Luke 1:46-55 – The Magnificat
Mary’s head was in a spin. Gabriel had told her she would would give birth to a baby; that boy would be the Son of God. Overwhelmed by the enormity of what was happening to her body Mary was full of foreboding and fear. What would Joseph say? Would he believe her unbelievable story? How would her parents react? What would the community say? What about this child whom she was chosen to carry? What manner of man would he be? Through all the apprehension she was willing and submissive. Perfectly yielded to the will of God and accepting of the purpose for which she had been set aside. But yet she needed time to digest the information and prepare herself spiritually and mentally for the days that lay ahead.
The news that her elderly cousin Elizabeth living down in Jerusalem, was also having a baby, gave her the opportunity to retreat for this very purpose. So Mary left the gossip of Nazareth for the peace and fellowship of godly Elizabeth’s company.
There are a number of biblical incidents I would love to have witnessed and be a part of. This is one of them. As Mary steps through the door of Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s home two remarkable events occur. John the Baptist leaps in the womb of Elizabeth. Filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb John is not only conscious that the mother of Christ was present but more importantly, Christ was there in the room, in Mary’s womb. This is clear Biblical evidence that life begins in the womb, not at the point of birth. The unborn child was conscious and expressing happiness. John’s happiness was in Christ; the one whom his life’s purpose was to focus upon. The second remarkable event was that Elizabeth herself was filled with the Spirit of God. Moved by the Holy Ghost Elizabeth expressing some facts which were encouragement to Mary:
A That Mary was “blessed among women.”
B That the fruit of Mary’s womb was blessed.
C Elizabeth was humbled that the mother of the Lord should visit in her home.
D It was the baby leaping in her womb for joy that brought these truths to Elizabeth’s heart. The child in the womb was Elizabeth’s teacher through the work of the Holy Ghost.
E That Mary has believed the word of the angel.
F All that God said would come to pass.
The young virgin had come to Elizabeth against a backdrop of Joseph’s possible rejection and the misrepresentation of her local community. Misunderstood and dejected she approached with heavy foot the home of Zacharias. But in one moment her heart was set free and her spirit was released. Elizabeth who was unaware of the events in Nazareth confirmed all that the angel had told Mary. Therefore the will of God was verified independently. This is a striking illustration of the means that God uses to bring his will to us. He conveys his will and he confirms his will. He comforts and strengthens us in the pursuit of his purpose through the fellowship of those who are like-minded.
The net result of Elizabeth’s Spirit filled communication was Mary’s Song of Worship. This young fearful woman bursts forth with one of the great songs of the New Testament. The first line of the Latinversion of this song is “Magnificat, anima mea Dominuum” – ‘My soul magnifies the Lord’ – therefore this hymn has been popularly called ‘The Magnificat’. This captures the spirit of the song. Mary’s purpose was to magnify the Lord. The fellowship between these two godly saints culminated with a song of worship.
Mary’s Song of Worship
1: Glory to God
Luke 1:46 -47
“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
Mary recognised that the Glory of God will be realised through her son. Therefore she was taught to give Him all the praise and honour for what He would accomplish. With the eye of faith, although not understanding the full import, Mary perceived that the world of men would be made a better place as a result of the ministry of the man-child whom she was bearing. That the darkness of sin would recede and that light of God God’s glory would fill the world. Therefore she had full cause to magnify the Lord.
Preaching on this text CH Spurgeon boldly and beautifully declared:
“Believe great things of him. Believe that China can be made into a province of the celestial kingdom. Believe that India will cast her riches at Jesus’ feet. Believe that the round world will yet be a pearl on Christ’s finger-ring…It shall never be said that God could not save the world by the preaching of the gospel, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, and therefore must needs bring in the advent of the Lord to do it. I believe in the coming of the Lord, but, blessed be his name, I believe also that the battle which he has begun in the Spirit he will fight out in the old style, and finish with a victory in the very manner in which he opened the conflict. It pleases him by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, and it will please him to continue to do so till the whole round earth shall ring with hallelujahs of praise to the grace of God, who by the feeblest of his creatures shall have defeated sin, and death, and hell.”
Mary realised that her son was the Saviour. That he had come to rescue men from sin and judgement.
She apprehended that her Son was her Saviour. She did not subscribe to the concept that she herself had been immaculately conceived. She was a sinner who needed her son to be “her Saviour”.
This godly young woman acknowledged the identity of the one whom she would she would give birth to – “God my Saviour”. He was was the Son of God. He was the one whom John would depict as “The Word” which “was God”. Yet the Word became flesh in her womb.
Mary had a spirit of joy. Her soul rejoiced. Deep down in the recesses of her heart and mind she was happy. There was much unhappiness surrounding her circumstances. Yet her joy in Christ was complete. The opening words of her song teach us th value of rejoicing in Christ not in our situations. Spurgeon’s closing words when preaching this text challenge and encourage us to rejoice more in Christ.
“Magnify his name by the brightness of your countenances. Rejoice and be glad in him. When you are in sorrow and must needs fast, yet appear not unto men to fast, but anoint your faces and still wear a smile. Let not the world think that the servants of a king go mourning all their days. Make the world feel what a great God you serve, and what a blessed Savior Christ is, and thus evermore let your soul magnify the Lord. God grant you grace to do so, for Jesus’ sake.”
“My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
2: Grateful to God
“ For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Mary shows a deep sense of humility that she had been chosen to fulfil this purpose, for which generations of Jewish women had longed.
She appreciates the gracious condescension of God. She came from a family which was little known and from an impoverished background. Yet God had stooped down to favour the poor and the despised. She wondered at the favour of God to her. Mary reminds me of David’s prayer of gratitide when he acknowledged the goodness of God to him and his family:
Ist Chronicles 17:16
“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”
The marvel and wonder of God’s amazing love must constantly be the theme of our worship and our prayers.
Mary’s song teaches Protestants that we must not undermine the role that Mary played in the economy of God. Yes, with all generations, we must call her blessed. While we do not elevate to the position that the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of, we must value her submission and position, as a young woman set apart from God for this most unique purpose. She was the counterbalance to Eve who brought sin into the world. Mary was the woman chosen to bring the Redeemer of mankind into the world of men to reverse the curse that sin had brought.
While Mary was humble she recognised the vastness of her blessings. Yes, all generations must call her blessed. A humilty which undervalues what we have in Christ is false and not God glorifying. The Christian can be humble on account of his sin, while at the same time he can describe himself a prince of God and an inheritor of heaven.
Mary in expressing her gratitude had high and lofty views of God. Her theology was sound and exact. On the one hand she described the one who had done done things for her as “mighty”. On the other she declared, “holy is his name”. The God who has accomplished great things for us is both all powerful and holy. He is a fearful being who has made all things and who is constantly veiled by the glory and honour of His holiness and justice. Yet He has stooped down to reveal himself through the person of His Son, born of a virgin, that He might be the Lamb of God.
3: Gospel of God
Mary’s song concludes with a remarkable representation of the Gospel of Grace. In the 50th verse she speaks of God’s mercy:
“And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”
The Gospel is presented because God is merciful. We are converted because of the mercy of God in withholding the punishment that we must certainly deserve. This mercy is undeserved and unmerited. It is grace alone. Because this mercy is grace, it is constant. It continues from generation to generation. God’s love to ruined sinners is perpetual. He is the immutable God who will forever maintain his promises to his people.
Doubting Christian, listen to Mary’s words; “from generation to generation.”
Those who receive the blessing of mercy are humble. The proud individual who elevates his own righteousness and refuses to accept his need of salvation will be “scattered”; judged and destroyed. His own foolish imagination is deceiving himself. There needs to be the humble approach; coming to God as the little child in order to become great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Gospel fills “the hungry soul with goodness”. Yet the hungry soul must recognise his hunger to be filled. The self sufficient, the self proclaimed rich person, will be sent away empty. The one who realises his worthlessness will be filled with the satisfaction of Christ the Redeemer.
Only Christ can satisfy.
Mary’s final words relate to the God who remembers His mercy which he spoke through Abraham. This young woman recognised that the Abrahamic Covenant was being fulfilled through her son. God had said that the world world, every nation under men, would be blessed through his seed. This day was dawning. The Christ was coming. The Gospel would soon be declared. God is faithful.
This is the one reason why we need to believe God. He is faithful. He keeps His word. He maintains his promise. He never forgets to be merciful. How gracious1 How wonderful!
“My soul doth magnify the Lord”