Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 1:39-56 – Magnifying the Lord

Grace For The Journey

If you have recently begun reading this blog, we are in a series of studies through the Gospel of Luke.  I do expository preaching at First Baptist, where we go verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, believing this to be the best way to learn the Word of God together.  We have recently studied two miraculous pre-birth stories.  We read of the Angel Gabriel’s telling old man Zacharias that his barren wife Elizabeth is going to have a son.  Then we read how that same Angel Gabriel told a very young girl named Mary that she would have a son by way of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot help but compare these two accounts and these two women, young Mary and older Elizabeth, women Kent Hughes describes as “one in the flower of youth, the other’s bloom long gone.”  In today’s passage the two ladies come together, Mary leaving her home in Galilee to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah.  But . . .

Not only do we read of these two ladies meeting one another,

Now the two miraculously conceived children meet one another.

Verse 46 contains a word that guides much of what we are going to get from our study today.  The word is “magnifies.”  In fact, it is from that word in the Latin translation that we get the phrase, “The Magnificat.”  Some of you will have heard this term, the Magnificat, to describe Mary’s praise that follows from verse 47 to 55.  Mary begins her praise to God with, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  We usually think of “magnifying” something as “making it bigger.”

I occasionally use a magnifying glass.  If I place the magnifying over my Bible and look through the magnifying glass, the lens makes the Bible bigger.  But of course, the glass does not really make the Bible bigger, right?  How many of you think the Bible changes shape when I put the glass over it?  It does not change the Bible.  It just allows me to see the Bible more clearly for what it is.  I see the detail in the Bible, the lens drawing attention to the very fabric and design of the book.

This is especially important for us to remember as we talk of magnifying the Lord. 

When we magnify the Lord,

We do not make the Lord bigger. 

Rather, we see the Lord for who He is. 

We draw attention to His greatness

That is already there. 

Magnifying the Lord is to see

The Lord in His intricate detail,

To behold His beauty and majesty

And then to declare that greatness.

In this sense . . .

Magnifying the Lord

Is not so much

Enlarging God,

But rather

Enlarging

Our thoughts

Toward God.

We will look this morning at magnifying the Lord, about seeing God for Who He is and declaring that greatness in various ways.  We will make our way, verse-by-verse, through the text and then I want to give you a few ways we may magnify the Lord this week and the weeks ahead.

In verse 39, Mary rushes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah and she enters the house there where Zacharias and Elizabeth live and greets Elizabeth.  Verse 41 tell us when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary the babe leaped in her womb for joy; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Remember that Elizabeth is about six months pregnant, and she is carrying John the Baptist.  And what is John the Baptist’s role? 

To herald or to announce

The arrival of the Messiah.

So . . .

John the Baptist,

Before he is even born,

Begins his ministry!

Elizabeth says the babe “leaped” in her womb.  This is no small, prenatal kick.  It is a word used elsewhere to describe the skipping or leaping of sheep in the field.  This is a pretty big kick!  Many of you ladies know what it is like or what it was like when your baby kicked in the womb.  This is different.  Often babies kick in the womb in response to something going on with the mother.  A kick in the womb may be an emotional or physiological response. 

This baby in Elizabeth’s womb

Did not kick in response to

Something going on with its mother,

But in response to something

Going on in the womb of Mary

It was a theological response.

A theological kick in the womb as John the Baptist begins his ministry of preparing the way of the Lord!

Verse 42 tells us that Elizabeth, full of the Spirit, cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  In verse 43 Elizabeth asks, “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  Note this well: Elizabeth refers to the baby in Mary’s womb as “Lord.”  Already, before He is even born in the little town of Bethlehem, before He begins His earthly ministry, before His crucifixion, before His resurrection, and before His ascension, He is Lord.  He is Lord whether you believe Him or not.  He is Lord.

Verse 44 says, “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”  And then Elizabeth pronounces another blessing upon Mary there in verse 45, “Blessed is she who believed (that is, believed the words of Angel Gabriel), for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  Mary believed what the angel said about her conceiving the Lord Jesus Christ, so Elizabeth calls her “Blessed.”

Recall from last week that Mary is blessed not because of any personal worth or holiness. Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you among women,” not, “above women.”  Mary is blessed for being chosen to carry the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is a blessing!  Verses 46 and 47 give us Mayr’s response, “And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” 

Mary recognized

Her personal need

For a Savior. 

She is not sinless. 

She rejoices in

God her “Savior.”

She continues to magnify the Lord in her praise, verse 48, note her humility, “For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”  How humble was Mary!  Someone said, “A man has as much Christianity as he has humility.”  Again, far from the Roman Catholic idea of Mary as a sinless, co-redeemer with Jesus, Mary recognizes her low estate, her need for a Savior, and her personal unworthiness to bear the Son of God.  She magnifies the Lord! 

Verses 49 through 56 requires little explanation.  Mary is magnifying the Lord, declaring His greatness in song, “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.  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.  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.  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.”  What a great and powerful testimony and witness to the greatness and grace of the Lord God Almighty!

In this song of “Magnificence Of The Almighty” May show us some truths that surface because we magnify the Lord. 

I magnify the Lord when . . .

1) I Feel In My Soul What I Say With My Mouth – It Flows From Adoration.

We can talk about praising God.  We can speak about it.  We can use words that declare the greatness of God.  We can even affirm with our mouths, “God is great,” but . . .

That is not necessarily magnifying the Lord

If we do not feel deeply the truth

Of those words deep down in our hearts.

Look at how Mary begins this song of praise in verses 46 and 47.  Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”  Mary is worshiping God here.  Be careful not to miss it.  She does not say, “My mouth magnifies the Lord, and my tongue has rejoiced in God my Savior,” though that would be true.  She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit – a synonym for soul here – has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

We do not magnify the Lord on a personal level until we feel deeply in our soul what we say with our mouth.  This is worship.  This is adoration.  This is true magnification of the Lord.  We declare the Lord for Who He is, magnifying Him by drawing attention to the detail of His greatness.  You cannot just do that without feeling something.  There is so much heartfelt worship in this passage! 

  • You have got the babe in Elizabeth’s womb “leaping for joy when Mary as the Son of God enter the room.” 
  • You have got Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” 
  • Then you have Mary saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” 

We must feel in our soul what we say with our mouth.

True worship happens when we feel in our soul what we say with our mouths.  This is why true worship is not defined by music.  Sometimes people refer to the musical part of a service as “worship,” which is really a faulty understanding of worship.  You can have worship with or without music.  And where there is music, you can have worship regardless of the style, regardless of the kinds of music.  I have said before that I can worship anywhere with virtually any kind of music, because worship is not music; worship is declaring the greatness of God whether a piano plays, an organ plays, a drum beats, a guitar strums, and whether the rhythm rocks, sways, or hums.  Why?

Because worship is not defined as music,

But as something that wells up within

Our very souls when we consider the greatness of God.

I magnify the Lord when I feel in my soul what I say with my mouth.  This is what Jesus means when He says in John 4 to the woman at the well, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  When we worship in spirit and truth, we feel in our hearts what we say with our mouths.  It is not magnifying a musician, or a style.  It is not making much of a particular kind of music. 

It is making much of God! 

This is what it means

To magnify the Lord. 

We declare His greatness.

We feel in our souls what we say with our mouths.

The reason some people cannot worship God is because they feel nothing in their hearts.  Their hearts have not been changed by the transformative power of the Gospel.  When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and spend your days contemplating the fact that God loves you and has redeemed you from sin, death, and hell freely by His grace, a gift that lasts forever, you begin to feel in your heart what you say with your mouth.  I magnify the Lord when I feel in my soul what I say with my mouth.  This is adoration. 

Secondly, I magnify the Lord when . . .

2) I Store In My Heart What I Read In God’s Word – Its Foundation Is Meditation.

We are talking about knowing and treasuring the Scriptures.  We read the Word of God and we meditate on the Word of God.  We memorize it and store it deeply in our hearts and then it finds expression through our mouths and lives in our magnifying the Lord, making much of His greatness.  Here is an important truth . . .

The greater our knowledge of God,

The greater our ability to magnify Him.

This is why the study of Scripture and scriptural truth, doctrine, and theology matters so much.  Someone said in America we are preaching “sermonettes” and thus raising “Christianettes,” small, weak, and theologically vacuous people who know little if anything about doctrine.  In a desperate attempt to “be relevant” and build crowds rather than Christians, some churches have nearly abandoned the teaching of Scriptural truth and doctrine in the pulpit and small group study.  Their fear of turning away potential prospects and turning off young people, has led some to lower the bar of expectations, believing folks are just not interested or somehow incapable of learning theology and the deep truths of God.  What a slam to young people.

Mary knew her Bible well.  Her song of praise, the Magnificat, is an echo of Hannah’s praise back in 1 Samuel 2.  Compare the two later and you will appreciate Mary’s upbringing as a young girl steeped in the Word of God.  You read her words here and you find allusions to much of the Old Testament.  And how old was Mary?  Recall from last week that the age of betrothal was no older than 15.  Most scholars believe Mary was somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15.  Young people can understand the Scriptures.  The bar should not be lowered.  That insults their intelligence.  The bar should be raised.  That honors them.  Watch them rise to the occasion and become godly young men and women.

I love the fact that our students at First Baptist are challenged to learn the Word and doctrine from an early age, in Children’s Ministry and on through our Youth Ministry.  I love the fact that so many of our students and parents are being taught the truths of God’s Word which makes them capable of living for Jesus and being living testimonies of the power of God unto salvation.  Has it occurred ever occurred to you that the word “teenager” is not even in the Bible?  The word “teenager” is a term that became popular just a few decades ago when it occurred for the first time in Reader’s Digest.  We do not have teenagers in our church.  We have young men and young women.  What a joy to see so many of our students developing into godly men and women, and I thank God for them and for our student leaders.

Young Mary stored in her heart

What she read in God’s Word.

She was able to recall the Old Testament history in verses 51 and following, recalling how God had “shown strength with His arm; scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”  She knew of God’s mighty deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and how God had scattered the proud Pharaoh in the imagination of his heart.   She knew in verse 52 how God had “put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly,” putting down Goliath and exalting David; putting down wicked Haman and exalting Mordecai.  She knew her Bible.  She knew in verse 53 how God had “filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” and in verse 54 how God “has helped His servant Israel” and in verse 55 the promise God had made to Abraham back in Genesis.

She knew her Bible.  Do you?  Do you read the Bible daily?  Are you growing in your knowledge and living of the Word of God?  When you store in your heart what you read in His word you will be ready when the winds blow.  When trials come, when difficulties come, the Word of God and the promises of God will keep you going.

We magnify the Lord when we store in our heart what we read in His Word.  And the greater our knowledge of God, the greater our ability to magnify Him. 

Finally, I magnify the Lord when . . .

3) I Trust To The Lord What I Face In This World – Its Fruit Is Dedication.

This is faith.  This is believing God.  Mary is a beautiful example of simple faith in the Lord.  She believes.  Elizabeth says in verse 45, “Blessed is she who believed” … “the things told from the Lord.”  Mary believed the words of the Lord spoken by the Angel Gabriel.  Elizabeth believed the words of the Lord spoken by the Angel Gabriel.  Remember Zacharias?  Zacharias did not believe the words of the Lord spoken by the Angel Gabriel.  Because of his unbelief, the angel struck him with muteness.  He was unable to speak and probably unable to hear.

I cannot help but picture Zacharias standing somewhere nearby watching all of what was happening between Elizabeth and Mart.  Mary comes running in to visit Elizabeth, Mary and Elizabeth placing their hands on each other’s bellies, sharing, laughing, praising God together, and magnifying the Lord together, and there is poor Zacharias just standing there shaking his head.  The curse of unbelief!

Trust to the Lord whatever you face in this world.  Believe the God who says in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always.”  Believe in the God who says in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Believe the God who says in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you.”  Believe in the God who says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Blessed is she who believed. 

And blessed are we who believe.

We magnify the Lord when we feel in our soul what we say in our mouth (that leads to adoration).  We magnify the Lord when we store in our heart what we read in God’s Word (that is based upon meditation).  And we magnify the Lord when we trust to the Lord what we face in this world (that leads to dedication).

Here is something to remember about the magnifying glass – it must be close to the object in order for it to magnify.  If it is not close enough, it cannot magnify the object.  In fact, the object will appear distant and even upside down.  It appears that way, but it is not that way.  If we are not careful, we will live our lives at a distance from God.   Something happens and we cry, “God, where are You?  You seem so distant.  You seem so far removed from my concerns!”  God has not moved.  God has not changed.  It is we who have failed to draw near Him, behold the beauty of the Lord, and declare His greatness.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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