This week, our verses are a passage in Luke's gospel; these verses are well known as the "Magnificat," a song that Mary sang to the Lord. Similar to the psalms that David sang when he was moved, overjoyed, or overwhelmed, Mary sang a psalm, too. We'll see that it was a song worth singing, and contains some great things for us to study!
“My soul glorifies the Lord
Let's look at the background for these verses . . . Remember when Zechariah was in the temple? He was visited by a very special angelic visitor. He had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve in the Holy of Holies, and as he pours out the incense, Gabriel appears to him with an unexpected message. That message was that his wife, Elizabeth, who'd been barren for many years, would bear a son!
Elizabeth must have been surprised, as well as being overjoyed, simply because it wasn't the norm to be pregnant at her age. But she wasn't the only one to be surprised. Her cousin, Mary, a mere youngster compared to her, was going to receive some pretty shocking news, too.
Last week we studied Gabriel's visit to Mary, and how he told her that she was highly favored: she was going to bear a son who would be called "Y'shua" (Jesus) and that He would possess the throne of David; He would reign forever, in an eternal kingdom. Good news!
She will be pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hmmmm . . . there's a slight problem, no? Like we said last week, she was engaged to be the wife of Joseph soon. She hadn't been sinning with him, nor with anyone else, so if she turns up pregnant, it doesn't "look good." Imagine again how you might react . . . "Um, kinda inconvenient . . . we don't have good insurance." (Grin) Seriously, though, she might have wondered if Joseph and the rest of the community might be picking up stones and preparing to use them.
Mary's response is this: worship. She is a truly remarkable young woman, for she understands that God is about to change the course of history. And after traveling (the scholars tell us) about four days to reach her cousin's house, she bursts out in praise, in the psalm above. Is she full of doubt? Nope. Is she anxious? No way. Deep in her inmost being, in her soul, she wants to magnify the Lord.
One of the commentaries I used said that the word "magnify" had more meaning that what we might think today. When she says it, she is saying that the Lord is getting larger in her understanding. As she ponders it, and as she thought about it, walking to Elizabeth's house, God seemed to be getting bigger and better!
The verses say that she was more than joyful, more than happy -- she was overjoyed. The emotions within her were so intense that it was almost unspeakable. But lucky for us, the Spirit helped her, and she poured out her joy in this psalm. What was she most joyful about? She tells us first that she is rejoicing because God is her Savior. She, too, is a sinner that needed God's intervention, just as we do.
So, Mary is surprised by her heavenly visitor. And she is surprised by his message, as well. It is a surprising one: God has chosen two obscure women, one old and one young, a virgin. He has tapped them to bear two amazing people into this world: John the Baptist, and Jesus the Christ.
We'll study the Magnificat, Mary's psalm of praise, in more detail this week.