First all of, as we shall see, there is not one example in the Bible of a person calling themselves “highly favored.” Yet we shall see an example of God (through an angel) calling someone “highly favored.” So, whatever those words mean, they are cannot be speaking of someone using those words “to place themselves on a pedestal.” In fact, we shall see that the person to whom those words were spoken was actually “troubled” by those words.

Let’s read Luke 1:26-29: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, HIGHLY FAVORED ONE, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, SHE WAS TROUBLED AT HIS SAYING, and considered what manner of greeting this was” (NKJV). No doubt Mary was “troubled” by the very fact that she had just been spoken to by one of God’s angels, but I believe she was also “troubled by WHAT he said.” Why? Because she was a very SPIRITUAL and HUMBLE woman she could hardly believe she was picked by God to be “blessed among women.” I’m quite sure she wasn’t thinking, “I have been wondering when God was going to notice me and finally the time has come.” No, I’m convinced she had no idea that God was watching her intently and decided to pick her, among all the Jewish women, to be “highly favored” in His sight.

So, what does “highly favored” mean? One has said that those words could “be rendered ‘graced of god’ or ‘endued with grace.’” What does GRACE mean? It has often been defined as “unmerited favor” and I believe that is exactly what it means. It is God giving someone something they don’t deserve. I believe Mary, in humility, caught that meaning and was troubled that God was going to bless her with something she didn’t deserve. She knew she was, like everyone born into this world, a SINNER and thus she knew she had no merit of her own to claim any blessing from God. Granted, Mary was a very pious woman who tried to live a life that glorified God, but she was also flawed and in lowliness of mind she never dreamed that she would receive special favor from God.

What was the “special favor” and “blessing” that she was about to receive? Let’s read on in verses 31-33, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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.” In these marvelous words Mary learned that she was to be the Divine vessel through whom the promised Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world would be born. Being a godly woman she no doubt knew that one day a Jewish woman would fulfill the ancient prophecy that God gave at the dawn of creation when sin entered the world and God promised that a savior would be born of a woman in order to destroy the Devil and provide salvation for mankind (see Genesis 3:14-15). Now she is told SHE IS THAT WOMAN!

Later, she goes to visit her friend Elizabeth who exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Again, it was not Mary boasting of herself; it was Elizabeth who realized and confessed how blessed (and “highly favored”) Mary was among all women. How did Mary react to those words? Ah, in true lowliness of mind she says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has REJOICED IN GOD MY SAVIOR. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth ALL GENERATIONS WILL CALL ME BLESSED. For He who is mighty has DONE GREAT THINGS FOR ME, and holy is His name” (verses 46-49). Mary humbly owned God as her “Savior” (for as mentioned above she knew herself to be a sinner in need of salvation) and she went on to give God all the glory for the blessing she was to receive. She does refer to the fact that she will be “called blessed” but she is NOT drawing attention to herself; it is others who are “calling her blessed.”

I would like to close with a passage that refers to all believers today as being “highly favored” by God. We read in Ephesians 1:3 that God has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Like Mary, WE ARE BLESSED! Why are we blessed? Ah, we are blessed “in Christ!” It is because of what Christ has done for us and because our faith and position in Christ that we are blessed. We don’t deserve it; it is all of GRACE (Unmerited Favor). And thus, the Apostle Paul goes on to say in verse 6, “To the praise of the glory of HIS GRACE, BY WHICH HE HAS MADE US ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED.” The word “accepted” in this verse is only found one other time is Scripture. Do you know where that is? We have been meditating on it, for it is translated “highly favored” in Luke 1:28. Thus what we have been learning about Mary being “highly favored” is true of every born-again believer in Christ! We too have been blessed by the pure and matchless GRACE OF GOD. He has, by grace, chosen us in Christ and thus we are “highly favored in the beloved.” (462.3)  (DO)