Last time we talked about Mary’s song of praise known as the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56 – we were only able to cover the first half of the song recognizing that true worship happens in the heart, responds to the character of God and in fact is about God instead of us.
Let’s read the Magnificat together: Read Luke 1:46-56.
She begins her song with worship welling up out of her soul, the core of her being. Her master and her savior is the object of her song. The reason for the worship is on one hand because God has looked to her among all people and has exalted her so that for all time she will be considered blessed. Truly God has done great things for her, but above all God is worshiped because His Name Is Holy.
Beginning then with Luke 1:50 Mary’s song turns away from herself as she begins to worship God For what he “has” done for all people. Starting with his extension of mercy to the families of those who fear him.
True Worship Reflects the Heart of God
It is a repeated promise in the Old Testament that God promises his blessings to generations after those who love him. It is a consistent pattern with the Lord that he shows mercy from generation to generation. It not only demonstrates God’s incredible patience but also his enduring love.
God himself considers this to be core to His identity. Remember in the book of Exodus how Moses pleads with God, “’…I pray You, show me Your glory!’ “And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’” (Exodus 33:18-19 NAU)
And when God comes to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 he proclaims His name to Moses which includes his promise of generational blessing and cursing.
“Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” ” (Exodus 34:6–7, NASB95)
Grace rolls downhill in families. This is perhaps one of the reasons why often a child born to Christian parents will take the faith of his parents.
Sadly sometimes the opposite is true but there are other circumstances to play in there. The choices people make do not negate the promises of God. He extends his mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. Praise God that in every generation, there have been those who fear Him, for in every generation he has been merciful.
The name of God is at the heart of God, and Mary’s song of worship reflects God’s heart. If we’re looking for worship we need to be looking to worship in ways that reflects God’s heart even as Mary’s spontaneous worship reflects God’s heart, proclaiming that God’s mercy is indeed upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.
That means that the single greatest thing you can do for your kids is to fear the Lord because the heart of God is to extend mercy to generation after generation of those who fear Him.
True Worship Responds to the Work of God
Mary’s praise continues “He has done mighty deeds with His arm…”
But wait a minute, you say, God is Spirit which means he doesn’t have a body and doesn’t have an arm. But we recognize the metaphor. We all understand the meaning of the pose where you flex your arm muscles. It is intended to display your strength. (Or in my case my lack of it). When Mary recounts that God has done mighty deeds with his arm. It’s simply a poetic way of saying that God has shown his strength in the works that he has performed.
It is the works of God which take center stage in Mary’s song of praise and exultation.
He scatters the proud and brings rulers down, and has exalted those who were humble. Everything is in view here from the creation of the world to his choosing and working through the people of Israel and now even his choice of Mary as the bearer of the Messiah. But there is also much in view concerning the future.
The Israelites looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and the promise of the Messiah was the promise of God’s deliverance. Most Jews of the time looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as a time when a powerful ruler would go to war against Israel’s enemies and deliver them from the oppression of the Romans. Then he would take the throne of David and reestablish Israel as a completely sovereign state.
In this phrase Mary was looking forward to the deliverance of Israel at the hand of her Spirit-conceived-unborn son as though it were already done. What she writes, she writes from the perspective of faith the promises of God were complete for her.
As she says, “he has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.” She is again revisiting not only her own humility but I think she is looking out at the one’s who said Messiah would never come. But mostly it is a reminder that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Those who need His help receive it. Those who reject His help are destroyed.
True Worship Reflects the Word of God
Mary knew God’s word. Much of this song is evidence of that. It is flooded with quotations from the Psalms, and quotations from Hanna’s song in 1 Samuel. It is also flooded with the lessons of scripture. For instance, she says in verse 52, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.”
Looking back at Daniel as a prophet she remembered his words. It is God who gives rise to and God who deposes rulers. That is a lesson by the way which we would do wise to remember in these days of continued uncertainty. Whether in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, China and North Korea are not outside of God’s control; and neither is Washington DC.
But government built by the hearts of men does not like the sovereignty of God.
In the 1980’s the Magnificat was banned in Guatemala because it was deemed politically subversive. 1 In some ways it is because Mary’s song of praise celebrates God toppling the rich, scattering the proud and bringing “down rulers from their thrones”. It’s that last phrase that strikes fear into ungodly government.
The scriptures are always consistent on the question of who sets up government. No matter how much men may plot and scheme, or manipulate and maneuver it is God alone who sets up kingdoms and tears them down. God is the sovereign king of all kings.
The sovereignty of God which is undeniably interwoven throughout the pages of scriptures has flavored Mary’s song of worship and prophecy. She rejoices in God because he is sovereign.
But her comments are also inherently prophetic and full of faith. Speaking of the child in her womb she looks into the future to that moment in time when the Son will rule as king and every other ruler will be toppled before Him. In that sense the Magnificat is not rejoicing over the mere rise and fall of rulers but of the fall of every ruler before Jesus Christ.
If you look at verse 53 you see the march of justice which Mary anticipates in the birth of her son continues. Those who were without will have been filled, those who were wealthy and obviously cared nothing for the poor were sent away empty handed. God is the great judge who sets things right as they should be.
Recognize that the rich here symbolize all of those who because of their wealth and self sufficiency know nothing of dependance upon God. I was listening to David Jeremiah this week who said 90% of Christians in persecuted countries pass the persecution test, but 90% of Christians in wealthy countries fail the wealth test. He is right on in that having plenty makes it harder to rely upon the Lord; while needing God’s help in whatever situation makes it easier to rely upon Him.
Finally in verse 54, Mary’s song turns to her own people, this is the third arena which Mary’s song gives as a reason for worshiping God has helped Israel and remembered his mercy to them. At long last the Messiah would come and deliver them.
The promises of God to save his people from their sins is finally going to come true. Lest anyone allow themselves to think that there is a difference between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament, we must remember as Mary clearly understood that the God of Mary and Christ is the God of Moses and Abraham.
Mary’s Song of Praise is important to us on a number of levels.
On one hand it is, as we’ve examined it a pattern of pure worship which starts in the heart, responds to God’s Character, works and word; reflects God’s heart and focuses not on me but on God.
On the other hand, Mary’s song of praise exulting God is a beautiful meditation on God’s work in Mary, for all mankind.
Do we fully realize the majestic glory of the God of the universe who wrapped himself in human flesh to become God our Savior?
Why does Mary’s worship matter to us? Because we’re going to see that the same woman of faith whom God selected as an object of His manifold grace is a woman of faith consistently. Her worship isn’t sparked only in the moment and then left behind when Monday comes so to speak.
The very last verse in the pericope simply tells the story that Mary stayed for three months with Elizabeth, right up until (and probably including) the birth of John the baptist and then she went home. There, with her pregnancy now becoming obvious the worshiper was going to have to become a warrior standing against the disbelief and derision of everyone around her – including her betrothed, Joseph.
We also need to pour our hearts out in Praise on this day, but Tomorrow is coming, and reality with it – we live in a hostile cynical world that doesn’t readily accept Christ is in us. We stand here today as worshipers, and tomorrow we must be warriors. We gain strength for the battlefield in the sanctuary of praise.
The Real Mary. p 15