Saturday, December 7, 2013


Scriptural Reading: Luke 1:26-40
Devotional Reading: Psalm 89:1-7

One of the original stars of the movie classic “The Sound of Music” was left “mystified and disappointed” by Carrie Underwood’s performance in a live TV production of the hit musical. She received high praise for singing but was downgraded in her acting ability. Carrie was not able to meet the expectations of another Julie Andrews’ hit musical. Neither Carrie or Julie have sung a hit song the equivalent of Mary’s song called “The Magnificat” nor received high praise for being blessed above all women. Mary’s song is so beautiful it is not about entertainment. She highlights the praise of God for bringing down the rich and powerful and exalting the poor and downtrodden. Her song of praise is all about God and His justice and mercy. Ps 111:1-2 declares, “Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great. Studied by all who have pleasure in them.” (NKJV)

This quarter of study is entitled “Jesus and the Just Reign of God”. We are in Unit I – “God Sends Jesus” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second lesson of a five-lesson study. We shall study Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement concerning her future as recorded in the book of Luke.

In our previous lesson we found the Jews were indentured subjects of the Roman Empire. All of their cultural and religious activities were confined within the restrictions of the Roman government. They had become the underclass and most were poor, living in a nightmare of brokenness. Yet there were some who dreamed of the day when God would send the Messiah to deliver them from the Roman oppression. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zacharias were among the many expectant Jews living daily with the hope of the coming of God’s kingdom.

In the 1st chapter of Luke we note there is quite a bit of angelic activity. Gabriel announced to Zacharias that he and his wife Elizabeth were to have a Nazarite son in their advanced age. The son would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and would turn many people to the LORD while preparing His way (Luke 1:13-17). True enough Elizabeth conceived. Six months later Gabriel visited her young cousin Mary. He told her she had found with the LORD and would bare a Son whose name would be Jesus. Her Son would be called the Son of the Highest, would be given the throne of His father David, and would reign over the kingdom of Jacob forever. His kingdom would never end. Gabriel explained she would be overcome by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Highest would overcome her. This was necessary because her Son would be holy. He would not be conceived through the reproduction system as we understand, but through a miraculous conception. Mary received the announcement that she would be with child, despite her virginity. Gabriel then added that God had done something similar for someone she knew and told her about Elizabeth. There is nothing impossible with God. She hurried to go see her cousin. Was it true? How was she? Mary may have needed confirmation.

It is unknown how soon Mary decided to visit her cousin Elizabeth, but she wanted to share her joy of expectation with another expecting mom under almost similar circumstances. Her greeting is recorded at Luke 1 39-41, “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (NKJV) When Mary first came into the home Zacharias was not present. She greeted Elizabeth who was pregnant with the one who would become known as the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist (John 1:6-10, 15). When Mary spoke the six month old unborn forerunner leapt within Elizabeth’s womb to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Mary knew Elizabeth was pregnant, but Elizabeth did not know Mary was pregnant. Elizabeth was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit when her babe reacted in such a manner. She knew she was in the presence of the mother of the LORD. (vs. 43). It was the destiny of these two expectant mothers, both surprised to be in their circumstances, to be in service for the LORD. Elizabeth was immediately humbled, repeating the same message of blessing the angel had stated. However she added a reason as recorded at Luke 1:42-43, “Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my LORD should come to me?” (NKJV)

Mary’s faith was increased. She believed and broke out into song. It is known as “The Magnificat” and has been compared to Miriam’s song, the sister of Moses, upon their triumphant passage through the Red Sea (Exo 15:20-21). It has also been compared to Hannah’s song, upon the birth of Samuel (1 Sam 2:1-10). They each start out by praising God for what He has done and shall do for generations to come. Mary sings at Luke 1:46-50, “…My soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will 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.” (NKJV) Mary has accepted her new role. She is now a public figure having been chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ. It is her image of herself and of God that brought about a spiritual fulfillment she had never experienced before receiving the news of God’s favoring her life as a channel for the miraculous activity. Mary’s image of God was as her Savior. This was consistent with Moses, the prophets, and Jesus’ own teaching. God is the Deliverer and the Author of the plan of salvation. Mary praised her Savior for choosing her, in her low estate, and favoring her with such a high honor. She knew there were great conflicts between the Jews and the Roman Empire. But she knew the Mighty One sat on the throne from the beginning of time throughout eternity and had done this great favor of justice for her. He would deliver her community from the oppression. Many would call her blessed for generations because of the new order of divine mercy and justice the Mighty One ushered in through the conception/birth of the Son of the Highest. This kingdom would be in opposition to the oppressing empire and would bring justice and mercy to all who fear the name of God.

Mary continued in her song of praise in acknowledging the might of God, more specifically His mighty works as stated in verses 51-52 of chapter 1 of Luke, “He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.” The rich and proud man expects to have everything their way. But God scatters their dreams. He puts contempt upon the proud and honor and mercy upon the humble.

Mary then acknowledged it was God who fed the hungry and continued to care for Israel as recorded in Luke 1:53-55, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers to Abraham and to his seed forever.” (NKJV) We are not smart enough to make it on our own. God takes care of us. It is our job to sincerely praise Him for taking care of us. God remembered the days of old when He delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. He remembered His promise that there would be the Seed of a woman that would break the head of the serpent. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). If He promises it, it shall be performed. Mary’s song was a song of jubilee. It was a song praising God and proclaiming Him as a Deliverer.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth possibly until it was time for her to give birth. It is recorded at verse 56 of chapter 1 of Luke, “And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.” (NKJV) The Scripture is silent whether Mary is present or not during the birth of John the Baptist (verses 57-79).

Are there things happening in your life that you need to give God the praise? Each of us has a song of praise in our heart. In His triumphant entry toward Jerusalem on a colt, Jesus was descending the Mount of Olives and a multitude of disciples began to rejoice and praise Him for the mighty works they had witnessed (Luke 19:28-40). The Pharisees did not like their praise. These disciples called Jesus “the King who comes in the name of the LORD” (Luke 19:38a NKJV). The Pharisees wanted Jesus to have them stop their praise immediately. Jesus responded at verse 40b, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (NKJV)

Written by Deborah C Davis

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