Last time, we looked at the visitation of the virgin, Mary, by the angel Gabriel, who announced to her the upcoming birth of the Lord Jesus. When Mary asked how God would carry out this miracle, Gabriel answered that God’s Spirit would overshadow her, and also proclaimed concerning her Child – Jesus – that…
Luke 1:32-3332He 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. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then after Gabriel departed from Mary, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was then 6 months pregnant with her own “miracle baby” – John the Baptist. When Mary came, both Elizabeth and the baby John in her womb had been filled with the Holy Spirit, and Elizabeth had prophesied in the Spirit a blessing on Mary. Now as we continue in Luke 1, we read Mary’s wonderful response…
Luke 1:46-5546And Mary said:“My soul magnifies the Lord,47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.48For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.49For He who is mighty has done great things for me,And holy is His name.50And His mercy is on those who fear HimFrom generation to generation.51He has shown strength with His arm;He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.52He has put down the mighty from their thrones,And exalted the lowly.53He has filled the hungry with good things,And the rich He has sent away empty.54He has helped His servant Israel,In remembrance of His mercy,55As He spoke to our fathers,To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
This “Song of Mary” is also traditionally called “The Magnificat” from the first verse of the Latin text.
Luke 1:46[Latin Vulgate]et ait Maria magnificat anima mea Dominum
It is one of the most beautiful passages in all scripture, and well worth devoting some time to. Like Hebrews 11 – the great “hall of faith,” Nehemiah 9 – the exhortation of the Levites following the return of the nation to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, and Acts 7 – the testimony of Stephen before the Sanhedrin, it is a comprehensive summary of many of the great truths found in the Word of God. This song’s beauty needs to be taken in and considered as a whole, yet it is so rich in content, we also need to closely examine its component verses.
Luke 1:4646And Mary said:“My soul magnifies the Lord,
Years ago, when I was young, the acid rock band Jefferson Airplane did a song with the chorus – “You are the crown of creation.” That band was never what might be called godly in any way. Yet they did have one thing right. Mankind is indeed the culmination of God’s creation, having been created in the very image of God.
Genesis 1:26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
How tragic that mankind in his rebellion ceded this exalted position as rulers of the Earth to satan and his fallen angels when we sinned in the garden. Nevertheless, as God’s elect in Christ, we have been adopted and restored into places in the universe second only to God.
1 Corinthians 6:2-32Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
This realization is immensely humbling to anyone who considers carefully how undeserving we are even of God’s notice, much less His care and lovingkindness. Yet God chooses to honor and exalt mankind above all the rest of His creation.
Psalm 81To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.O LORD, our Lord,How excellent is Your name in all the earth,Who have set Your glory above the heavens!2Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infantsYou have ordained strength,Because of Your enemies,That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,4What is man that You are mindful of him,And the son of man that You visit him?5For You have made him a little lower than the angels,And You have crowned him with glory and honor.6You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;You have put all things under his feet,7All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field,8The birds of the air,And the fish of the seaThat pass through the paths of the seas.9O LORD, our Lord,How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Why would God so honor us? We find a clue here in Luke 1:46. Our souls (along with Mary’s) magnify the Lord. The key word – translated “magnifies” here – is μεγαλύνω megalynō. It means
to make great, to make conspicuousto deem or declare greatto esteem highly, to extol, laud, or celebrateto get glory and praise
Not only does Mary declare her own praise and honor for God with this word, but also that God Himself is glorified through His creation – mankind. This is the purpose for which God created us – to honor and glorify Him.
Luke 1:4747And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
This single verse puts to rest forever the unbiblical doctrine of Mary worship, and the blasphemous idea that Mary is somehow sinless, thus equal to Jesus as a so-called “co-redeemer.” Mary herself declares here in this verse that Jesus is also her own Savior. Mary is indeed blessed and unique among women, having born the incarnate Lord Jesus within her own body. Yet she is a human being just like all of us, not a fourth member of the Godhead. She, like us, was born with a sin nature, and thus needs a Savior just as we do.
What a beautiful parallel we find between Mary’s declaration here, and Hannah’s prayer when she and Elkanah presented their baby, Samuel, to Eli the priest…
1 Samuel 2:1And Hannah prayed and said:“My heart rejoices in the LORD;My horn is exalted in the LORD.I smile at my enemies,Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
Of course, the Word is full of exhortation about rejoicing in the Lord. Here are just a few examples.
The joyous psalm of David when the Ark of the Testimony was first brought into the new tabernacle in the City of David…
1 Chronicles 16:31-36a (cf. Psalm 96)31Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”32Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it.33Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the LORD,For He is coming to judge the earth.34Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!For His mercy endures forever.35And say, “Save us, O God of our salvation;Gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles,To give thanks to Your holy name,To triumph in Your praise.”36Blessed be the LORD God of IsraelFrom everlasting to everlasting!
Psalm 13:5-65But I have trusted in Your mercy;My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.6I will sing to the LORD,Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 40:16Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;Let such as love Your salvation say continually,“The LORD be magnified!”
Psalm 119:162I rejoice at Your wordAs one who finds great treasure.
Isaiah 25:8-98He will swallow up death forever,And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;The rebuke of His peopleHe will take away from all the earth;For the LORD has spoken.9And it will be said in that day:“Behold, this is our God;We have waited for Him, and He will save us.This is the LORD;We have waited for Him;We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Isaiah 61:10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,My soul shall be joyful in my God;For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Luke 10:19-2019Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Finally, as Paul so succinctly proclaimed…
Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Luke 1:4848For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
Here we see Mary once again calling herself the maidservant [δούλη doulē] or slave of God. We do, indeed, call Mary blessed. That is, we recognize the special mission to which God appointed her. Unfortunately, many have extended this admiration for Mary’s calling, into worship of Mary herself. It is interesting to note that the word translated “call me blessed” here – μακαρίζω makarizō, meaning to beatify, i.e. pronounce (or esteem) fortunate:—call blessed, count happy – is from the same root word Jesus uses in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) – μακάριος makarios.
Luke 1:4949For He who is mighty has done great things for me,And holy is His name.
Psalm 126A Song of Ascents.1When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,We were like those who dream.2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,And our tongue with singing.Then they said among the nations,“The LORD has done great things for them.”3The LORD has done great things for us,And we are glad.4Bring back our captivity, O LORD,As the streams in the South.5Those who sow in tearsShall reap in joy.6He who continually goes forth weeping,Bearing seed for sowing,Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,Bringing his sheaves with him.
Indeed, the Lord has done great things for all of us. This Psalm speaks of His bringing the children of Israel back from their captivity in Babylon, and like them, He has brought us back from our own captivity in the Babylon of our sin, and of the world. We must shout forth our joy at what He has done, so that those around us might, indeed say “The LORD has done great things for them,” as we read here in Psalm 126.
Psalm 40:1-31I waited patiently for the LORD;And He inclined to me,And heard my cry.2He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,Out of the miry clay,And set my feet upon a rock,And established my steps.3He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God;Many will see it and fear,And will trust in the LORD.
Surprisingly, the phrase “holy is His name” is found only once in the Word of God – right here in the song of Mary. The Greek word translated “holy” here is found 229 times in the New Testament. The corresponding Hebrew word is קֹדֶשׁ qodesh. What do these words really mean? Clearly God is in a class apart. That is indeed one meaning of קֹדֶשׁ qodesh – set apart, or consecrated. This uniqueness and separateness of God is connected with His works.
Psalm 86:8-108Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;Nor are there any works like Your works.9All nations whom You have madeShall come and worship before You, O Lord,And shall glorify Your name.10For You are great, and do wondrous things;You alone are God.
We don’t have to go very far in the Word of God to find an amazing work of God that only He could do.
Genesis 1:1-31In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
One of the most well-known examples of God’s own proclamation of His holiness is found in Moses’ first encounter with God.
Exodus 3:1-61Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”4So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”And he said, “Here I am.”5Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
The most holy Word of God – Who we know from John 1:1 is indeed Jesus – by whom He does His mighty works is just one aspect of God’s holiness. His very Name is also holy as Mary says here in her song. As we have seen before, God first gave His Name to Moses from the burning bush.
Exodus 3:13-1513Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”14And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” 15Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’
We took a detailed look at this Name when we were studying.
Philippians 2:9-119Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We saw then that this covenant Name of God – יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah – is translated “Lord” as in Exodus 3:15 using upper case text in most English translations. Ancient Hebrew writing included only the consonants. Furthermore, this Name of God was considered so holy by the ancient Hebrews that it was forbidden to utter it out loud. Consequently, we have no way of knowing how it is actually pronounced, having only the consonant sounds to go by. That is just one more thing we’ll have to wait to find out until we get to Heaven. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for the traditional pronunciation – Yehovah – or the newer – Yaweh – unless God reveals more to us in the meantime.
Suffice it to say – as Mary does – that God’s Name is, indeed, holy. This is why He commands us…
Exodus 20:7You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Luke 1:5050And His mercy is on those who fear HimFrom generation to generation.
We took a detailed look at God’s mercy during our study of Jonah. Recall that the Hebrew word is חֶסֶד checed. The corresponding Greek word we find here is ἔλεος eleos. It is found 28 times in the New Testament. Jesus used it in quoting from Hosea 6:6.
Matthew 9:9-129As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.10Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”12When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy [ἔλεος eleos] and not sacrifice.’ [Hosea 6:6] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
This episode is a fitting example for us. It is humbling, indeed, if we put ourselves into the place of these Pharisees, and take the time to really consider God’s mercy in comparison to our own miserable counterfeit of it. How many people have I written off as being beyond redemption after watching them stumble repeatedly? How many folks have I just walked away from because of their repulsive words or behavior, not even considering that they are lost, blind, and naked in their sin just as I once was before coming to Christ? Consider Peter’s poignant question, and Jesus’ gentle rebuke in response.
Matthew 18:21-2221Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Just in case there’s any confusion, Jesus wasn’t saying we should forgive those who harm us 490 times and then throw them under the bus. He commands us to forgive people as often, and as long as it takes for them to repent. Peter thought he was being magnanimous, but God’s mercy is far beyond not only what we are willing to offer others but beyond what we can even imagine.
Romans 5:6-86For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 6:9-119Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.