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Luke 1:39-1:56
Key Verse: 1:46-47

In the last lesson we studied about God’s favour upon Mary, and her decision of faith, “I am the Lord’s servant.” The greatness of Jesus as the Son of the Most High and Saviour and the eternal king and Mary’s obedience to be the mother of Jesus is indeed a beautiful story. That could have been all that Luke wrote about Mary’s. But he acquired more account (information/further accounts) about Mary and was compelled to write it as a subsequence in his gospel. It is about Mary’s visiting Elizabeth and Mary’ praising the Lord. It teaches us how to fight a spiritual battle, and how (or the conditions or mindset or heart attitude from which) we can sing the songs of praise to God.

First, Mary visits Elizabeth (39-45). Look at verses 39,40. “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Some may wonder why Mary visited Elizabeth, questioning, “Was not her decision of faith to be the Lord’s servant enough/sufficient?” Of course, her decision to obey God was complete before God. We believe that God accepted it and was very much pleased with her. However, there was someone who was very unhappy with her decision and wanted to make her stumble. That one was not Joseph or any other human being, but Satan. Satan is jealous of our decisions of faith, particularly when one accepts Jesus as Saviour and Lord and makes a commitment to him. This is a spiritual reality.

Mary sensed the spiritual reality. After her decision Satan may have whispered her, “You decision was too abruptly made; you should have talked with those who are near you. How can you bear such a tremendous burden?” Was she confused anxious and fearful? No. Luke says, “At that time Mary got ready…” Her decision was not shallow, but sincere and solid. She must have made every effort after the decision to guard her heart. Yet, she hurried to visit Elizabeth. She was so wise. She knew what to do next after the decision. And she knew whom she had to visit. She did not visit Joseph to receive human sympathy and understanding. She could have visited him easily, for he lived in the same town and, as her fiancee, was humanly closest to her. But instead, she visited Elizabeth in order to receive spiritual counsel and encouragement, even though, from Nazareth, it was a three-day journey of about a hundred and fifty kilometers. And in accordance with the angel's message, Mary must also have wanted to see the miraculous work of God in Elizabeth, a once-barren grandmother now with child. So she got ready and hurried to visit Elizabeth in hill country of Judea. In this way she did not give Satan a foothold.

Then what happened? Look at verse 41. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” The baby had been formed in the womb for but six months. But when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, that hearing went to the baby, and the baby in the womb responded to the greeting. Human beings are spiritual beings from the womb. At this point Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and could give a wonderful counseling. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” The words of blessing came out of her mouth for the mother and the baby. What an encouragement to Mary! According to the Jewish law, in the legalistic Jewish society she was a cursed woman and had to be stoned to death, and the child to be born would be an illegitimate child, under the curse. But before God, absolutely not! Elizabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, had spiritual view/insight/discernment to see Mary and the baby, and poured the words of blessing upon them. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can see things from God’s viewpoint and so can counsel others rightly. And this bridges generation gaps.

Elizabeth went further and said, “But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord, although she herself was senior to Mary. And she felt that she was so favoured through the coming of the mother of her Lord. Then she said continually, “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” It is interesting that the baby leaping for joy is written 2 times. I believe that this can be the expression of God’s joy, since the baby did not yet have his own will and thus was only filled with the Holy Spirit and the will of God. In truth God was happy and joyful for Mary’s decision of faith and to see the baby Jesus conception in her by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” This is the final word of blessedness. Here we see clearly that those who believe and accept God’s word personally are truly blessed people. It is so easy to value only human blessings, such as material blessings and success in the world. We should have eyes to see the work of God through his words and really encourage God’s flock of sheep when they have accepted God’s word and made a decision of faith based on the word of God, saying, “You are truly blessed.”

Second, Mary praises the Lord (46-56). After receiving Elizabeth’s counseling, the song of praise poured out of Mary’s soul. This song was not the song at the time of her wedding. Rather, this song was made when her future was uncertain, and even the ruin of her marriage possible. The popular title of this song, “The Magnificat”, is derived from the first word of the hymn in the Latin version: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, meaning, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Let’s examine/take a look at Mary’s song.

Look at verses 46,47. “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” Notably, Mary said, “my soul…my spirit.” Genesis 2:7 says, “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breadth of life, and the man became a living being/soul.” A Psalmist said, “My soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (42:1,2) And Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” And Jesus said in John 3:6, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” So we can say that soul or spirit is the very core and depth of oneself. One’s spirit controls his or her whole being. When Paul sent his final greetings to the saints, he usually said, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Ph 4:23). John 19:30 says, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” What matters in life is one’s soul or spirit. In the past, Mary probably could not (or did not) give much thought to her soul and spirit. When she gave her heart to Joseph, she was happy. But when she gave her whole heart to God, her soul burst out to glorify the Lord and her spirit revivedto rejoice in God her Saviour. The heart is the door way to one’s soul and spirit. Now, the Lord, God her Saviour became the first priority in her life.

According to Westminster Short Catechism, man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. It was written in 1646-1647. But far before, Mary knew this. When her soul glorified the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, her soul and spirit were in the right state.

Look at verse 48. “for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Here Mary shows that she knew God’s personal grace upon her. As we studied, when the angel Gabriel visited her, she was in the prime time in her life. But in her song, Mary confessed, “he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” In light of God’s mercy and grace she could have correct eyes to see herself. Without the grace of God, who was she and what would she become? She was nothing but a village damsel, poor and obscure, living in such a humble down of Nazareth. She could have lived as Joseph’s wife, an ordinary house wife and died in that town. Most miserably she also would have lived and died in sin and face eternal punishment. Who could have been mindful of such a young country girl of Nazareth? But God was mindful of Mary and chose her to be the mother of Jesus the Son of God.

When David realized God’s grace, he said, “Who am I O Sovereign LORD and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Sam 7:18) David was just a mere shepherd boy in Bethlehem. But God chose him and made him ruler over God’s people of Israel (2 Sam 7:8). More than that God gave him the promise of the Messiah who would come through his family line. As for the Apostle Paul, he confessed that he was the one who was abnormally born, and was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man (2 Tim 1:13), and a man of obsession (Acts 26:11). But because of the grace of God he became what he was.

A journalist, Richard Dugdale (1841-1883) studied the family trees of two people, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and his contemporary Max Jukes. Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl. From his family line, 310 died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars. But Jonathan Edwards married a woman of God. An investigation made of his 1,394 known descendants revealed that among them 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny.

Peter said in 1 Peter 1:18,19,23 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect….For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” Among us no one could have power to cut off from the cursed family tree of the empty way of life handed down to us. It is only by the grace of God through his Son Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God. I know that I also could have lived such a miserable life under the curse ignorance of the way of salvation and the truth of God in the Bible. What grace it is to be redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God and serve God among the precious community of God, having a precious family. Thank God who had been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Look verse 48b-49. “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” Mary now could have the assurance of her blessedness not only in her generation, but all the generations to come. And she continually confesses God’s personal grace upon her saying, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” The Mighty One has done great things for a young country girl. She knew that what was done in her life was by the Mighty One, no other and not a small thing, but great things. She deeply realized that the Mighty One is a holy God. Only the Mighty and holy God could do that.

Then, her song moves beyond the scope of her personal life. Look at verses 50-51. “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” Mary could see the principle of God’s way of working. God’s mercy extends without boundary to those who fear him in any and every generation. He never fails to find them. God also detects those who are proud in their inmost thoughts and deal with them harshly scattering them as he had scattered those who attempted to build Babel tower in Genesis (11:1-9).

Mary could see how the history has been going under God’s righteous rule: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” This is an unchanging, timeless truth in God’s reign over human history. At the right time the humble are lifted up, yet the ungodly arrogant rulers are brought down without exception.

And in verse 53 Mary said, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” In this world it seems that those who pile up their wealth become richer and richer. But that’s not true. Suddenly they become empty, because God sends them away empty when they ignore God and become more and more greedy. In Luke is recorded the story of a rich fool (12:16-20). And also the anecdote of a rich man and poor Lazarus (6:19-31). But God fills the hungry with good things. In Jesus’ Sermon on the plain in Luke, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” Surely, the hungry refer to those who are hungry both physically and spiritually. Good things can be love, trust, friends, the words of God, the Holy Spirit, etc.

Then Mary could see how God worked in the history of Israel, his chosen people: He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” The history of Israel was the history of God’s mercy and faithfulness according to his promise to Abraham and his descendants.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. Mary must have had enough spiritual fellowship with Elizabeth. Then when Elizabeth was about to give birth to her son, John the Baptist, Mary returned.

In this study we could see how Mary fought a spiritual battle until she could be confirmed of the word of God she received. When she had the word of God in her heart, her soul glorified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God hear Saviour, realizing that God was working in her life and knowing God who is mighty, holy, merciful and faithful. May God help us to fight a spiritual battle, especially at the critical times, so that we can keep the word of God in our hearts and our soul praise the Lord and our spirit rejoice in God, who is working in and among us, according to his mercy and faithfulness.

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