Some of the family has taken a challenge to journey through all of gospels at once to see the big picture of the life of Jesus. It was not too far into the account that we arrived at some discussion about how amazing God is and how incredible are the things he does for his people. This article is about the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) (latin for “My Soul Magnifies” the first word in the hymn) which is Mary’s hymn:
For all intensive purposes it is safe to consider that Mary was common. Perhaps a peasant girl and most likely not from any place of nobility. She is human like everyone else. A virgin, but still fallen. Young and full of life. Familiar with all the stories about her people as any Jewish person would most likely know. She knows God and the promises of old. And then one day Gabriel, a messenger of God brings a message that leaves her contemplating his greeting (Lk. 1:29.) Its always a surreal when God speaks. Regardless of the means it is always direct and unavoidable. Without question Mary accepts the message that at this point in her experience means that a child will be born to her. She will be a virgin but she will also be with child. She will without question be ostracized but you will name Him the One that Saves.She will have a son, but He will be the Son of God…a statement that will unfold and unfold until it is clearly seen at the cross. She will be pregnant and so will your relative Elizabeth. And this will set the stage for two women in unadulterated praise.
Her visit to Elizabeth is filled with commonality. Jesus coming to the world dispels all of our misconceptions the “i’ve Got to find people like me” “…been through what I’ve been through.” “know my story.” One is old, one is young. One is married the other betrothed. Both women in a society that has hypocrisy. They are related but it appears to be more distant…until now. God does not need same experiences to bring us together, he merely needs to bring us together which will bring about similar experiences. The common union between the two is the humility and care and compassion you see for each other. One persons praise leads to the other. When we sing songs to God we ought to let others be present for them. When we sing to God for how good He is it should include others in the lyrics also.
I’m not sure if it was John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb, or Elizabeth’s cry to God and blessings pronounced that caused the hymn. Or it may be (since we do not know) the moment when Mary became pregnant. Whatever it was Mary goes into song (commonly called Magnificat) and tells us what only a child of God could say. Mary is common. God has stepped into the fringe of society and Mary is clear about that. She’s not special. Correct. She is undeserving. Yes. She is a bond slave; just a servant. Absolutely. But God still chose her. And the humility of Mary is not seen just in her hymn itself but the content of the hymn. Mary is painfully aware that she has received something undeserved, but humble enough to conclude that what God is doing will extend his mercy “upon generation after generation (vs. 49.)” It is her yes, but not just about her.
It is a song that begins with her own blessing (vs. 46-49) but like every humble servant she does not dwell only on her personal benefits from God. God’s son brings about mercy to generations. The gospel brings about reversal of the worlds systems (vs. 50-53). It spreads prideful groups. It levels the field so those in need are brought to be even with rulers who usurp authority. It reaches from the highest mountain and finds those in the lowest valley and shines on them all the same. It fills the stomachs of those in need with good things and empties the ones fail to realize how much God has given them in their hand. Mary sees on some level that God has not forgotten that Israel is still Israel, and that this moment matters.
And she sings about it…I mean the girl throws down.
She does not over think the moment or try to plan and make sure everything falls in place. She does not rush to make sure everything is just right for the child. She does not try to providentially reside over the situation now and indulge in her own life management or pride or expectations. There is no planning for King Herod coming to take the child out. No planning for when your son stays at the temple as a young boy because that is where His father is. She has no clue what is in store. When you know you are God’s servant and you realize that any situation is really one you cannot manage there is nothing left to do except sing.
Mary sings what she knows. She knows the law and the prophets. She certainly knows of the pharisee and the temple. She knows that being with a child out of wedlock is not going to be a good look for her. Mary does not sing of any of that. She alludes to all kinds of Old Testament Scripture (see list below). She sings of Gods mercy (vs. 48; 49, 54) and she reaches back before the law to the promise (vs. 55) made to Abraham. Could it be that the same trust she had most likely heard about Abraham having to uproot his family based on a promise led her to see that she would now have the same trust? When we see our responses to God’s mercy line up with those in scripture who seem so much better than ourselves, I do not think there is a better thing to do but to sing about Him.
What began as pondering the message from Gabriel (Lk. 1:29) led to unhindered praise. A praise most likely in the presence of Elizabeth. How encouraging for Elizabeth this must have been. How sobering a reminder for them both of the point that these children are a blessing for them, but these boy’s purposes is greater than just being their children.
A hymn is best when even after the singing is over the melody still rings in the hearts and minds of the recipients. We are told that later (2:19) “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The good songs do not end at the last note…their lyrics are too complicated.
And She treasures….
For how long? A day a week? All the way to the cross? The resurrection? Her later life in Ephesus?
I think what I walk away from this young Mary’s hymn is the need to have something to sing about. Something that is beyond me. Something about God that speaks to His goodness for US. And not just the present US but the generations to come. And then the need to treasure these things it and ponder promises He makes for as long as I am able to ponder them.
POSSIBLE OT REFERENCE LIST from Luke 1:46-49 :
- Vs. 49: Ps. 111:9
- Vs. 50: Ps. 103:13, 17
- Vs. 51: Ps. 89:10
- Vs. 52: Job 12:9; 5:11
- Vs. 53: 1 Sam. 2:5; Ps. 107:9
- Vs. 54: Is. 48:8
- Vs. 55: Mic. 7:20; Gen. 17:7; 2 Sam. 22:51)