“The Worship of a Young Mother”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Luke 1.46-56
Happy Mother’s Day! We can’t honor our mothers enough, can we? In light of Mother’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to listen in on a young mother’s worship of God in light of God’s working out of His redemptive plan in history. So let’s turn to Luke chapter 1. The text will be verses 46-55.
Background to the Magnificat
But first, let me give a little background to the book of Luke up to this point. The book of Luke begins recounting the story of a miraculous conception, the conception of John the Baptist. Zacharias and Elizabeth are an elderly couple who have been unable to have children. And Zacharias was a priest in those days. And it was decided through a casting of the lot, that it was his turn to burn the incense in the Temple of the Lord. And while burning incense, the Angel Gabriel appears to him and predicts the conception and birth of John the Baptist. And, of course, John the Baptist, as we’ve seen, is the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, who was the Promised One to come. John the Baptist went before Jesus to prepare His way.
So Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Now, when Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Gabriel again was sent to another lady, this time a young unmarried girl, the virgin Mary. And of course Mary is engaged, at this point, to Joseph. And based on what we know of the culture during this time, Mary was likely around 13 years of age. Think of that: she is 13 and engaged to be married. Is she ready for this? Is she mature enough in her thinking?
And Gabriel comes to her and pronounces that she is highly favored of the Lord though this young girl is poor, very young, and living in such a humble circumstance. And Gabriel announces that she will conceive in her womb and she will call his name Jesus and he will be the Son of the Highest and He will receive from the Lord the throne of David. And His kingdom will have no end.
And when Mary inquires as to exactly how this will happen given her marital status, the Angel Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” her, which is reminiscent of the Lord appearing in his Temple. In the Temple, when the Lord appeared there, it is stated that He “overshadowed” the Temple. In the same way, now, the Holy Spirit will demonstrate His marvelous presence to Mary and Mary will conceive in her womb.
So to start out the book of Luke, we have two accounts of two different miraculous conceptions. One was the making fruitful of a barren womb and the other was a conception apart from any human intervention.
And then the two ladies meet together. Elderly Elizabeth and the young girl Mary meet, previous to our passage, in verse 39. And there, when Mary greets Elizabeth, John the Baptist, inside the womb of Elizabeth, leaps at the sound of Mary’s voice. And then Elizabeth pronounces her three-fold blessing on Mary and Jesus. Verse 42, “And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
So we have two blessings there and the third is down in verse 45 Luke 1:45 “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” And we will actually refer back to this passage this morning at the end of the message, due to its focus on faith. “Blessed is she who believed.”
But when we begin our actual passage, at Mary’s hymn of praise in verse 46, Mary and Elizabeth are still together. And Mary here worships the Lord.
Since it is a short passage, let’s read these verses once again Luke 1:46-55 46 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. 51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
We call this Mary’s Magnificat, which is Latin for “exalt” in v.46, “My soul exalts the Lord.” Now, Mary’s Magnificat is an example of worship. And that is the theme of the Mother’s Day message: The Worship of a Young Mother.
And in a minute, I’m going to give you a package statement about the worship of this young mother. It’s drawn entirely from this passage and we’ll be able to take that home with us. And then will spend the rest of our time together unpacking this statement.
But first, let’s make a few notes about the passage.
First, note that it is a piece of poetry. Verses 46 and 47 help us with this. Mary makes 2 statements and they are very similar; they are parallel. This helps us understand it is poetry. Luke 1:46-47 46 “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” You can see that these two lines are very similar in thought. The two verses are similar as well in the words “exalts” and “rejoiced.” “The Lord” as well as “God my Savior” are referring to the same person. So you can see parallel thoughts; this is an indication that we are in poetry.
Secondly, notice that it is filled with Scripture references. This is a 13-year-old girl, yet she is about to become young mother. For example, verse 46 is a clear reference to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1. Look at Luke 1:46 and I’ll read 1 Samuel 2:1. Hannah prays, “My heart exalts in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”
You remember that story about how Hannah, like Elizabeth, was unable to conceive. And then the Lord gave her Samuel, whom she dedicated entirely to the Lord at the Temple in Shiloh.
In fact, Mary herself references Hannah’s prayer of help to conceive in verse 48. Look at Luke 1:48 and I’ll read 1 Samuel 1:11 when Hannah prays…, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
Mary quotes in verse 50 from Psalm 103:17 and as well in verse 53, Mary quotes another psalm, Psalm 107:9. And throughout her hymn of praise, Mary constantly alludes to scriptural thoughts and concepts as well as theology.
And this girl is 13 years old, if you can believe that. This says something about her heart’s desire for the Lord. And it also says something about her father and mother. Of course this is all welling up inside of her as she is meeting with Elizabeth at the time. Mary has received God’s word in her heart previous to 13 years of age.
The third note I would like to draw our attention to is just a correction on the person of Mary. Mary is not to be worshiped; she does not participate in our redemption and she is not to be venerated or prayed to. The Bible nowhere gives us this directive. Catholicism teaches, from the end of verse 48, that Mary should be venerated, that is she should be regarded with great respect.
But there are other clear doctrines in the Catholic faith that seem to give her divine qualities, which is idolatrous. For example, Catholics pray to her; but the Bible only allows for prayer to God in the Scripture. Well, we won’t go further with that this morning, but just to counteract that teaching, notice she says that God is her “Savior” in verse 46. Mary needs a Savior. What does she need a Savior for? She needs a Savior from sin. Mary is a sinner. Catholics teach that she was not a sinner. But if she wasn’t a sinner, why else would she need a Savior?
Well, here is our take home statement from this passage on worship. Are you ready for this? Worship is “exuberant praise (Luke 1:46-47) to God for who He is (1:46-47, 49) and what He has done (future [1:50-55]). It is empowered by faith (1:54-55; cf. 1:45) and overflows from an unworthiness of His favor (1:48, 49).”
Once again worship is “exuberant praise (Luke 1:46-47) to God for who He is (1:46-47, 49) and what He has done (future [1:50-55]). It is empowered by faith (1:54-55; cf. 1:45) and overflows from an unworthiness of His favor (1:48, 49).” Now, let’s unpack that.
First, from verses 46-47, worship is exuberant praise to God.
Worship is Exuberant Praise to God (Luke 1:46-47)
And by “exuberant” I mean that worship is excited and joyful. Worship is an excited and joyful praise to God. I have two points here and they are that praise is from the heart as well as praise moves the heart. It is from the heart and it moves the heart.
Praise is from the heart (“my soul, spirit”).
Notice that this exuberant praise is from the heart when Mary says that it is her soul that exalts the Lord and that her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. In other words, this is not just a speech with the lips and the heart is far away from God. No, this praise rises up from within.
In theory then, this could be done without any verbal testimony at all. And this perfectly describes her sons desire in the New Covenant when Jesus says: John 4:23-24 23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
In this New Covenant then, the Lord desires this very thing that we worship him in spirit, from the heart, because of the very fact that God is Spirit. Because of who He is, our worship must reflect who He is. We also must worship him in spirit. We must worship him from the heart. That’s where true worship of God must begin.
APP: And so it very well could be that in your singing and in your thoughts of God, that you have not truly worshiped God from the heart, from the spirit. Well, how would you know if you truly worship God from the heart?
TRANS: One way to know is if when you do worship, your heart is moved. So not only is praise from the heart, praise to God moves the heart.
Praise moves the heart (“exult”; “rejoice”).
Notice these words, where Mary says that her soul exalts the Lord and her spirit has rejoiced in God her Savior.
Let’s take the first one, exalts. This word has reference to making something big, or magnifying it. Of course, this does not refer to making God bigger or greater than he already is. That’s impossible. God is who God is and nothing I can do or say will change that. Rather, it’s the making big of your conception of God that is being referred to. It’s the same thing we do with a microscope. You place an incy wincy something-or-other under a microscope to make it appear bigger, to you.
APP: And for all of us, we need our conception of God to actually be much bigger. No matter what you think you need, you really need to have your conception of God placed underneath the microscope of His Word. You need your perception of His character enlarged. So, detail His character qualities and meditate on them to enlarge your understanding of who He is.
This is what Mary is describing. At this very moment, right when she is overwhelmed about God’s providence and God’s special favor upon her, Mary’s spirit, her heart is welling up inside and her conception of God is stretching and getting bigger. And she is testifying now, “my soul’s conception of the Lord is magnifying.” This moment for her is very intense.
TRANS: But not only is her conception of the Lord magnifying, but now we also have an additional thought here, somewhat of a result of this, she is also rejoicing. As her conception of the Lord is magnifying in her heart, this magnification of the Lord in her heart, is causing her spirit to rejoice.
Like the word exalt in the previous line, the word for rejoice here is also intense. It has reference to great joy and gladness. In the Scripture is often accompanied by verbal outbursts and even a bodily response. This Greek word translates a Hebrew word that means “shout for joy.” So the idea here is that Mary is overcome with the joy in her heart as she experiences her conception of the Lord magnifying.
APP: And of course, this is not something that can be manipulated. Mary is experiencing this in her heart because of God’s kind providence to her and, as we will see more later, as a result of faith. Her faith increased her knowledge of who God is and God caused her heart’s conception of him to magnify.
This kind of experience can’t be manipulated no matter how fast the music, no matter how eerie or mystical the atmosphere, no matter how many candles you light or not matter what other physical sensations are available. This worship is in spirit and can’t be manipulated through outside intervention. It is only a matter of a faith-filled reflection on the character of God and His awesome and gracious providence.
TRANS: Well, you say, I don’t get that emotional. I’ve grown in my understanding of God, but I’ve never been overwhelmed. Ok, perhaps God has built you that way, but I bet there is something in your life that gets you all stirred up. What is it, if it’s not God? Perhaps you need to consider more of who He is. That leads to our second point…
Worship is Exuberant Praise to God For Who He is (Luke 1:46-47, 49)
Worship is exuberant praise to God for who he is. Mary focuses on the character of God. This is what we see in this passage. Mary refers to the one she’s worshiping as “the Lord” in v.46. She also refers to him as “God my Savior.” In verse 49, he is the “Mighty One” and “holy is his name.” She is reflecting on the perfections of God.
And of particular interest this morning, and what the text gives emphasis to, is that God is “my Savior.” I don’t know what stirs you, but for me there is nothing like the thought of God’s salvation of me that gets me all stirred up! Knowledge of what God has accomplished in that little word… salvation…. Can because my heart to overflow.
What has God accomplished in salvation? God, in the fullness of times, after orchestrating all of human history, sent His Son to be born of a woman, this Virgin Mary. This of course fulfilled many very specific prophecies. And Jesus of Nazareth grew and he lived and he ministered, working many miracles, but the Jews schemed and sent him to die on a cruel cross.
But this was all planned out by God! Though those Jews sent him to die the hands of godless men, the Romans, God had planned this out beforehand that the death of his son would be the salvation of the world, the restoration of cosmos, which groans suffers underneath the pains of childbirth until today.
And on that cruel cross Christ spread out his own hands and declared it “it is finished.” And he effectively paid for the penalty of your sin that you might not have to pay the penalty yourself. Christ extinguished God’s anger and sin that God rightly had against you. You are the sinner that should have died on that cross and justice must be done; in a very real sense there was hell to pay, and more, on the cross. And Christ paid it all!
And then on the third day, demonstrating his power as the glorious son of God, Christ rose again from the dead. And he did so for our justification…for our right standing before God, that our sins might be taken away forever! He paid it all!
APP: So grow in your knowledge of God by recalling God’s salvation and actively choose to meditate long on that, driving in your truck, washing dishes, wherever you are. When you plan your day, write down what your heart should be thinking about: God’s salvation. Reflect on how God worked this salvation into your heart and how he has saved you from the power of sin.
And maybe there are some here today and you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you are not aware of a time when your heart was so moved over the thought of God saving you, perhaps you need to come to Christ for the first time. If you do and God is moving you in that way, don’t wait. Get that settled.
TRANS: When you consider this great salvation under a new and bigger magnification level for the first time and it stirs you to the point that it does, you will quickly become aware of how unworthy you are of receiving his favor.
Worship Overflows from an Unworthiness of His Favor (Luke 1:48-49)
And that is our third point this morning, which is worship overflows through unworthiness of His favor. Exuberant worship, true, spirit-filled worship overflows from an awareness of being unworthy of His favor.
God has shown favor to Mary
Notice Mary’s awareness that she has received favor from the Lord.
First, notice verse 48, she says that the Lord “has regard for” her. Second she says, end of verse 48, that, certainly, future generations will be able to consider her “blessed.” Of course this, again, does not have any reference to anyone venerated or praying to her. That would be outside of Mary’s desire here for sure.
This is merely a reference to her own recognition that she has been “blessed,” that is, she has been prospered spiritually speaking. “Future generations will consider me to be spiritually favored from God,”; that’s what she is saying. In this statement, she is recognizing the fact that she has been favored of God and she understands that future generations will as well. She’s expressing the magnitude of blessing from God she has when she says that everyone’s going to be hearing about this one!
But third, is, also verse 49, where she says that “the mighty one has done great things for me.” With these phrases, she is drawing attention to the fact that she is a recipient of the Lord’s favor and grace. The Mighty One has done great things for me, lowly me!
Mary sense unworthiness of God’s favor
Now, knowing what we know about Who it is that is showing the favor, … Knowing this, gives Mary a sense of unworthiness. As we’ve already noted from verse 47, when Mary says that God is her “savior” she’s referring also to herself as a sinner in need of a Savior. She understands her sinful condition and so when God shows this favor, she rightly senses unworthiness.
But notice also where she refers, in verse 48, to her present condition. She refers to herself as being in a “humble state” and also she recognizes that she is a “bondslave.” That just refers to her as being a willing slave that has sold herself into slavery. Of course she’s referring to being a servant of God.
And she is recognizing her humble condition, her humble state. Now, this is not a declaration that she is “humble in spirit.” One could barely retain the character of that claim once the claim is made. She’s not boasting about her own humility. She is recognizing the condition that she is in.
She is 13 years old. She is about to marry a common laborer, a carpenter. Joseph is a carpenter. She has no high status; no large income. She is definitely not “rolling in the dough.” Who is she? She has no notoriety at all. No one looks to her for anything; she’s barely even a teenager. So in her recognition of this that she is in a humble state, she is drawing attention to the fact that she senses personal unworthiness in God’s visitation of her. ME?! Why me?! I’m just an unworthy, poor, insignificant little teenager. (no offense to the teenagers in the room, but I think you get the point…). Who am I to be visited by God?
TRANS: And all this of course will fill up in a human spirit and eventually overflow out of the heart and into exuberant praise. He has done this for me! “My cup runneth over!”
Mary’s heart overflows in worship
Notice how she expresses this overflow, verse 48, God … the Mighty One has actually had a regard for the humble state of his bondslave…. That is amazing! That is overwhelming!
End of verse 48, all generations will “count me” blessed! I am blessed! Verse 49, the mighty one has done great things “for me.” Me? Why me?
APP: And for you, God has done great things for you in the salvation of your soul, if you have trusted in Christ and have turned away from your sins. He has done this for you… for me? Yes, for you! That you to should be such a recipient of what God has done in Christ, this should cause the cup of your heart over flow in exuberant worship to God.
TRANS: And the reason why all of this is so moving Mary at this point is because she has in her heart an understanding of the history of God’s redemptive plan. She understands and is very aware of the history of God’s plan of salvation and how this is all unfolded up to this point. And so the fourth major point then is that worship is over whelmed by what God has done. Worship is not only focused on who he is, but also on what he has done. Worship is overwhelmed by what He has done.
Worship is Overwhelmed by What He Has Done (Luke 1:50-55)
And verses 50-55 encompasses God’s plan of redemption, focused on the future from vv. 50-53, then the past in vv.54-55. If you’ll notice the word “has” in the lines. Verse 51, He has done mighty deeds…He has scattered those…. These verses have garnered considerable debate, as to what they are referring to, but without going into all the considerations, one way that you can understand this grammar is by setting it into the future. This is what’s called the “prophetic” use of this past tense verb. This view has the least amount of problems.
Personal Salvation: What God has done for others in the future (1:50)
In verse 50, Mary focuses on the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation in future generations for those who fear him. Now this is a quotation from Psalm 103:17. Luke 1:50 says…”AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
This is a looking forward in time when God fulfills his promise of salvation to those who fear him. Now why are we talking about God’s promises? Where is that in the text? Why are we saying the “fulfilling of God’s promise of salvation?” It’s because of the word “mercy.” This being a quotation of Psalm 103:17 helps us to understand that the original intent of this passage. The Hebrew text of Psalm 103, for the word “mercy” here, uses a word that refers to God’s loyal love, or his covenant love. God has covenant love for those in his covenant. And when we’re talking about God’s covenant, we’re talking about God’s promises. God has made promises to those who fear him. So those who fear him, who genuinely fear God in a saving way, they receive God’s covenant love. They are saved!
So, not only, in verse 49, has God done great things for Mary, but in future generations, verse 50, God’s covenant love will also be upon all of those who fear him.
TRANS: So Mary focuses in on the future of redemption history when God saves sinners from their sin. And of course God will use this mother’s son, the Lord Jesus, to accomplish that great work. Continuing in verses 51-53, Mary continues her focus on what God will do in the future concerning salvation.
Luke 1:51-53 51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.
You can see the contrast between the proud and the humble. God has scattered the proud in verse 52; God has brought down rulers but he has exalted the humble. The hungry get filled and the rich are empty. So, you can see the contrast there between those high position and those of low estate.
This is language to describe the total salvation of all of those who fear God. This salvation is so certain that it can be viewed as already having taken place. That’s the idea behind the wording that “he has” done these things. It is so certain to take place, that we can view it as already having happened. She’s so overtaken with the thought of her role in redemptive history that now, as her mind is making God bigger in her own sight, that she’s prophesying that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises will happen.
Paul, too, uses the exact same language in Romans 8:30. When describing our salvation, Paul recounts the past to the future when he writes, “and these whom He predestined, He also called [that all happened in the past]; and these whom He called, He also justified [that’s all past]; and these whom He justified, He also glorified [is that past?].
That the same grammatical structure. But our glorification is so certain that it can be viewed as already having happened. That’s why it’s in the past tense in Mary’s song here.
In other words, in Luke 1:51-53, this is the Lord righting every wrong. Those who genuinely and savingly fear God, can look forward to a new world order, one in which righteousness rules and those who are his will experience a reversal of their current distressing circumstances. And it’s through Jesus Christ that this restoration of the entire cosmos will happen. The entire universe will come underneath the perfect rule and reign of Christ. But especially in focus is the nation of Israel, His servant. The concept of Israel being God’s servant, as in Isaiah chapter 41-49, is a clear reference to the nation of Israel being God’s representative people on the earth. So Mary, this young 13 yr old mother theologian, has an understanding of the spiritual salvation of individuals and the national salvation of Israel through the babe in her belly. “God has given help to Israel his servant.” God promises to take special care of this nation of Israel in Jesus Christ.
When is all this fulfilled? In the future, in the millennium and on into the new heaven and the new earth, when God through Christ rightly restores all of the created order, people will look around and be able to say that “God has given help to Israel his servant” as we all worship in Jerusalem in the Millennium and in the new Jerusalem in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
ILL/APP: Even those who follow the teachings of that man who answers Bible questions on the radio, and that man himself, will look around in the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ and say indeed God has helped Israel. So is there a future for the nation of Israel? You betcha there is! To the extent that our future glorification is certain, so also God’s help to the nation of Israel yet in the future is certain.
Amazing understanding that this girl has for the future of the nation of Israel. And this is all because of what God has done in the past, for Abraham. At the end of verse 54, the Lord is doing this in remembrance of his mercy, in remembrance of his covenant love just like, verse 55 now, just like he spoke to the fathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob, but, originally at the end of verse 55 there, God spoke to Abraham these things. How did God speak these things to Abraham?
God promises Abraham in Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
As well, God promises to Abraham in Genesis 17:7 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.
God has made an everlasting covenant, a set of promises, God has promised to Abraham and his descendents certain things for ever. This is an everlasting covenant. It does not end. It goes on into the millennium and into the new heaven and new earth, forever.
APP: Has your perception of God’s person and works in salvation history, all the way from the time of Abraham and on into the millennium and eternal state…. Has your perception of who God is and what he has done been expanded this morning?
That is what you need! You need a magnification of the glory of God in your heart. You don’t need me to talk in detail about what you watch on TV nor do you need to hear so much from me on this that or the other detail of your little tiny life. What you need is what is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
You need to behold the glory of God in your heart! If you have problems in your life and you’re not responding correctly, you need magnification of God in your heart. You need your concept of who he is magnified to greater and greater degrees so that you can be changed into that same image from glory to glory. Anyone could live with you in your house and at your job and watch your life and your lips and determine what you believe about God. You might have textbook answers on God’s character, but it’s your life that will determine what you really know and believe about God. If you are angry, you need to know God. If you are anxious, there is something you’re missing about the character of God.
TRANS: And if you need help with these things, the counsel is faith, believe. Not just believe in God, but believe Him. Believe Him. Actively trust Him; purposefully depend on Him. Lean on Him. Put the weight of everything you are and the weight of your sin and trials onto Him. This is actually the context of this passage; if you’d note quickly in v.45. Luke 1:45 “And blessed is she …who…. believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” It takes faith.
If this future young mother of 13 years can study and comprehend these things, so can you. What greater thoughts and considerations could you want as a mother that would help get you through the day and to be able to handle the stresses of your daily life with kids or with your husband, family, or business… What else could you want other than the consideration of these truths about God and what He has done for you in salvation history and what God is going to do for you and for the nation of Israel in salvation future? These truths are what will give your spirit strength and stamina. Get your spirit outside of your small little world and behold the glories of God.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Luke 1.46-56
What is this hymn? It is an example of worship of a young mother. Once again worship is “exuberant praise to God for who He is and what He has done. It is empowered by faith and overflows from an unworthiness of His favor.”
For mother’s day, let’s sing 731, “O Give Us Homes.”