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We learn much about people from the songs they sing – what they think and how they feel. Songs reveal the truth of the heart. This is evident in the response of Mary to the great events leading up to the birth of the Messiah by the miraculous working of the Lord. As she visits Elizabeth, by the Holy Spirit’s working Mary sings an inspired song. As we return to Luke’s Gospel, we consider Luke 1:46-56 Mary praises her Saviour
1. God’s grace to Mary
Notice how full of biblical language Mary’s song is. It is very reminiscent of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1ff. Here is a woman whose mind is steeped in Scripture. Note:
(i) Praise (v46-48). It is significant that, when Elizabeth has just described her as ‘the mother of my Lord’ (v43), Mary’s focus is on the Lord and not herself. She is filled with praise because of his work (v46). She uses the covenant name of God – ‘the Lord’ – the God who in grace and love binds sinners to himself in a saving relationship. Note Mary rejoices ‘in God my Saviour (v47) – she is a sinner saved by grace, like all the Lord’s people. Literally she says, ‘my spirit rejoiced’ – she most likely has in view the annunciation by Gabriel of the conception and birth of the Messiah (v31-33), wonderful news for one conscious of ‘the humble state of his servant’ (v48).
(ii) Contemplation (v49-50). As Mary thinks of what the Lord has done for her, several of the Lord’s perfections stand out to her:
God’s power: ‘the Mighty One’ (v49). The virgin conception shows that creation is in the palm of God’s hand and he is sovereign in all things – Ephesians 1:11.
God’s holiness: ‘holy is his name’ (v49). The ‘name’ is who God is. Holiness is always at the forefront of revelation – Isaiah 6:3. He is separate from all created things.
God’s mercy: ‘His mercy extends…’ (v50). In mercy he responds to our misery with the provision of a Saviour. Our response is to ‘fear him’, as we receive salvation by faith.
2. God’s grace to multitudes
Mary’s vision widens out (v51ff) to embrace the big picture of God’s saving work:
(i) Grace effects deliverance (v51-53). God has done ‘mighty deeds’. He acts on behalf of ‘the humble…the hungry’, reversing the values of the world, bringing down ‘the proud…rulers…the rich’. This has a physical application, but is primarily spiritual. All of life is transformed. God has acted thus in the past, but in view above all is the saving work of the Messiah that will soon begin. He saves the spiritually destitute and his work cannot fail.
(ii) Grace brings fulfilment (v54-55). This is the language of the Old Testament promises. Note ‘his servant Israel’ – where Israel failed, the perfect Israelite, the Messiah, triumphs (Isaiah 42:1). His blood seals the covenant (Genesis 17:7), the Covenant of Grace that brings salvation. In Christ it can be said of believers that we are ‘Abraham’s seed’ (Galatians 3:29). The grace of God triumphs over the sin of his people, fulfilling his promises.