“I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Mary was called to a big task. I mean, in an entirely practical sense, she wasn’t called to anything she wasn’t already going to experience herself in a few years—Jesus had other siblings—but the timing, the nature, and the birth circumstances of this particular child were going to be a big task. And because God Himself was so invested in this task, we can rest assured that He wouldn’t have chosen Mary for it unless He was certain she could handle it. The same goes for us. Let’s talk about why.
When God calls us to a task, He’s already planned out victory for us. He’s planned out that victory long before we knew anything about it. As a matter of fact, His plans for our victory go back much further than we might imagine. Allow me to give you two examples to prove the point.
The first one comes out of this verse right here. When God called Jeremiah to the work of prophecy He wanted him to do, His choice was unlikely to say the least. Jeremiah didn’t have charisma or connections or anything else with which you might think a prophet would be naturally gifted. But no one was less enamored with the idea than Jeremiah himself. It took some serious reassurance by God to get him to come on board.
Look again at what the Lord said to him: “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
It wasn’t like once Jeremiah had been born God started making plans for his life. No, it was before even that. Before you were formed in the womb, God says, He started making the plans He had for Jeremiah’s life.
Pause for a minute on that statement. The implications of that are absolutely staggering. Think about if God does that with anyone else. We know from the rest of the witness of the various Old Testament authors that He does on two separate occasions in particular. He told Abraham and Sarah what His plans for Isaac we’re before He was conceived. He told Samson’s mom and dad the plans He had for him before he was conceived.
That’s twice. There’s one more time. This time it was with someone a little more famous than either of them. Jesus. The details of Jesus’ birth and life and death were laid out in exceedingly clear detail hundreds of years before He came along. And perhaps someone would argue that’s Jesus and so what else should we expect, but Jeremiah, Isaac, and Samson weren’t Jesus. In fact, Samson was more of a scoundrel than a hero and God had clear plans for his life anyway.
Think about this now. If God had plans for this quartet before they were even conceived, what do you think the chances are that He’s done it at any other point in human history? We may not have clear record of it like we do with these other guys, but that doesn’t mean He hasn’t. David seems to indicate in Psalm 139 that He in fact does this very thing with each and every one of us.
Again, the implications of this are simply staggering, but let me highlight two for now. First, if God plans out the lives of every person He creates, do you think there’s a chance He pans for any to be murdered before they get a chance to live out those plans? Miscarriages and other pre-birth tragedies are part of a broken world that He allows even as He mourns them. But abortion is an entirely different animal. If the witness of Scripture is to be taken at face value, there is no circumstance in which abortion is a morally valid option. It is unfailingly an active abrogation of God’s plans for His world through the outworkings of a single human life.
This is simply a good reminder that at Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of a baby whose life many today would have openly advocated should be ended by abortion before it even began. While abortion wasn’t uncommon in Jesus’ day, He was fortunately born in a context in which it was largely unthinkable.
The second implication is this: Because God plans out our lives with such care and precision before we are even conceived, if He calls us to do something, He always has the path to success planned out in detail for us. We can trust and obey with confidence because He will indeed never leave us or forsake us. Christmas is a loud proclamation of this wonderful truth. Don’t miss it.