Abba, please explain it to me again.” The young girl looked at her father with imploring eyes.
“The prophet Jeremiah says that those who glory must glory in that they yada’ Yahweh—not in their wealth or their might [Jer. 9:23, 24, HCSB].1 Hosea says that we must press on to yada’ the Lord, and that He will come to us as surely as the “spring showers” [Hosea 6:3, HCSB]. This is what I want more than all things, Abba. How do I come to yada’ Yahweh?”
The father looked at his daughter tenderly. He sent his sons to the yeshiva, where they were taught by the rabbis. How he wished they had half the passion for the Torah that his daughter had.2 “ Yada’ means to know something or someone by experience, Mary. But even more, yada’ speaks to the promise—the covenant—between each of us and our Maker. Yahweh made a covenant with Abraham based on the relationship they shared. Abraham obeyed when God called him, and as they journeyed together, they became good friends. To Abraham was given the privilege to yada’ Yahweh.”
Mary thought about her father’s words as she built up the fire and kneaded bread that evening. Abraham did not understand where he was going, she thought, yet he obeyed and grew to truly yada’ Yahweh. How can I, too, follow like that? “I do not know how to yada’ You, King of the universe,” she whispered, “but You know this is truly the desire of my heart.”
* * *
Early the next morning Mary slipped out to walk in the fields outside of town where she frequently went to pray. “Oh, my Yahweh,” she breathed. “Help me. I willingly choose to surrender all that I am and be Your very slave, my Lord. I just want to understand how to truly yada’ You.”
When she opened her eyes, she realized she was not alone and abruptly stood to her feet, feeling embarrassed, unsure of what the other morning wanderer had heard.
“Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” What a strange greeting, Mary thought as she squinted into the gray light. Who is this stranger?
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”3
A barrage of thoughts crashed through Mary’s head. She fell again to her knees, looking desperately at the man who could only be a messenger from Yahweh. But what was he talking about? She was engaged to be married, but the wedding was still many weeks away. She had so many questions she did not know where to begin. “How can this be,” she stammered, “since I have not been intimate with a man?”
The stranger looked her directly in the eyes and calmly explained. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” Mary barely heard the rest as he continued. He said that the Holy Spirit will come upon me? The power of the Most High will overshadow me? Oh, Lord Yahweh, I prayed for yada’ . . . I told You I would be Your slave, but this is more than I can understand. Quietly words from the prophet Isaiah flowed clearly into Mary’s mind. “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14, HCSB).
“The virgin. Immanuel,” Mary whispered. “God with us.” Her eyes suddenly widened in revelation. “The Messiah! He will be with us. Yahweh Himself is coming to teach us the meaning of yada’.” With tears cascading down her cheeks, Mary repeated to the holy messenger what she had told Yahweh only minutes before. “I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word.” Suddenly she was alone, watching the sunrise as she knelt in the dew-soaked meadow.
* * *
As Mary walked back to the village, her head and heart were crowded with thoughts and emotions. Would anyone believe her? What would her parents say? What would Joseph do? Would they stone her when they found out she was with child? But the messenger had promised the Child would be Immanuel! God with us! Like Abraham, who knew not where he was going, she too was on an unfamiliar path, but she also must obey.
And then she remembered Elizabeth. The messenger had said that Elizabeth, too, was with child. One pregnancy was as unbelievable as the other— but Elizabeth was an old and wise woman. She would listen without judgment. She would help Mary think this through.
When Mary arrived back home, her parents thought it strange when she suddenly insisted that she had to leave immediately to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
No objections would deter their determined young daughter, so they sent her and an escort to the Judean hill country with their blessing. When Mary burst through the door unannounced, it seemed that Elizabeth had been waiting for her. With a smile brighter than the noonday sun, Elizabeth reached out her arms and said, “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me!”
Mary collapsed into Elizabeth’s ample arms and sobbed. Elizabeth knew. Mary didn’t have to repeat the long speech she had rehearsed all the way from Galilee to Judah. The relief was like the breaking of a dam, and the older woman just held the young girl and allowed her to release all that had been closeted inside her. When Mary finally raised her head, though her face was wet with tears, there was an expression in her eyes that could be described only as the purest joy.
Dipping back into her memory of the psalms that she had studied with Abba, Mary pieced together a song of praise that flowed straight from her heart: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed because the Mighty One has done great things for me” “just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
After three months of visiting with her gray-haired cousin, Mary ’s waist was noticeably enlarged under her flowing robe, and Elizabeth was great with child. The two women had daily shared the miraculous experiences of their God-ordained pregnancies along with the homespun responsibilities of daily living, but Mary knew that it was time to go home. It was time to share her story with her family and Joseph.
* * *
As she headed home to Galilee, she thought of the verses from the psalms again and the promise God had made to Abraham and his children. Abraham, the friend of God. Abraham, who had received the covenant. Abraham, who had experienced what it was like to yada’ Yahweh. All the way home she prayed to have the faith of the famed patriarch.
“Abba,” Mary asked after the initial greetings had been exchanged upon her arrival home, “will you walk with me out in the field before sunset?” Looking at her quizzically, Mary’s father pulled on his outer garment and opened the outside door. The two walked in silence, leaving the village behind—both absorbed in their own thoughts, and wondering what the other was thinking.
Mary had practiced her words carefully, but in her anxiety the story just tumbled out with tears of both anguish and joy. “Abba, I prayed to experience yada’, and Yahweh has answered. The child I carry will bring the relationship of yada’ to all of us in a way far above and beyond what I ever could have imagined.” Her father was silent for what seemed like an eternity, and his face was full of shadows in the setting sun. Mary could not guess what he was thinking. When he finally turned to her and spoke, she saw that his tender eyes were filled with tears.
“Yes, my daughter. At last the Messiah has come. And the King of the universe has chosen you to carry Him and nurture Him. You are called to mother the One who will save Israel. Like that of Abraham, I fear that yours will not be an easy journey. But Mary, my child, Yahweh has answered your prayers. You will indeed have the blessing to yada’ Yahweh as no one has ever done before. And as no one—ever—will do again.”
1 Texts credited to HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
2 Mary clearly had a good mastery of Scripture to be the instructor of the Boy Jesus. “As a little child He [Jesus] was daily at His mother’s knee taught from the scrolls of the prophets” (Ellen G. White, Education [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903], p. 185).
3 This story refers to passages from Luke 1:24-56, HCSB.