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Magnificat! Glorify the Lord!

Date: Dec. 1, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Luke 1:46-55

Key Verse: Luke 1:46-47

And Mary said, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

Happy Advent!  Welcome everyone to Advent 2019.  For those who don’t know, Advent is the season of the year starting from Dec 1 leading up to Christmas.  Advent means “coming,” and in this time we prepare our hearts by celebrating the first coming of Christ, and prepare our hearts in anticipation of his second coming.  The theme of this year’s Advent is “A Thrill of Hope,” which comes from the song, “O Holy Night.”  This year, we wanted to focus on this idea of hope, this eager expectation, and add to that a flavor of joy, a thrill.  A thrill is a sudden feeling of excitement or pleasure.  Who can remember a time when you felt a thrill of hope?  I’ve shared this story before, when I was in college here at IIT, I was really struggling with Algorithm Design, one of the major classes for a Computer Science major.  If I failed it I would have to take it over again, and after the final exam things were not feeling good, but I know if I could get a D, I could pass and move on and never worry about it ever again.  Well, one week after the final exam, the grades came out, and I checked it in eager anticipation.  To my great excitement, I got a D!!!  Never in my life was I so thrilled with a D, but that meant I did not have to do the class over again, that I was free, and I rejoiced greatly, running up and down the house with my arms up in the air, praising God.  Once the initial excitement cooled off, I got down on my knees and said a proper Thanksgiving, and that is the story of when I experienced a thrill of hope.

In today’s passage we will take a look at Mary’s Song, and see how a thrill of hope caused her to glorify and rejoice in God.  Mary’s Song is also known as the Magnificat, and it is one of four canticles in the New Testament, all found in the book of Luke.  Canticle is the Latin word for song, so actually in Luke we find four songs, all with the characteristics of a hymn or song.  The Magnificat is still sung in churches all over the world, especially at this time of Advent, and it is one of the oldest Christian hymns.  On YouTube, you can find videos where they put Mary’s Song to music, and it’s beautiful.  The word “Magnificat” comes from the same word as “glorifies” in v.46, it is the Latin translation of that same Greek word.  So when you hear the term “Magnificat,” it is the name of Mary’s Song, and it emphasizes the fact that her song is a song that gives glory to God.  Through this passage we will see why Mary glorified the Lord, why we should glorify the Lord, and how we can be able to glorify the Lord, and rejoice with the same thrill of hope that Mary had.

Mary’s song begins from v.46-47, “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Mary’s song of praise comes from deep down, from her soul she glorifies the Lord.  Her spirit rejoices in God.  She is praising God from the inside out, with every fiber of her being, she gives praise to God.  And look at what she calls him: “God my Savior.”  When the angel Gabriel had visited Mary, he said that she is to name the child “Jesus,” which means “God saves.”  This was the hope of all Israel – to be saved, to be delivered out of their oppression and sufferings from their enemies.  She believed that this child, her son, Jesus, born of a miraculous virgin birth, was sent by God to be the Savior of Israel.  She believed that God would indeed save them, and more importantly, she believed that God would save her.  She said, “God MY Savior.” 

In v.48 we can see the reason she glorifies and rejoices in God, as she continues, “for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”  This is God: He is the Creator of the whole universe – even the vast expanse of the oceans, and the majestic heights of the mountains are but tiny specks compared to the heavens.  The winds and waves obey his commands, and even bolts of lightning report back to him.  He created every man and animal that has ever lived on this earth, and yet, he is mindful of the people in the humblest circumstances.  In Psalm 8:4 David writes, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”  What was Mary’s humble state?  She was from a very poor family, from a small town that was despised by people all over Israel.  Before this she was kind of a nobody.  Yet God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  And this is not just for Mary.  For us too, no matter how small you may feel, or insignificant or unnoticed, and especially if you are in a difficult situation and you feel that no one can help you, or no one understands, or you feel helpless and powerless – God has been mindful of you.  As Jesus taught in Matt 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?”  When your loved one needs help, how does your heart feel?  You want to reach out to them and help them, you have pity and compassion on them.  This is the mindfulness that God has for the humble, and he longs to deliver them.

Mary continues in v.48-49, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.”  She recognizes this child will indeed be the Savior of the world, and she is the lucky one chosen to be his mother.  It is no wonder all generations will call her blessed, and she is still called blessed today.  Mary is exalted, she has been glorified, but she does not become arrogant or proud, because she has recognized two things: one, her humble state, and two, it was God’s doing.  She is lifted up, and she gives the credit and thanks to God for that.  She rejoices because God, the Mighty One, has done great things for her, and she says, “holy is his name.”  To acknowledge God’s holiness is to give him the highest praise.  To be holy means to be set apart from what is common.  God, by his nature is holy, because he sits in the highest of heavens far above heaven and earth, and dwells in an unapproachable light.  He is so holy that angels never stop saying to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isa 6:3, Rev 4:8).”  Mary gave great glory to God, but the reason her praise is so deep, with soul and spirit, is because that great power of God was very personal to her.  “He has done great things for me.”  When she acknowledged his power, his personal love and mercy, and his greatness, she uttered this praise, “holy is his name.”

As the song goes on, Mary herself fades away and the work of God for his people takes center stage.  One third of the song was Mary glorifying God for what he has done for her, and the last two-thirds of the song are about what God will do for his people.  In the first part of the song, we saw why Mary gave glory to God.  In this second part of the song, we will see why we should give glory to God.  Although Mary is done praising God for his personal work, she continues to praise God for his global work.  God has done great things for Mary indeed, but that is just the beginning of his great work for all nations. Look at v.50, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”  The same mindfulness God had for Mary, the same desire to do good, to show kindness towards those in misery, extends to those who fear him, and for all of their children and their children’s children indefinitely.  To fear God means to treat him with reverence, to humbly submit to him and respect him, to obey him reverently.  This is to give true glory to God.  When you fear God, his mercy extends to you.  Without God’s mercy, you will remain miserable, or eventually will become miserable, and we will see why.

In the next three verses, v.51-53, Mary anticipates the coming of the Messiah.  Verse 51 says, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”  Those who are proud in their inmost thoughts refer to the type of people who put themselves above others, and show contempt to their neighbor.  Even their thoughts are wicked.  There is nothing hidden from the eyes of God, and he can see even to the deepest thoughts, and for those who have evil things in mind, he scatters.  Mary may have known many of these types of people, it may have been other Galileans or Jews who looked down on people from Nazareth.  When you see a people scatter, think of a scene where an army retreats after being defeated.  God will have victory over his enemies – all those people who set themselves up against God and his people will be defeated.

Verse 52 reads, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”  There’s a chain-link type of structure in this song from verse 51-53.  These verses are about what the Messiah will do, but you can see that the last person mentioned in the previous verse, supplies the first person for the next verse.  So the proud in heart are scattered at the end of v.51, and we see rulers brought down from their thrones at the beginning of v.52.  Even the most powerful of the proud and wicked people are easily brought down by God.  This is the almighty power of God!  He can set rulers up, and he can take them down.  Nebuchadnezzar,  the king of Babylon, one of the most powerful empires in history, after an episode of pride, had his mind reduced to a wild animal by God.  After God restored him back to his throne, he confessed in Daniel 4:37: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  Consider this: Mary sang these words in a time when Rome was ruling over Israel, and in a period where a Jewish king was wicked enough to order the execution of all boys born in Bethlehem under the age of 2.  Luke’s gospel was written between 63-68 AD,  under the reign of Nero, considered to be the most, if not one of the most wicked emperors of Rome.  This Messiah would have the power to take down rulers, and we see that over time, wicked rulers perished, but Christ is still King.  Mary and Luke believed in the overruling power of God.  We do not need to fear that wicked people may run our nations, because if God so chooses he will bring them down, and when Christ comes again, every single ruler opposed to him will surely be brought down.

Verse 52 also gives us a beam of hope: he has lifted up the humble.  God can take anyone he chooses, and make them great.  He will endow them with the skills necessary to do his will.  Psalm 113:7-8 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.”  Before he became king, David was just a shepherd boy.  Among the Twelve Apostles, whom we consider the pillars of the church, the greatest of them were ordinary fishermen, but Christ was able to lift them up.  Jesus, the Messiah, has elevated all of us, giving those who believe in his name the right to be called children of God.  It is literally our God-given right, if you believe in Jesus, to be called a child of God.  And when he comes again, we will see the full revelation of this glory and what it means to be a child of God.

As verse 52 ended with the humble lifted up, verse 53 begins with the hungry.  It says, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty handed.”  This again is a ray of hope for those who look to God.  He fills the hungry with good things.  Mary must have thought about the hungry, and that God would provide food for them, but she must have also had an eye to the spiritually hungry, and how God would fill them with good things.  She didn’t say good food, but good things, which include comforts and delights, both outward and inward things.  Matthew writes in the Beatitudes, in Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  You can substitute righteousness for Jesus, and see how you are satisfied.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Jesus, for they will be filled.  If you hunger to know the word of God more, your knowledge will grow infinitely deeper.  If you hunger for wisdom, for peace, for understanding, for comfort, Christ will give you those things.  In addition to these inward things, God knows you need food and clothing, and will provide that to you too.  But the ultimate delight, the ultimate comfort, the ultimate good thing that you will be filled with, is eternal life in heaven with God.  When Jesus comes again, he will take us to be with him, to the place he has prepared for us.  God invites the hungry in Isiah 55:1-2, “Come, all you who are thirst, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy.  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”  Jesus says in Rev. 21:6, “It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”  As one song says, “The best things in life are free,” and the best things come from Jesus.  If you hunger and thirst for heaven, you will be filled.

This chain link ends in v.53, “but has sent the rich away empty.”  Two weeks ago we heard a message from Dan, from our study in Mark’s gospel, ch. 10, titled “Ticket to Heaven.”  In it we saw the story, a true story, of a very wealthy man who came to Jesus asking how to get to heaven.  When Jesus challenged him to sell all that he had, he went away sad and empty handed.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  Not all rich people fall under this category, but perhaps most of them might.  There are those who are rich, who give of their wealth to God and his purposes.  Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man who opposed his colleagues in sentencing Jesus to death, and he offered up his own tomb for Jesus.  Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector who repented.  But perhaps the majority of the rich are those who store up riches for themselves, sometimes at the cost of taking unfair advantage of others, and people such as these will be sent away empty, and they will not be partakers in the inheritance of the kingdom of God.

The last two verses celebrate the faithfulness of God.  Look at v.54-55, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”  It is interesting that Mary brings up God’s mercy to Abraham here.  God’s promise to Abraham is actually his promise to save the world, and Mary connects this child that she will bear with the Savior of the world.  God’s promise to Abraham can be found in Gen 22:18, “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”  Offspring is singular, and it refers to one person: the Messiah.  God remembered to be merciful to Abraham by fulfilling this promise, and it has now been fulfilled by the arrival of Jesus Christ.  In Mary’s time, it was being fulfilled, in our time, it has been fulfilled.  Through Christ, all nations on earth are being blessed.

So what does this mean for us?  It means that in Christ, we will be able to receive God’s mercies forever.  Who are the descendants of Abraham?  According to Paul, “it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (Rom 9:7).”  John 1:12 tells us “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  It took 2000 years from the time of Abraham’s promise to the birth of Jesus, and it has been 2000 years since then, but we see God’s mercy too all nations, still active and at work, as his kingdom is growing.  This shows us that God is not bound by time.  Time limits everything we do, and one day our time will run out, but God is not limited by time.  God is not bound by resources, he created everything that exists.  He will never run out of mercies to give those who ask.  But God is bound by his word.  The angel Gabriel even said to Mary “For no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37).”  That means you can trust in God’s promises, and if he says he will show mercy to you forever, then you will be shown mercy forever.

So how can we truly glorify the Lord with our soul and rejoice in God in our spirits?  We can take a couple lessons from Mary in humility.  First, we should recognize our humble state.  We are helpless, hopeless and harassed by our sins, and our inability to deal with them ourselves.  We need a Savior, someone to save us from our own sins.  Second, we should become the Lord’s servant.  Mary said this twice, once after the angel gave her the announcement, she said “I am the Lord’s servant,” and second in this song, “he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”  The word for this really means a bondslave, one who has given up their will to do the will of their master.  This is the same as submitting to God, and living in the fear of God.  To fear God is to reverently submit to him in obedience; to become his servant.  When we humble ourselves, and submit to God in our hearts, we can then look to Jesus and say, WOW, what a Savior!  He came to give up his life for us, to die in our place to take away our sins.  He came so that we may have life to the full, to lift us up, and fill us with good things, and to give us that most precious gift of all, eternal life.  In Christ, God’s promises are true.  2 Cor 1:30 says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.  And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”  His first coming provided eternal life for us.  His second coming will take us up into heaven into eternal blessedness, and we will be permanently set free from sin and from death, from our enemies and the enemies of Christ.  Jesus Christ is more than a “D” on your report card, he’s an “A,” and instant 100% passing grade, and when he comes again you will move on from this life to an infinitely better one.  May that give you a thrill of hope, and enable you to sing with Mary, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

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