At our church, we sing a song called ‘He who is Mighty’, which I absolutely love. It has a bridge during the song, which starts with the lyrics, ‘Now my soul magnifies the Lord, I rejoice in the God who saves’. So recently as I was reading the gospel of Luke, when I came to Mary’s Song of Praise, commonly called ‘The Magnificat’, I could not get this song out of my head, as it too starts with,
‘And Mary Said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…” ‘ (Luke 1:46)
Now, had I known that this song came from a Christmas album I may have put the two together a bit quicker than I did, but I had never realised that the praises we sing echo those voiced by a teenage girl, who was engaged, pregnant, and the man she was engaged to was not father to the child. Now whilst in our modern day society having babies before you are married is considered quite normal, it certainly wasn’t for Jewish people 2000 years ago. If this wasn’t bad enough for Mary, she was a virgin, and was told she was going to bear a child by an angel.
We read in Matthew that Joseph was also visited by an angel who explained the situation (Matthew 1:18-25), but just imagine how many other people would believe that you hadn’t in fact been unfaithful to your fiance, or had intercourse before marriage, but were carrying a child who was going to be the Son of God himself (v32). If you hear what I’m saying, it really seems like Mary didn’t have a huge amount to be praising God for, considering the situation she was in.
But, she did. She sings,
46 “… My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
How rich are those words! So much goodness. Rather than writing a 3000 word post (if only it was this easy to write assignments) let me just stick mostly with the first two verses that Mary sings (46-47)
Now I want to be clear – Mary isn’t singing this because she is pregnant and she is overjoyed. This is not a response to her situation; it is in response to something much bigger and greater than herself that she has the privilege to be part of. And this is not new in Scripture; we see in Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel (2:1-10) and in Zechariah’s prophecy following Mary’s Song (Luke 1:67-79) that God is being praised not for the provision of a son, but the provision of a Saviour. God is working to save his people, as he promised he would.
If Mary found so much to praise God for in this moment, in this revelation of God providing the awaited Saviour, how much more do we have to be thankful and praise-ful for now that God has delivered Salvation through this Saviour, and that through this we can now be members of His family.
If you have read the first chapter of Luke, you might notice that the inclusion of both Mary’s and Zechariah’s song almost seem to interrupt the flow of the story; they do not advance the plot, so for this we assume that there must be a good reason as to why there are included. These songs reveal to us a human response to God’s plan, a plan that we now have much greater knowledge of than Mary. Her response is an example for us to follow when we read and hear the good news of Christ.
So what does this look like for us?
Firstly, Mary starts by saying that her soul ‘magnifies’ the Lord.
In my fist year of university we had to learn how to use these super fancy, ridiculously expensive microscopes so we could look at cells – learning what normal cells look like so we can tell when they are abnormal. Truth is, I basically can’t remember any of that, but the thought that we could see such tiny, microscopic cells in such great detail was phenomenal. On weekends I worked in a pretty great store in town which sold everything from toys to weather stations, but my favourite item we sold were telescopes. The gist of them is quite similar to microscopes, except that the awe of what you saw came not from magnifying things that were usually too small to see, but allowing you to see something that is huge, but usually difficult to visualize. Something that would otherwise be seen as small could be magnified to begin to be as big as it really is.
When we magnify the Lord, we are to be telescopes, not microscopes. We are not to make God bigger, but show the already huge, incredible, greatness of God. The love, worship and joy of our hearts increases to more reflect that of God’s. It is in response to God’s outpouring of love in his gracious gift of salvation that we are driven to magnify the giver himself.
Secondly, and most simply, we are to rejoice in God our Saviour. We are to delightfully praise our God and be joyful in him. Such good news should overflow in our lives. Now living a joyful life is without a doubt another post in itself, but for the purposes of this verse and in the context of what we have been discussing today, please hear me saying that this is not a challenge for you to be happy always, or that when you are feeling sad you need to try force yourself to be ‘joyful’, but as a challenge for your everyday mindset. How much does praising and rejoicing in God fit into your Monday-Saturday life? God providing a saviour, our reconciliation, opportunity to be made righteous with God – this is the best news you are every going to hear, and is true every single day – and our lives should reflect this. No matter what our situation, there is a bigger picture that we can hold onto, just as Mary did.
He Who Is Mighty – By R Elliot and K DeGraide. Sovereign Grace Praise
For more info on the book of Luke, I recommend Luke 1-12 for You by Mike McKinley as part of the Good Book Company’s ‘God’s Word for You’ Series.