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TEXT: Luke 1:46-55

SUBJECT: Songs of Salvation #2: Magnificat

Several years ago, a man asked me over to talk about the church. He had attended the previous Sunday, and he liked the service, but there was one thing he wanted to know:

Do you support missions to Israel?

I told him we know a missionary in Tel Aviv, and that we've given him two or three donations, but, no, we don't regularly support any missionary to Israel or to the Jewish people in general.

In that case, I've got to tell you: your church is unscriptural, because the Bible says the Gospel should go to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.

The man was exceptionally intelligent and well-versed in the Bible, but he made the classic mistake of confusing the descriptive parts of the Bible with the prescriptive. In other words, taking 'what happened' for 'what ought to happen'. Romans 1:16 is the verse he referred to, of course, but there's no 'ought' or 'should' in the verse. It has nothing to do with what we ought to happen, but only what did happen. If you check the historical record, you'll see that the Gospel went to--

The Jew first and then to the Gentile.

This means the first believers in Christ were Jewish; the first preachers of Christ were Jewish; and the first Christian martyrs were Jewish. And so were the first people to sing Christmas music!

How many sang or what they all sang, we don't know, but the Bible provides four examples of people singing the praises of God for the gift of Christ. They are Elisabeth, Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon. Each sang his own song, and together with the angel choir, their voices blended into a magnificent hymn of--

Great joy for all people.

REVIEW AND BACKGROUND

Last week, we heard the Song of Elisabeth, what's sometimes called, The Benedicta. I trust you remember the backdrop? Elisabeth was married to Zacharias, an elderly priest in the hill country of Judea. Though they had been married for many years, they had had no children, and now it was too late. Or so they thought!

One day, while working in the Temple, Zacharias was met by an unexpected visitor. What he looked like, we don't know, but we know his appearance was awesome, reflecting the glory of God in a superhuman way. He was Gabriel, come to earth to deliver a message to the old man. The message was shocking: after living together for decades the couple would have their baby, and he would be no ordinary child! He had a special mandate from God, and, up until that time, no one had ever had a greater one: He would go before the Lord and introduce the people to their long-expected Messiah.

On hearing the incredible news, the old man was...well, incredulous. The news was too good to be true, and so he didn't believe it. It's not wise to call an angel a liar! For his unbelief, Zacharias was struck dumb until the child was born.

He went home to his wife--and just as the angel had promised--she conceived a baby, and was now about six months along in her pregnancy.

At the same time, in another part of Israel, the angel had appeared to a young woman, promising an even more extraordinary child. If Elisabeth's son would introduce Messiah, Mary's son would be Messiah! Unlike the old priest, the young woman believed--

With God all things are possible.

She added a hearty 'amen' to the promise--

Let it be to me according to your word!

Learning her cousin, Elisabeth, was also with child, Mary went to her home to share in the great goodness of God. When she got to the front door, she cried out a blessing, and when Elisabeth heard it, her baby leaped for joy in her womb, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang praises to God for honor of Christ and His mother coming to her home.

This is where today's story picks up.

CONTAGIOUS JOY

Strong emotions are contagious. Walk into a room full of glum people, and it won't be long till you're feeling blue. What's true of sorrow is also true of joy. On hearing Elisabeth's glad song, Mary sang one of her own.

It's called The Magnificat.

THE SUBJECT

The first thing you notice about her song is it's central character. A great many persons appear in the song: Mary herself several times, God's people, His enemies, the fathers, and Abraham. But even though their names occur, the song is not about them--not any one of them, or all of them put together. Mary's song is about God, who He is, what's He done, and what He's going to do.

This doesn't surprise us, of course, because God is the theme of all Inspired Song. The Psalter, for example, for all its variety, is mostly a Book of Praises, where God, His character, His judgments, and His saving works are everywhere celebrated! Take Psalm 150, which reads, in part--

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;

Praise Him in His mighty firmament...

Let everything that has breath praise

the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

This is equally true of the Song of Moses, which was first Christian hymn, the song sung on the east bank of the Red Sea, the morning after the Exodus. About it, Charles Spurgeon preached--

Notice, the song is all of God; there is not a word about Moses. Read this song through and neither Moses nor Aaron nor Miriam are in it: God is all in all: 'I will sing unto Jehovah'. That is blessed praise when self lies with the Egyptians at the bottom of the sea, and when everything that is in us that is commendable is traced to the grace of God, and the Lord magnified in it. Oh, for the glorification of Jesus and none but Jesus!

What Moses anticipated--and Spurgeon called for--Mary delivered. Several names are in her song, but they're not acting: they're acted upon! The Magnificat is all about--

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE TONE

The next thing to note is the tone of her Hymn. Like every devout Jew of her time, Mary was a regular in synagogue, and joined the others in singing Psalms. And, I suppose, she sometimes sang the way you and I do: routinely, the words in her mouth, but not in her heart.

Not now!

However she sang before the angel's message, from now on, she'd sing from the heart, sing as a woman redeemed!

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit has rejoiced

in God my savior...

What a strange word she chose: magnifies. What does this mean? Well, it meant to her just what it means to us. What does a magnifying glass do? It doesn't make the thing you're looking at bigger; it makes your vision of it bigger!

In the same way, no words or poetry or song could make the Lord bigger than He is, but our thoughts of Him ought to be bigger than they are! A young boy once asked his parents to take him to an outdoor meeting where George Whitefield would be preaching. When asked why he wanted to hear Whitefield, the boy said--

He makes God look big!

We have a big God who has done big things and made big promises. What have we done with Him? We've turned the telescope around, and looking at him through the big end, He seems to get smaller. Our small vision of Him can be heard in half-hearted singing, and little prayers; it can be seen in our skittish witnessing and in the overly prudent spending priorities!

In his famous sermon, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, William Carey coined the famous line--

Attempt great things for God;

Expect great things from God.

Like Mary, we ought to magnify the Lord--and stop minimizing Him! We have good reason to do that, better than Mary, in fact. For all she knew of God is what she picked up from the Old Testament and learned in a few minutes with the angel.

We know all this, too, and far more! For the Christ presented in the New Testament is far, far greater than Mary could have guessed at the time. Let us repent of our mean, small, and petty thoughts of God--and every suspicion that He's as stingy and hard and unforgiving as we are. And let us--like Mary--believe in the God who came--

Not to condemn the world, but that, through Him the world might be saved.

THE GREAT WORKS OF GOD

Why does Mary expect such great things from God? Because she knows the history of Israel, what God has done for His people in the past, and what He was completing in her miraculous Son.

When Israel was a race of slaves, serving their cruel masters in Egypt, God was moved with their plight, and regarded His servants. This is where the Exodus began--not at the Red Sea--but in the tender heart of God. The God who once regarded the lowly in Egypt, had done it again--

Regarding the lowly estate of His maidservant.

Like the first Mary--Miriam--Mary of Nazareth was a slave to a hateful master. But, in Christ, God would soon free her--and all of His people--from--

The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now energizes the children of men.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and that's what He's done and will do until the world is wiped clean of every last trace of sin and sorrow and death and decay.

Human compassion is good, but, being only human, it cannot always effect what it wants. Every adult here has sat at the bedside of a dying loved one. We cry and we pray and we suffer along with them, but that's were our compassion ends, it can go no farther. The compassion of God can go farther! For the Lord's almighty power serves His compassion--

He who is mighty has done great things.

When Mary sang this song, He had already done great things--and none greater than conceiving a Son in the virgin's womb. But in that Son, far greater acts would be accomplished. Jesus is the Almighty Arm of the Lord! The arm that overthrows the evil powers that are against us and brings salvation and shalom--peace--to the world.

This shalom--this 'setting things right' is what God plans to do in Christ--

Scattering the proud, putting down the mighty, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things.

Though all the saving works of God are surprising in their accomplishment, they're all consistent with the promises He made--

To the fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.

Though Mary didn't know it at the time, the seed of Abraham would soon take on a new significance. She meant the physical seed of Abraham, Israel, or at least the devout members of the nation. The true worshipers of God in Israel are Abraham's seed, of course, but the circle has been widened to include everyone who puts his faith in Christ.

In Christ, God is turning the world upside down--which is to say--right side up--and He's doing it all...for us. Let us, therefore, join our dear mother, Mary, and--

Magnify the Lord.

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