Key Verses: 1:46,47
"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices
in God my Savior....'"
1. What did Mary do in the time of the crisis brought about by her
acceptance of God's mission to bear the baby Jesus? Why is it
important to remember God's word in time of crisis?
2. In what respects was Mary's visit to Elizabeth an act of faith? How
did Elizabeth counsel and encourage her? What can we learn from
Mary? From Elizabeth?
3. Read verses 46-47. Why did Elizabeth's blessing evoke such praise
of God? Such personal joy? Read verses 48-49. Why does God's
calling bring joy even if it involves much suffering?
4. Read verses 49-50. What does Mary say about God himself? To whom
does God's mercy extend? How has God shown mercy to you?
5. Read verses 51-53. What does Mary teach about God's justice and
mercy? What can we learn here about the principle of God's history?
About God's faithfulness to keep his promises? (54-56) Why are
those who obey God truly happy?
MY SOUL PRAISES THE LORD (The Song of Mary)
There are two songs of praise in verses 39-80. One is the song of
Mary, and the other is the song of an old man, Zechariah. They are just
like two soloist singers in an opera. The exquisite soprano voice of a
young girl is heard, then it is followed by the peaceful baritone of a
white-haired old man. In this passage, we learn how our souls can
rejoice in God and when we can write poems about the holy God. Last
time, we studied the birth of Jesus foretold to Mary. Mary was supposed
to be the mother of Jesus. It was difficult to accept. But she accepted
it. Now let's see how she begins to carry it out.
First, Mary visits Elizabeth (39-45).
Mary was a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a
descendant of David. Her marriage problem was solved in favorable
circumstances. After engagement, the mystery of romance crept into
Mary's heart. Since then she whispered many times a day, "Joe, I want
just to see you." When Mary heard the angel's message, she realized
that she was a very ordinary country girl who wanted to live an
ordinary life. But God was with her. Mary simply chose to do the will
of God after hearing the angel's tiding (Jn 7:17). In response to the
angel's message, Mary said in verse 38, "I am the Lord's servant. May
it be to me as you have said." Her absolute obedience came from
believing in the word of God absolutely. This part reminds us of John
14:21. It says, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one
who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too
will love him and show myself to him." Mary had the fear of God in her
heart. So she loved God with all her heart and with all her soul and
with all her strength (Deut 6:5). Because Mary loved God, she was ready
to obey God absolutely.
Humanly speaking, Mary was in deep dilemma due to the angel's
message. If she were a worldly woman, she might have visited Joseph
first and cried many tears for her adverse circumstances before Joseph.
But Mary did not go to Joseph. Instead, she visited Elizabeth to see
the work of God in her, as the angel had said. Mary's act of faith was
more than beautiful. Her act of faith is quite different from Eve, who
was utterly spoiled by God's abundant blessing; thus she caused her
husband Adam to disobey the holy com mand of God (Ge 2:17). In her act
of faith, Mary gave up her beautiful dream of marriage. In her act of
faith, Mary gave up Joseph, who had a kingly bearing. This reminds us
of George Whitefield's (1714-1770) friend. His name was Howell Harris.
He was in love with a widow named Elizabeth James--and she was also in
love with him. But when he prayed for George Whitefield, he realized
that George needed a person most suited to help him. Mr. Harris found
one. She was his fiancee. So Mr. Harris introduced her to George. Mr.
Harris saw that they had never awakened from the mood of honeymoon.
Mr. Harris was the same as Mary who gave up Joseph.
But it was not easy for Mary to visit Elizabeth, who lived in a
mountain village a long distance from Nazareth. To get there, Mary
would have to travel through mountain passes, where there were many
possible dangers. Another problem was the generation gap between them.
Moreover, it was a moment when Satan was attacking her with
full-fledged force to stop her obedience to God. Satan tried to make
her feel very sorry for Joseph and cry endlessly, saying, "O Joseph,
Joseph." Satan bullied her by using the disappointment of family and
village people. She could have been frozen by Satan's whispering. How
nice it would be for us to get a Ph.D. without taking any examinations!
How nice it would be for us to do God's work without any hindrance of
Satan. But when we want to do God's work, Satan is right there to
hinder us. Satan must have surrounded Mary not to practice her act of
faith. When Mary was ready to obey God's will, God helped her to do so.
Mary won the battle before fighting. Then God gave her strength to
visit Elizabeth in that situation. How easy it is for all sinful people
to go to Joseph, forgetting all the words they had learned. But Mary
remembered the word of God through the angel's message. God helped her
go to Elizabeth to see what God had done in Eliza beth. God is with
those who are holding on to the word of God. When we are in a spiritual
crisis, it is important for us to remember God's word. But most of the
time, we fail to do so. We must remember God's word in a time of
crisis, as Mary did.
Still, it was not easy for Mary not to go to Joseph to talk about
the matter. But when she had the angel's message, God enabled her to
visit Elizabeth as the angel had said to her. Mary hurried to a town in
the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth (39,40). It was an act of
faith. One act of faith is better than bubbling 10,000 theological
arguments. Her act of faith overcame her destiny. Her act of faith led
her into the providence of God. With God's help, Mary finally knocked
at the door of Elizabeth's home. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the baby in her leaped in her womb (41). Probably, the baby in
Elizabeth's womb welcomed Mary as gladly as Elizabeth welcomed her.
Look at verses 42,43. "In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you
among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so
favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'" A white-haired
grandmother bowed her head down to the ground before an unwed girl and
called her, "the mother of my Lord." It seems funny that a grandmother
treated a young girl in such a humble way. It is possible only in the
spiritual world. In verse 42 Elizabeth says, "Blessed are you among
women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" At present, unbearable
hardship was reality to Mary. It was to become the mother of Jesus
before her marriage. But Elizabeth counseled and convinced Mary that to
become the mother of Jesus is blessed. And the baby Jesus in her womb
is the most blessed. In reality, his birth was to save men from their
sins. So it is the most blessed in the sight of God. Elizabeth was a
white-haired old woman. But she felt that she was greatly honored to
see the mother of Jesus with her own eyes. In this way, Elizabeth
counseled her that Mary was blessed by God. Look at verse 45. "Blessed
is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be
accomplished!" Elizabeth did not stop counseling Mary to overcome the
present situation. Elizabeth also counseled her to believe that the
word of God is absolute and that those who believe in the promise of
God are blessed. Elizabeth's spiritual counseling made an environment
for raising the mother of Jesus.
Second, Mary's soul praises the Lord (46-47).
Mary was convinced that God was working in her life. Look at
verses 46,47. "And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit
rejoices in God my Savior....'" When Gabriel first said to her, "You
will be with child" (31), she was afraid. But now she was convinced
that God was doing a great work in her life to use her as the mother of
Jesus. When God's message through the angel was confirmed by
Elizabeth's counseling to be lieve what the angel had said, Mary burst
into songs of praise. There are 150 Psalms in the Old Testament. Most
of them were written by King David. King David did not write these
psalms of praise only when his situation was good and favorable. He
also wrote songs of praise to God when he was in the midst of human
agonies, even when he was running for his life. David wrote songs of
praise at a time of defeat and at a time of victory. He could sing
songs of praise anytime because he had the fear of God in his heart.
The most happy time for mankind is when we believe that God is our
shepherd. In Psalm 23:1-2, David said, "The Lord is my shepherd, I
shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads
me beside quiet waters...."
Verses 46-47 say, "And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior....'" This stanza is a burst of
rapture, in which her full heart overflows. When she was pledged to be
married to Joseph her soul did not rejoice. In stead, she enjoyed the
dream of marriage and talked to herself secretly, "Joe, O Joe, I want
to see you just one more time." This kind of joy is an emotional and
temporal one. Such a joy has no guarantee after marriage. But when
Mary's heart was moved by God's message through the angel, and she came
to know that Jesus is great because he is the Son of God, her soul
rejoiced even if she had to pay the cost of being the mother of Jesus.
Mary's soul rejoiced when she came to know that the kingdom of God is
forever. Mary's soul rejoiced when she came to know that her God is
mighty but he is merciful. They say that the heart is the door to one's
soul. Her soul praised God when she had God in her heart. Fanny Crosby
was a very pretty, artistic woman. But she became blind as an infant.
For the time being, she became a slave of her destiny. Soon she met
Jesus. Through Jesus, she restored her peace of mind. Through Jesus,
she was convinced that she has eternal life. Through Jesus, she could
see the kingdom of God. She became a most famous hymn writer and
composer. This indicates that those who have God in the center of their
hearts have true joy. Otherwise, human beings are doomed to be
miserable all the time, even in the favorable circumstances.
Third, Mary praises God because God gave her a mission (48-49).
Look at verse 48. "...for he has been mindful of the humble state of
his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed...."
Here, a personal testimony from her soul comes pouring out. Mary was
humble. She was nothing but a village damsel, poor and obscure. She
wondered why God's eyes had fallen on her, and why God favored her.
Mary was happy in her soul in the realization of God's choosing her.
Mary was happy that God chose her as the mother of Jesus. But her
blessing involved her to watch all the suffering of her beloved son
Jesus. Finally, she had to stand beneath the cross of Jesus to watch
crucified Jesus. Her pain of watching her son on the cross was as
painful as a sword piercing her soul (2:35). Mary had already
experienced the pain of a broken relationship with Joseph. Now she had
to pay the high cost of being the mother of Jesus. But she was not
miserable because God gave her a mission to be the mother of Jesus.
Mary had spiri tual eyes to see from God's point of view. Read verses
48-49. "...for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One
has done great things for me--holy is his name." For the time being,
Mary will suffer as the mother of Jesus. But in the future she will be
the most blessed one. That's true. Down through generations, people
were abundantly comforted, even to think of the beauty of Mary. The
people of the former USSR adopted atheism, by the force of the system.
But there were innumerable underground churches. The country has kept
more than 500,000 pictures of Mary drawn by artists. All people of all
nations see Mary as the most blessed woman.
Fourth, Mary praises God because he is merciful (49-50).
Look at verses 49-50. "...for the Mighty One has done great things
for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from
generation to generation." Mary was a mere country girl. But she was
mature enough to see God in history. There are two clauses which
express God's twofold character--"the Mighty One" and "His mercy ex
tends." "The Mighty One" is Almighty God with whom nothing is
impossible (37). The Mighty One is the Creator God. Our God is the
ruler of history. In view of history, abso lute power corrupts people
absolutely. This became the vicious cycle of human history. But our
God is mighty, he did not use his power over the helpless. Our Mighty
God uses his mighty power through his love. Look at verse 50. "His
mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." It
is full of grace and truth that our Mighty God sent his one and only
Son Jesus as a ransom sacrifice for our sins.
Fifth, Mary praises God because God rules the world (51-53).
Look at verses 51-53. "He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has
brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He
has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away
empty." In this part, Mary praises the Mighty God who rules world
history with justice and mercy. Praise God! Nobody has heard that the
powerful rulers ruled their people with justice and mercy. But our God
rules his people with his justice and mercy. For example, his chosen
people abused his long-suffering patience. But God did not condemn
them. God justified them through his Son Jesus Christ (Ro 2:4).
Sixth, Mary praises God because he keeps his promises (54-56).
In the last part of her song, Mary was overwhelmed by the
faithfulness of God who kept his promises spoken through his servants.
Look at verses 54-55. "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to
be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to
our fathers." Mary was thankful for the faithfulness of God, even
though his people were terribly unfaithful. God did not have to keep
his promise to those terri bly unfaithful people. But he kept his
promise by sending his Son as the Savior of the world.
May God bless us to have God in our hearts so that we can be
pleasing to God and we can be happy all the time.