friends ridiculed her. She lost her reputation. Her fiance almost abandoned her. She couldn’t even stay with her feet propped up at 9 months pregnant. Nope, instead she had to make a torturous trip by donkey. She had to not only deliver her baby in a strange land, but also surrounded by manure and livestock. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she had to go through labor and delivery alone with an inexperienced and frightened Joseph as her only help. No mom or sister or friend or even a stranger woman to tell her what to expect or do during the birthing process. She had to raise a son that was always bullied and ridiculed and misunderstood (not an easy job for any mother). And then she sat and watched with her own eyes as her precious son was murdered and subjected to cruelty in the most obscene manner.
So this is how God shows He’s pleased with someone?
Wow. If I didn’t know better, I’d tuck my skirt-tail, turn, and say, “no-thank-ya.”
But, praise Jesus, I do know better.
Because though on the surface it would seem that many of these people of faith really get the raw-end of the deal for their faith, down-deep, where it really counts, their reward is ridiculously abundant. They were blessed beyond measure and reason. And all because they said “okay” to the crazy. They did the hard stuff. They decided to trust God instead of trust their own feelings and what the world was telling them.
I may not have started out the day praying to find favor with God, because, quite frankly, it didn’t look like it fit my prayers. It might mean that I don’t get my miracle in my marriage that I’ve been praying for in my way and in my timing. And, honestly, it’s easier for me to pray my way. It’s not easy to pray “Let Thy will be done.” And when I do try to pray that way, I usually feel like a fraud.
I know that, now, I want to find favor with God. If it follows the pattern, it will probably mean things not going to my plan or schedule. It will probably mean earthly heartache. And a whole lot more pain. But, I do know that my reward down-deep will be so great.
That to have God “pleased” with me; or to be “gracious” with me; or to “find grace” with me; or to “have a surprise” for me…..well, I’m thinking that sounds rather beautiful.
You know, like having the “beauty of the Lord rest upon us.” Psalm 90:17
Most of my study was done from the New International Version. As I said, I used lots of other translations for comparisons. My favorite parallel online source is www.biblegateway.com