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TEXT: Luke 1:39-80
SUBJECT: Luke #4: Magnificat and Benedictus
Today, with God's blessing, we'll proceed in our study of Luke's Gospel. The book was first read by a Gentile Christian named Theolphilus. Luke sent it to him to build his faith in the Lord Jesus. That's what Bible-reading does for you. When read carefully and from the heart, reading the Bible raises your confidence in Christ. And that's got to be good!
[A quick challenge before we move on: If you haven't read the Bible all the way through, start today! Start on page one and read to the end. That intimidates many people, but it shouldn't. The Bible is a long book, but reading just three or four chapters a day will get you to the end in one year. And then you can start over! If your faith is small, increase it by reading the Bible. If your faith is strong, read the Bible-to increase your humility!].
"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God".
The last two weeks, we've studied the work of God's angel. He came first to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist. Six months later, he came to Nazareth, to tell a young virgin that she, too, would have a child, and He would be "Called the Son of God".
That's where we left off last time. Now, let's move on.
The story begins shortly after the angel had left Mary. When Gabriel told her that her relative was pregnant, and that she, too, would conceive a miraculous Son, Mary went home, packed up, and headed off to "hill country of Judea". She was going to there to see Elisabeth.
Why would she do that? It seems quite obvious to me: she needed to rejoice with someone. And no one was better suited for that than her dear, old cousin. Telling her parents, friends, or fiancé that she was expecting a child was not likely to bring on a party. As for conceiving Him by the Holy Spirit? They wouldn't believe it.
But Elisabeth would! After all, she knew the power and grace of God. If a womb dead with age could bear a son, then so could a virgin, "For with God nothing will be impossible"
When Mary got to Elisabeth's house, she came in with a greeting. In those days, greetings were not secular, nothing like-"How ya doin?" or even "Good morning". No, they were put in the words of the Covenant,
"The LORD be with you" or "The LORD bless you".
Mary salutes her cousin, and something happens-
"The babe leaped for joy in her womb".
John is getting an early start on his work. If his job is to introduce the Lord Jesus Christ to His people, he'll do it three months before he's born!
All babies kick in the womb, of course, but John did it in such a way that his mother knew what he meant. He meant the Lord-who didn't weigh an ounce at the time-has come to call.
Elisabeth is "filled with the Holy Spirit" and pronounces a blessing on Mary- "Blessed are you among women".
.And upon her Son, "And blessed is the fruit of your womb".
After blessing the Lord, something occurs to her,
"But why is it granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Mary's dignity does not lie in herself, but in what God is doing with her. He's using her to carry His Only Begotten Son. With the Lord before her in Mary's womb, Elisabeth feels both a rush of joy and a sickening sense of unworthiness.
But Mary picks up on the joy. Inspired by her cousin's enthusiasm, she bursts into song. We call it The Magnificat. It's object is God, "My soul magnifies the LORD and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior".
What she finds so thrilling is His power and grace,
"He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant, for henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who Fear Him from generation to generation".
Look what God has done, she says! He has chosen a poor girl from a hick town to bear the Savior of the world! What power and what grace!
Her Son is going to turn history around. Before, the arrogant and powerful prevailed. But under the Lordship of Christ, it is the humble and the weak who will prosper,
"He has scattered the proud. He has put down the mighty. He has filled the hungry."
Why? Because God keeps His Word,
"He has helped His servant, Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever".
God has always promised a bright future to His people. But the promise, though made long ago and repeated over and over, was long in coming. Centuries passed and things got darker and more dreary. But now-at last-the Bright Day has come-through Mary's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From that day, Mary spends another three months with her cousin. And goes home.
When Mary went home, someone else showed up for Elisabeth to take care of-a baby boy! When her neighbors heard the good news, they rejoiced with their old friend.
When the baby was eight days old, he and his parents went to the rabbi to have him circumcised. The rabbi asked the mother what his name would be: she said, "John".
But the rabbi didn't like the name-and neither did anyone else. They all agreed that he should be named after his father. But Elisabeth was unmoved by their arguments. They turn to Zacharias, expecting him to side with them. He motions for a chalk board, and on it he writes, "His name is John".
The people are surprised at what he wrote. But they ain't seen nothing yet! When the boy was named, the father got his voice back. Mute for most of a year, he breaks out into song. And guess what it's about? It's not about his son, John, but about his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We call it the Benedictus,
"Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouths of His holy prophets who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hands of those who hate us. "To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life".
God has remembered His promises, visited His people, and redeemed them from their sin and misery. And He's done them all, by
"Raising up a horn of salvation. in the house of His servant, David".
A "horn" stands for strength. It is the bull's horn or the rhino's horn or the ram's horn that makes the animal strong and free. In the same way, it is Christ who frees us from sin and gives us the power to serve God. That's the heart of the old man's song.
But there's a second verse. It's about John. Zacharias prophesies what he is and what he will do.
"And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Highest: for you will go before the Lord, to prepare His ways, to give the Knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercies of our God".
John will grow up to be a prophet-and more. He will do the greatest thing a man can do-introduce the people to their King.
He did it. First, by preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin. And then, by pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ-literally pointing to Him-and saying,
"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world".
When people heard his song, they felt a new reverence for God and they looked for more. John's birth and his father's great hymn, stirred new hope in the nation. A hope that would not disappoint them.
In the songs of Mary and Zacharias, we find Luke's message: Jesus Christ brings joy!
Songs can express the whole range of human feeling. But what feeling do these songs reveal? It is joy- "Joy unspeakable and full of glory".
The old man and the young lady are praising God with everything they've got. Dipping in to songs of the Old Covenant, they take them to a higher level. For centuries, Israel had sung of the great works of God-parting the Red Sea, feeding them in the wilderness, saving them from strong enemies, and more.
But now He's doing something even greater. If He rescued them from the slavery of Egypt, now He's going to rescue them from the slavery of sin. If He fed them with manna, now He's going to give them the Bread of Life. If He broke the power of Sisera, now He's going to break the power of Satan.
In the coming of Christ, Zacharias and Mary found something worth singing about!
And they didn't know half as much as much about Him as we do.
"Blessed are your eyes for what they see and your ears for what they hear. For kings and righteous men desired to see and hear these things.and did not".
But we have. In reading the Bible, we see,
"Jesus Christ, our Lord, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day, He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits At the right hand of God the Father Almighty, From whence He shall come to judge The living and the dead".
If they rejoiced over a Savior in the womb, how much more should we rejoice over a Savior crucified, risen from the dead-and alive within us!
Not everyone has the same emotional makeup. But every believer ought to be mad with joy over his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Joy can be had no matter what your circumstances are. Zacharias was an old man-yet what a song he sang! Mary lived in deep poverty-yet she felt the same joy. Why? Because their happiness wasn't in their youth or money or health or popularity. It was in Christ!
Yours is too. Have you forgotten that? Have you become so busy at work or so preoccupied with hobbies or so swamped with your kids or so tired of being sick that you've forgotten where your joy is? If you have, let me remind you: It is in Christ-alone!
In one of his books, G.K. Chesterton said, "Men grow weary of joy".
Although it sounds wrong, it is 100% right. It is possible to get tired of being happy. You've felt that way yourself-when you've drifted away from Christ for other things. You can have Him back. And with Him, the joy that only He gives. So why don't you? Do you prefer misery to joy? Heaven to hell? Come back to Christ. A Father is waiting for his Prodigal right now. Why don't you come home? There's a party just waiting for you.
But what about the non-Christian? Where is his joy? It, too, is in Christ. You see, there's no joy outside the Lord. Yet, in His Gospel, God offers every sinner more happiness than he knows what to do with! But many sinners don't want true happiness. They want something that looks like it-but isn't the real thing. Their happiness is like junk food-it looks good, as long as you don't look too closely! It fills you up without satisfying you. It ruins your taste for Something Better.
Why eat junk food when there's a feast going on-and you're invited to it? It's a feast of joy, offered to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. When you believe, you'll say with Isaiah,
"Behold, the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation".
There is such a thing as Joy-even amid the pain and loss and death of this world. It's there for the taking, for your taking. So why don't you take joy? By taking Christ-Psalm 16:11,
"In Your presence is the fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever more".
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