MY SOUL GLORIFIES THE LORD
Key Verse 1:45
“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”
Last Sunday we studied how Mary had just received God’s call to a life of difficult mission. God favored her to be the mother of his Son, the Savior of the world. And Mary had accepted God’s favor even when it meant that she would conceive the Son of God out of wedlock. It was the most difficult decision of her life, since she would have to sacrifice her marriage and risk abandonment. At the same time, we also remember how Mary accepted God’s calling saying: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” A difficult decision like this should have made Mary the most miserable person. But to the contrary, in today’s passage we see how Mary dealt with the difficult life situation by singing a song of joy that came from her heart. What could have possibly overshadowed the difficulty of her situation replacing it with such great joy? Mary must have realized once again that she was a most blessed person in the sight of God, the God who loved her and called her to serve him. Everyone wants to be happy, especially God’s people want to have the joy of God circulating in their hearts. But when they allow the troubles of life to weigh them down, somehow they slip into a joyless spiritual existence. However, when a sincere child of God meditates on Mary’s song, they cannot but discover the joy of God’s love. May God bless us to discover Mary’s joy in our own hearts today.
From the previous passage, we know how Mary was engaged to Joseph. Her innocent desire for a sweet home with Joseph was on her heart. These were Mary’s own plans for her life. But God had other plans for Mary. God chose her to conceive his Son, the Savior King. When God announced his plan for her life, it was God’s grace to her, though it was a most difficult mission to bear. God basically had asked Mary to give up her own plans for life, her own dreams, her own hopes and to give herself to God’s will and plan for her. Certainly, Mary had a choice- to accept or to reject God’s plan for her life. But, as we know, Mary willingly accepted God’s plan. And her humble reply to God is worth repeating many times: “I am the Lord’s servant” Mary said, “May it be to me as you have said.” (38) There are those to whom God reveals his plans many times even through life and circumstance. But when the heart is always armed with excuses, that heart tends to obey its own desires and thoughts rather than God’s voice of grace and truth. But not Mary! This humble woman painfully accepted and followed the Lord’s leading in her life without excuses.
To accept God’s grace in one’s life is one thing, but to hold on to this grace is another. To Mary, holding on to God’s grace was not easy, it was the beginning of a difficult road to glory. The first difficulty she faced was the dilemma of what to do next. For example, how could she explain her situation to her family? How could she explain her situation to Joseph? Can anyone doubt how lonely Mary might have felt at this time! How uncertain and frightful the future must have looked to this young woman. Perhaps Mary cried! Perhaps she desperately needed someone kind who would understand her hardship. One thing was sure, however, Mary needed to solve her problem as soon as possible. The natural human reaction would be to become hysterical. But Mary didn’t. Instead, she handled her difficult situation as a true servant of God. Let’s see what she did. Let’s read verses 39 and 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.” Mary’s first reaction to a difficult situation was to visit Elizabeth.
Why did Mary visit Elizabeth? Let’s see! First of all, in the midst of her turmoil, Mary needed some spiritual guidance for her difficult situation. In other words, what was she supposed to do now? Where was she supposed to go? To whom was she supposed to turn to? So, where could she find answers to her dilemma? Actually, where else, but in the word of God. Surely God never leaves his dear children without clear spiritual guidance especially if he had called them to serve him. So Mary pondered God’s word in her heart. When she thought about God’s word, she remembered the angel’s words in verse 36. Then, through God’s words, Mary could find the necessary spiritual guidance for the moment. God was leading her to visit Elizabeth. At this difficult and critical time in her life as a young servant of God, what Mary needed was not some useless sentimental words of comfort. What Mary really needed was the spiritual counsel of a mature servant of God. For this reason God led her to Elizabeth. And Mary listened.
But it was not easy for Mary to obey such a direction. First of all, Elizabeth lived a far way off. It would be difficult for a young girl like Mary to travel on the dangerous roads alone. Another problem was how could Mary leave Joseph at a time like this! But perhaps the greatest difficulty in following God’s leading would be the generation gap between Mary and Elizabeth. Mary did not know whether Elizabeth would understand her situation or not, whether she would believe her story or not. Mixed doubts and emotions must have come upon Mary’s heart at this time of decision. But once again, when this young servant of God, Mary, had to make a difficult decision, she found strength and courage, where? In the word of God. The word of God became Mary’s guide in all things.
Mary’s decision to go to Elizabeth was no small decision, but a critical step in a long life of humble obedience to God. Besides this, we must also see something else in her life which helped her in her decision. Somehow, after struggling with her dilemma, Mary became confident and determined. Why? Because Mary believed that the God who called her to this difficult mission, is the same Sovereign God who would continue to guide her step by step, until his glorious purpose for her life is fully accomplished. Mary believed that her life and destiny were not a matter of chance and fortune, but a matter of God’s sovereign will and love. She believed that since God was Sovereign in her life and in control of all history, then everything will work out according to his will, in spite of her difficulties. In verse 50 we can see the root of Mary’s faith and confidence that God’s will would be accomplished. Let’s read verse 50: “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Mary’s faith was rooted in her fear of God. When she feared God, she feared nothing and no one else. Thus she was able to make a decision to follow the Lord’s leading with confidence.
And so, Mary came to see Elizabeth. What did Mary need the most at this time of spiritual turmoil? Immature people, including many Christians, always look for human sympathy in stressful times. But for the mature person, especially the mature in Christ, human sympathy during times of spiritual struggle is only a hindrance. Mary needed no human sympathy. What she really needed was spiritual counsel for her soul. And she needed the counsel of a mature servant of God such as Elizabeth. So, how did Elizabeth counsel Mary in her time of spiritual struggle? Let’s read verses 41-43. “‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” These words may not seem to be words of counsel, but more of a greeting. But they were words of wisdom and exactly what Mary needed to hear.
So how did Elizabeth counsel Mary? Let’s read verse 45. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Elizabeth understood Mary’s situation. Elizabeth then counseled Mary that she had done the right thing, that her decision of faith to accept God’s mission, painful as it may be, was the right thing to do. She counseled Mary that her difficult situation was not an accident nor a mistake, but the very will of God for her life. She helped Mary overcome her painful struggle by thinking about God and his grace in her life, instead of dwelling on the situation. And so, Elizabeth planted faith in Mary’s heart.
She also counseled Mary on what it means to be a blessed person. Biblically, the word “blessed” is similar to the word “joyous” or “happy.” Because of her special calling, she felt blessed. But we cannot ignore the fact that Mary also felt a sense of loss, for she lost much. For that reason, Elizabeth counseled Mary that in spite of her human loss she was a truly blessed woman. She was blessed for many reasons, but mainly because she believed the word of God to her. This is true blessedness. She was blessed because of her election as the mother of the Savior. But Elizabeth affirmed that Mary was also blessed because she believed God’s word to her. This in itself brought joy to Mary’s heart. According to the Bible, those who believe God’s word to them are really blessed people. They are glad, not because of a trouble-free life, but glad even in their hardship because they believe the word of God to them. They believe the Word of Life that assures them that they are God’s chosen people, God’s treasure, a special people whom God uses for his own great purpose. There are many things that make us happy or give us a sense of being blessed. But we are most blessed when we believe what the Bible says to us is true and we take it to heart by faith.
After receiving spiritual counsel, the burden of Mary’s heart was lifted. Her spiritual eyes opened and she could see God’s work in her life and in God’s history. Before this, the blessedness of her calling was like a hidden treasure that needed to be discovered. Her joy of being chosen by God was still buried deep in her heart. She wanted to rejoice but she couldn’t because she was burdened by the difficulty of her mission. So, Mary needed to look beyond the burden of her mission and see the end result. She needed to see the fruit of her obedience to God. She needed someone to help her to mature enough to bear her great blessing. Then the joy hidden and dormant in her heart could be found and brought out into the open. Now, Mary gained the strength she needed to live according to God’s will regardless of her situation.
So, what was the content of Mary’s song of joy?
First, the source of Mary’s joy was the word of God in her heart. Let’s read verses 46-47. “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Mary realized that God was her Savior working salvation in her life. And this word of truth remained in her heart. Through this word of God Mary was able to recognize God’s personal love for her and his presence in her life. Once she was happy if only she could marry Joseph and live as an ordinary wife. But this situational joy was not satisfying. However, when the word of God came to her heart, true joy was born. This joy was satisfying and lasting. In the same way, we also must strive to have the word of God in our hearts so that the joy which is hidden within, may emerge and be revealed even in the most difficult of our circumstances.
Second, the source of Mary’s joy was the grace of god. Let’s read verse 48. “…for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” Some people think they are doing God a favor to follow or to worship him. Some forget where they came from before God found them. Others often forget God’s grace in their lives. But a child of God must not be proud and self-righteous. Mary was a humble young girl who knew where she came from. She knew her lowly and miserable beginnings before God found her. Mary knew she was unworthy of God’s calling. Therefore, Mary realized that her present bitter sweet situation was only the grace of God to her. So she said: “God has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” This also was the source of her joy. Mary also confessed God’s grace saying: “From now on all generations will call me blessed…” (48b) “for the Mighty One has done great things for me–” (49a)
Third, Mary was happy when she understood how and through whom God works in history. Let’s read verses 51b-53. “…he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Surely God loves the humble at heart who acknowledge their need for him and for his word. King David prayed like this: “I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer.” (Ps.70:5) Mary loved God and hungered for his word. So God came to her and filled her heart with good things. So she learned to be happy in God with his grace and his word. The world hungers after material things and it thinks that happiness mostly depends on the human situation. But the child of God must learn that true happiness comes when they realize how God chose them in their lowly position to be used by God.
Finally, Mary was also happy when she realized God’s character– God is faithful. Mary praised the faithfulness of God who kept his promises to send the Savior and help his people. Let’s read verses 54 and 55. “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” When we know God is faithful in everything, faithful to all his promises, faithful to us personally as his own children, we experience the meaning of spiritual joy. God has bound himself to us by a covenant of life through the blood of his Son Jesus shed on the cross. This glorious covenant cannot be broken nor changed. Therefore, it is joy to know that though we are often unfaithful to God and failing, God is forever faithful to us and will continue to help us in our spiritual pilgrimage to eternal life and to the kingdom of God.
Today we could see the heart of one young girl Mary. How could she praise God in a song amidst her bitter-sweet circumstances? How could she mature spiritually? What was the secret of her joy? Certainly, it was the word of God in which she believed and trusted. When Mary’s heart dwelled on God’s word, God led her step by step until her spiritual eyes were opened, and she could see God and the work of God in her life and in history. And her spirit learned to rejoice in the fundamental truths of God such as his grace in her life and in the lives of his people. She learned to rejoice when she considered God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness based on God’s unchanging character and his endless love for his people whom he calls. May God help us to believe the word of God to us. May God convict our hearts that we are blessed indeed. Read the key verse.