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Bible Study Christmas Devotional

Jesus is Named & Presented

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:21-24 NKJV

Bridging the Gap

Circumcision

Jesus’ life represents movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He lived, died and was resurrected to usher in a new way for us to have forgiveness of our sins. The temple curtain will be torn, the veil between God and man destroyed. The law of Moses is fulfilled through Jesus. His participation in Mosaic legal requirements is the beginning of this role. Now, reigning at the right hand of the Father, the risen Jesus completely fulfills the role of high priest, see Hebrews 8.

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Bible Study Devotional

Shepherds Visit Baby Jesus

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Luke 2:16-20 NKJV

Receiving Visitors

Mary and Joseph, after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were unable to find a proper place to stay. Instead, they are in a stable area with the animals of the household. In this uncomfortable arrangement, Mary’s time comes and she gives birth to Jesus.

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Bible Study Devotional

Glory to God in the Highest

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:11-15 NKJV

Angelic Visitation

In keeping with the perspective of common people God inspired Luke to write about, we learn about common, lowly shepherds being given privileged information. To them is proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy- The Anointed One, The Christ, is here! The Savior, promised by God and his prophets many years ago, is here! This announcement must have confused them. They knew the Christ would be from the line of David, so the city of David made sense. But why is a baby the sign? Could the Anointed One be a baby, lying in a feeding trough, a manger?

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Bible Study Devotional

Zechariah’s Prophecy, Part 3

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 1:76-80 NKJV

Luke’s Details

Luke gives us more information about Mary and Zechariah than any other Gospel. His account includes details not found elsewhere in the Bible. This corresponds to what Luke stated at the beginning of his narrative. He promised to shed light on “all things from the very first”. Luke seems to have firsthand information from sources like Mary and Zechariah so that these beautiful songs are preserved for us today. Did they make you feel more certain about what you believe as Luke stated he desired for his readers?

Salvation

John’s message would be one of the necessity of salvation because of the sins of the people and the provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. John’s words were both challenging and comforting. It is because of the great mercy of God towards his people (literally translated “bowels of mercy”) that he saves. God loved the world so much that he sent his son Jesus to earth for our salvation. (John 3:16)

Although the word for salvation can have the sense of health or wellness, in this case, the fact that salvation is spiritual and not just political or physical is alluded to as Zechariah describes the role of remission of sins.

Breakthrough

Dayspring. A word we don’t use anymore but it is a picture of dawn. Dawn is daylight springing forth from darkness. The word in Greek, anatole, means “east”. It is used to convey the sun rising in the east as in the dawn. Interestingly, the ancient Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek translated the Messianic word Branch as anatole. Why? Possibly because both have the sense of a Messiah “breaking forth” or “breaking out”. The sun breaks out into the sky at daybreak and a branch breaks out from the root. Both metaphors reflect the breaking into human history of a deliverer and redeemer, Jesus.

Greek scholar Bill Mounce writes that the compass direction of orientation in the ancient Near East in the time of Jesus was east just as we use north in compasses today. Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer and King, comes from the exalted direction, the east. This Dayspring is also Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus graced the world with his presence for us!

Jesus didn’t come quietly or in a subtle way. The whole world was irrevocably changed when Jesus came on the scene in human form, as a helpless baby. He broke into our humanity with its sin, shame and death, to bring light. The light of Jesus is the glorious light of salvation.

Jesus in his own words confirmed Zechariah’s prophecy. He spoke of being light. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12, NKJV

Luke in writing about the Dayspring also brings to mind the vigorous and victorious image given to us by the prophet Malachi:

“But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2, NKJV

Zechariah’s words echo Isaiah’s prophecy (also repeated in Matthew 4:16):

“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2, NKJV

The light of Isaiah’s prophecy looks forward to our great hope in Jesus.

Prepare a Way in the Desert

John’s father summarizes his childhood in the final verse of this section. John grew spiritually as well as physically during this time. Zechariah tells us that John was in the desert until the start of his public ministry. This fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the LORD;

Make straight in the desert

A highway for our God.

Is 40:3 NKJV

Key Verse

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” NLT Luke 1:78-79

Prayer

Heavenly Father, We thank you for the glorious light of Jesus, the one who came to earth to save us and redeem us! Thank you for faithful prophets like John the Baptist and his father Zechariah who led the way for you. Fill us with fresh wonder about the miracle of Jesus being a born a baby, fully human and fully man, to live among us. What a wonderful, precious gift! Amen.

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Bible Verse Devotional

Zechariah’s Prophecy 2

That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Luke 1:71-75 NKJV

Victory in Jesus

Jesus came into the world to conquer sin and death that we too would find victory over that which keeps us from God. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We recognize that our primary adversary is Satan. He stands against us as an accuser and opposes everything that Jesus stands for. Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Promises Fulfilled

Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of God. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). God promised that through a descendant of Abraham all the world would be saved.

“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Genesis 12:3, NKJV

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7, NKJV

Tissot- God's Promises to Abram
Tissot- God’s Promises to Abram

Saved to Serve

Jesus saves so that we can serve. We are set free from sin, death and shame so that we can freely serve God and man. Perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear so we are free to live righteous despite risk. Yes, we may be misunderstood, hated and persecuted but if we live in holiness, we need not fear. We will be able to walk in holiness all of our lives and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6.

Key Verses

To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Luke 1:74-75 NKJV

Prayer

Thank you, Lord for freeing us from the bondage of sin and death and the accompanying fear. Help us to boldly serve you all the days of our lives. May we seek you as we desire to live in holiness and righteousness. Guide us today and every day for the rest of our lives. Amen.

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Bible Study Bible Verse Devotional

Zechariah’s Prophecy 1: Day 14

“Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,”

Luke 1:67–70, NKJV
The Prophecy of Zacharias (Zechariah)

We see again a strong theme of Luke, that of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people. Through the Holy Spirit, Zacharias speaks here of Jesus, the son of Mary, not his son John. The Holy Spirit showed the elderly father the promise of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, another theme in Luke as he seeks to make his readers certain of what they have learned. Zacharias learned firsthand of the holiness of God through the miraculous birth of his son. Now, he will proclaim this truth to all the congregation.

So begins an exuberant praise song of Zacharias, the first words he is able to utter since being struck mute at his meeting with the Angel Gabriel at the altar. This prophetic song is known by its Latin name which is derived from the first word, Benedictus, which means “Blessed be”. The Benedictus is one of three songs found in the beginning of Luke. The other two are Mary’s Magnificat and Simeon’s song. All three are prophetic revelations encased in praise.

In this case, we imagine a man who for 9 months or more has been unable to speak one word because of his doubt of Gabriel’s proclamation that Elizabeth would have a baby at her advanced age. Now the baby, John the Baptist, is here and Zacharias obeyed God in naming the baby John. His ability to speak comes back and with it a praise-filled prophecy tumbles forth out of his long silent mouth.

He blesses God for:

  1. Visiting his people
  2. Redeeming his people
  3. Raising up a salvation from the house of David
  4. Fulfilling the word of the prophets of old

Key Verse

““Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,” (Luke 1:68, NKJV)

The godly priest realizes that God has begun the work of coming among and redeeming his people. Jesus is to be born as a baby and called Immanuel, God With Us. Redemption is coming through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! He was born as a humble baby, died as a suffering servant and rose as a victor!

Lord, We praise you and we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to live among us and redeem us. Through him came the salvation of the whole world and there can be no better gift! Help us to proclaim this joyous news to others especially during this Christmas season. Amen.

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Bible Study Devotional

Zechariah Joins Elizabeth in Naming John: Day 13

And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:63-66 NKJV

A Second Chance

God gives people a chance to repent of sin, make up for a wrong deed or bad decision. Zechariah sinned against God by doubting him. God then made him unable to speak. Now, Zechariah is given again the opportunity to obey God in faith. This time, he acts in accordance to God’s will. He says that the child must be named John as the angel commanded. We can act like God in our relationships. When a child, spouse or friend wrongs us, we can choose to stay in unforgiveness or anger or we can give the person a chance to try again and do better. That’s called grace. God gave it to Zechariah and he lavishly gives it to you and me. We should be generous in giving this grace to others.

Overflow of the Heart

God knows our hearts. But actions demonstrate to a watching world who God is through those who worship him. Zechariah’s repentance and obedience were seen by the congregation of the faithful although his sin was before Gabriel and God only. Once Zechariah’s heart changed to faith and obedience, his public actions reflected his repentance. God then enabled Zechariah to speak. Through this episode, Zechariah has seen firsthand the power, majesty and mercy of God. His lips must praise the God who makes all speech possible. He can not restrain his praise. The praise of his heart ❤️ overflowed to his lips and God was glorified in the presence of the people.

The Encouragement of Praise

When God redeems is, picks us up and puts us back on the right path, all we can do is offer praise for his great mercy and love. Zechariah praises God with the voice God gives him. All the people see God’s power in this miracle and are encouraged and blessed by the praise flowing from Zechariah.

Let us take time often to praise God in the midst of others, especially when he delivers us. It will encourage and strengthen our fellow believers and can even bring souls to God.

Key Verse

And the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:66(b)

The hand of the Lord is with you. His mighty outstretched hand upholds you. When you stumble like Zechariah did, God will lift you up. God’s hand protects, provides and comforts. Guidance and discipline are in the loving hand of God. Praise God for not withdrawing his hand from us!

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. We praise you for your mighty strength and power and wisdom. With your hand you uphold the world. Yours are the hands that held back the Red Sea for Moses and we thank you for your hands clearing the path and making a way for us today. Help us to boldly obey you in faith knowing that your hand is always with us. Amen.

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Bible Study Bible Verse Devotional

John the Baptist is Born, the People Rejoice

“Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.””

(Luke 1:57–60, NKJV)

God’s Mercy and Faithfulness

God’s promise as given through the angel Gabriel is fulfilled in our first verse today showing God’s faithfulness. God used this miracle birth to strengthen the faith of the others in Elizabeth’s life. Once they heard of the childless, older woman giving birth, they knew that God’s miracle was the cause. God’s miracles are a sign of his mercy. Using the same word for “magnify” Mary used in the Magnificat, this verse tells us the Lord magnified his mercy to Elizabeth. An always merciful God showed great grace and mercy to Elizabeth. 

Rejoice With One Another

The miracle of the birth of John caused those around her to come and rejoice with Elizabeth. Similarly, once we focus on on God’s great mercy to us, especially in sending Jesus to die for our sins, we feel like rejoicing. Such unmerited favor shown to us by the Creator of all the world is cause for joy! What a privilege to rejoice with other believers as we testify about what the Lord has done for us. This is not a private event to be hidden from Elizabeth’s community but a time of proclaiming the mercy of God and celebrating a renewal of faith as all celebrate the blessing being given to one. 

A Public Life 

John will spend much of his life in public ministry. His life will not be his own but will be dedicated to the service of the Lord. The beginning of his life reflects this truth. Friends and relatives are gathered together for the beginning of John’s life, a life that points to our Savior Jesus. Elizabeth’s joy goes beyond her happiness at having a longed-for child late in life. She rejoices because God is going to fulfill his promises to Israel for a Savior and a King soon.

What’s in a Name?

Much is made of the naming of John in this passage. In the Old Testament, naming was a significant rite with religious significance. Names given by God were recognized as a special gift and especially meaningful. God gave new names as a sign of his new work in someone’s heart and life. In the New Testament, God gives us names as followers of Jesus Christ. We are overcomers, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, sons of God and a new creation in Christ among others. Remembering God’s names for us helps us to live in our true identity in Christ and reject names that God does not have for us.

Key Verse

When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58 (NKJV)

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness and promises fulfilled! You are still a mighty, miracle-working God and we praise you and give you honor and glory. Thank you for the miracle you did for Elizabeth that showed your great mercy to her just as you showed great mercy to us by sending Jesus to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Continue to grow us in the grace and knowledge of your Word. Amen.

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Bible Study Bible Verse Devotional

Magnificat 2: Day 11

He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Luke 1:51-56 (NKJV)
Artist James Tissot

Humility Relies on God’s Strength

Mary prophetically declares the teachings of her son, Jesus. Those who follow him are to be servants, not lords. Jesus warned his followers not to seek the best seats at a feast or desire public honor for religious duties. New Testament writers emphasized these teachings of their Master, Jesus. Echoing Mary, they write that if we humble ourselves before God, he will lift us up. James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:5-6

God’s Kingdom is Not What We Expect

In our world, the rich and mighty are strong and rule. The lowly are ruled over and live in want. God rules his Kingdom differently. The rich are scattered, the mighty are cast down. God fills the hungry Psalm 107:9 and lifts the low into high places Matthew 23:12. He helps those who serve him. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble James 4:6. Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior of the whole world, will be born to a peasant girl in the country among the animals. Nothing will be ever be the same.

God’s Promises Remembered, Soon to be Fulfilled

Mary knows God’s Word so she knows the story of Abraham and his covenant with God. God promised salvation to the world through Abraham and his seed, Israel. These promises are to be fulfilled in Jesus. It is because of God’s great mercy that he helps his people. Mary sings with gratitude for God’s remembrance of her and all of Israel. When Mary looked around at her earthly life, oppression under harsh Roman rule, a subsistence farming life that barely provided for her needs and was subject to times of lack, things did not look good. It was easy to think that God had forgotten Israel and his promises to them. But Mary knew differently. In faith, she believed what the angel told her. Incredible, yes. Impossible, no. Mary trusted that God was about to do a new thing. She joyfully sang and praised the Lord for what he was soon to do.

God’s Strength and Mercy

Mary continues with her theme of God’s strength and limitless power. She recognizes God as the ruler of all. She also speaks of God being merciful, helping those who serve him. The two traits come together in our mighty yet loving Father. He is strong enough to strike down enemies yet loves enough to rescue those who humble themselves before him. 

Key Verse

He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy. 

Luke 1:54

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for your mercy to us. We do not deserve all that you do for us except that we live by faith in Jesus. Thank you for giving us the righteousness of Christ and recognizing his sacrifice on our behalf. Because of Jesus, we are saved! Help us to humble ourselves and resist pride as we rely on you to lift us up. Give us a heart to praise and worship you with our eyes to heaven, not on our circumstances. Amen.

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Bible Study Bible Verse Devotional

Mary Learns of Elizabeth’s Pregnancy: Day 8

“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.”

(Luke 1:36–40, NKJV)
Mary’s Journey to Elizabeth

Comfort and Confirmation

Continuing with Luke’s theme of God doing the impossible, the angel Gabriel informs Mary of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy. In doing so, he confirms that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the all-powerful miracle-working God who is getting ready to usher in a new era. Remember, Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the miracles of Jesus more than the other Gospels. We see this emphasized from the beginning of Luke’s narrative. It is only in Luke that we find this account.

Geographic Context

The O in AROMA stands for Orient. It is important to consider different types of contexts as e study the Bible. Geography is one type of context we can consider that adds to our understanding of a verse or passage.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a small, insignificant town in Galilee. Galileans were not respected among other Jews because they lived in proximity to Gentiles. Contrast this to where Mary is going, to Judah, the most important and exalted region for all Jews. Luke, in one of his themes that we discussed earlier, highlights God’s love and care for those who are considered low and outsiders. 

Mary journeys to visit Elizabeth. She goes with haste and the Greek word means “earnestly or with great concern”. I imagine that Mary was excited to share her testimony of God’s announcement through the angel Gabriel. In fact, she probably suspected that no one else would believe her but her cousin who had been similarly blessed by God. She was likely also looking forward to hearing from Elizabeth about her happy surprise and what God had done in her life. What a joy it is to celebrate God’s goodness with other believers! 

Mary had a far distance to travel to get to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, but she was determined to go and go quickly. The approximately 81 mile journey was an uphill one. It would have taken Mary 9 or 10 days to arrive at the home of Elizabeth. I imagine she set out on her journey, hopeful that God would provide for her and protect her on her way. She likely spent much of her time pondering all the angel revealed to her, wondering what she would find at her kinswoman’s home. God was faithful to devour her safely on her journey as we will see in our next lesson. 

Read: Parallel Translations 

One of the tools in the Read Engagement Point of The AROMA Approach to Bible Study is reading the verse in multiple translations. In this case, I used the Text Comparison Tool from Logos Bible Software and discovered something interesting.

Luke 1:37

NASB95 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

NIV For no word from God will ever fail.”

ESV For nothing will be impossible with God.”

NLT For the word of God will never fail.”

NKJV For with God nothing will be impossible.”

KJV 1900 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

LEB For nothing will be impossible with God.”

ASV 1901 For no word from God shall be void of power.

From the Text Comparison Tool, Logos Bible Software

What’s in a word? Mary’s affirmation of Gabriel’s announcement of God’s plan for her life is made more striking when we understand the precise word she used. Mary used the exact word that Gabriel used when he stated that God’s Word will not fail. This translation of “with God nothing will be impossible”, the most literal although perhaps not the most poetic, underscores Mary’s agreement with God through the angel.

The angel–  For no word from God will ever fail.” v. 37 (NIV)

Mary– “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. v. 38 (NIV)

Relationship 

Gabriel, acting for the Lord, used the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy to reassure Mary and remind her of God’s miracle-working power. If God did it for Elizabeth, surely he could do one for Mary. It is in this way that the stories of Bible encourage us today. When we look at God’s mighty works in the Bible and throughout history, we build our faith. The Bible tells us many times to remember all that God has done. God knows we are likely to forget and need to remind ourselves, our children and one another of the power of God to do beyond what we could ask or imagine. He often works through our relationships and fellowship with other believers to remind us of who he is and who we are in Christ.

Response

Humble obedience describes Mary’s response to this strange, unsettling encounter with the Angel Gabriel. She recognized who she was, a “maidservant of the Lord”, because she recognized who God was. The only response to the holiness of God is humility. Remember Isaiah said he was a “man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5 ) and Peter said “depart from me for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) when confronted with the holiness of God. Obedience flows from fear of the Lord and humility. Mary had both abundantly. Mary agreed with God. She fully submitted her will to God. 

Key Verse

 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 38 (NKJV)

The second A in the AROMA Approach represents agree, the most important part of any Bible study. This verse is a beautiful example of humble obedience to our Holy God. It is an excellent verse to meditate on and/or memorize.

Prayer

Lord, we humble ourselves before you. Take our lives and may your will be done. Help us to submit to you and obey you in all decisions, big and small. Give us faith to move forward in the journeys you appoint for us. Amen.