Luke 1:46-49

Sermon preached on December 17, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I'm preparing sermons I often listen to the music of J.S. Bach. His cantatas are marvelous. One of his most famous compositions is BWV 243, the Magnificat. It's based on Mary's song in Luke 1. Indeed, Mary's song is known as the Magnificat. The name comes from the Latin word, 'magnifies', which is rendered 'glorifes' in the NIV. One of the arias of that piece is sung by the bass part and in Latin is,

"Quia fecit mihi magna"

Which is the Latin translation of the Greek, which in English says,

"Because he did great things for me"

But what is interesting is that in one of the recordings of the Magnificat that we have, they obviously sing it in Latin, but when the bass sings that part, it sounds (in English) like the guy is singing,

"We are busy beavers!"

When I first heard that, I thought it was incredibly funny and I called Marg to listen to it and she couldn't believe it either. He sings the line over and over and each time it sounds like he is singing 'we are busy beavers'.

Now whenever I am amused by that, which is every time I play that particular recording, I feel like a red-neck—an unsophisticated, uneducated, ignorant, classical music lover. Marg and I have a friend who attended music school with Marg and after he graduated he went to Europe to become an opera singer. If we ever see him again, we're not going to tell him this story about the Magnificat. Even though we find it totally hilarious, we know he's so sophisticated and musical that he would not see any humor in it at all. He would probably think less of us because we saw humor in it.

And what a faux pas it is. Bach's piece is to lift our hearts and get us to praise and thank God. Bach wanted God to be glorified by all his music. But by laughing at one part like we do totally spoils the effect, at least for a few minutes.

In the same way, Mary's song is intended to show us something of how to praise and glorify God. So often we praise God inadequately. Sometimes, even when we try our hardest, we realize that our praise is defective. That's why we see David in Psalm 103 encouraging himself, others and the whole heavenly host to praise God. David began that psalm this way, (Psalm 103:1–2)

"Praise the Lord,
O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord,
O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits"

So what I want to do this morning is look at what Mary's song teaches us about what our praise to God should be like.

The first thing we should note here is that

Mary's praise was heart felt.

Her praise was sincere. It was real, deep seated where her soul and spirit rose up and burst forth with praise to God. This is the only kind of praise that is acceptable by God. In Isaiah 29:13 God complained about the people of Israel. He said,

"These people come near to me
with their mouth and honor me
with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up
only of rules taught by men."

And in Malachi 2:2 He said,

"If you do not listen,
and if you do not set your heart
to honor my name,
says the LORD Almighty,
'I will send a curse upon you,
and I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have already cursed them,
because you have not
set your heart to honor me.' "

Mary's praise was not like that. Her song talks about her soul and spirit. She said,

"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,"

The significance of these words is that they show that her worship, her praise of God came from her heart, from the innermost depths of her being. John Calvin writes, (Commentaries)

"The words soul and spirit are used in Scripture in various senses, but, when employed together, they denote chiefly two faculties of the soul; spirit being taken for the understanding, and soul for the seat of the affections."

Darrell L. Bock says that the reference to soul, , (Luke 1:1-9:50, BECNT; 148)

"is another way to refer to the personal praise that comes from deep inside a person…"

Joel B. Green says they are, (Luke, NICNT; p. 102)

"pointing to the depths of Mary's being"

R. Kent Hughes paraphrases Mary's words, (Luke Volume 1: p. 49)

"My total self, all that I am, magnifies and praises the Lord."

John Calvin writes, (Commentaries)

"When the soul of Mary exults with joy, the heart breaks out in praising God."

That's the first thing. Our praise to God must be heart-felt, it must be sincere. It must come from the depths of our being. There is no place for hyprocisy. Is your praise for God heart-felt. Is it sincere?

The second thing we see here is that

Mary magnified the Lord.

The word that is used here means to, ("μεγαλύνω," BDAG, 623)

"make great""to cause to be held in greater esteem through praise or deeds, exalt, glorify, magnify, speak highly of"

R. Kent Hughes says that it means, (Luke Volume 1: p. 48)

"literally: 'My soul makes great the Lord' or 'My soul enlarges the Lord.' "

One of our great duties in life is to extoll the name of the Lord. We see this in 1 Peter 2:9 as well. It says,

"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood,
a holy nation,
a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises
of him who called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light."

Indeed, this duty is not just confined to us here on this earth. Ephesians 2:6–7 tells us that in the future, the eternal age, our being with Christ will be an unending cause of praise and glory for God in the heavenly realms. It says,

"And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages
he might show the
incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness
to us in Christ Jesus."

This duty is so important. We are to exult in the Lord, rejoice in Him.

Mary magnified the Lord because of His great work in redemption.

We are to do the same.

She rejoiced in her Savior.

Like all other human beings except Jesus, Mary was a sinner. In her song she acknowledges her need for a Savior. John Calvin writes, (Songs of the Nativity, p. 24)

"That is where our joy begins—with the assurance that God is for us a Savior."

Mary knew that the Redeemer had come to earth—in her womb.

Many in today's society place no value on a baby in a woman's womb. Some will tell you that it's not a real human being until it's born. They will tell you that's it's nothing important, that it can be easily discarded, put to death if its mother decides to do so.

How untrue. If Jesus had not been safe in Mary's womb there would have been no salvation for us. Mary recognized her Savior had come to earth and was lifted up in praise to God.

John the Baptist recognized the Lord had come to earth when Mary came to Elizabeth. He leaped in his mother's womb. John, in his mother's womb, recognized Jesus. It was John's calling to announce Christ's coming. He was to go before the Lord, (Luke 1:17)

"in the spirit and power of Elijah…
—to make ready a people
prepared for the Lord."

Philip Ryken writes, (The Incarnation in the Gospels, p. 69)

" 'Not yet born, already John prophesies,' wrote Maximus of Turin, 'and while still in the enclosure of his mother's womb, confesses the coming of Christ with movement of joy.' John the Baptist was the only child ever to use a womb for a pulpit. In the liquid darkness of his mother's womb, the unborn child kicked for joy, leaping at the sound of Mary's voice, and in this way preparing people for the coming of Christ."

The baby leaping in Elizabeth's womb was a great confirmation of the angel's promise to Mary. John Calvin says, (Songs of the Nativity, p. 10)

"John had not yet uttered a word, nor could he see. Even so the movement which his mother felt was like a trumpet sound and, along with Mary, she was bound to see in it proof of Jesus' divine majesty."

Her Savior had come and this changed everything. Mary made God's name great. She magnified the Lord.

She knew that God was her Savior. John Calvin writes, (Songs of the Nativity, p. 24)

"Just to feel joy is simplicity itself. That is what the children of this world do all the time. But to rejoice in God is impossible until we experience the love he has for us, and until we know that he will not desert us but will lead us on to the end."

There are three things to note in Mary's song about magnifying the Lord.

First, we can best magnify the Lord when we know His Word.

Mary magnified the Lord by bringing God's Word to her mind and using Scripture to praise God. Mary's song filled with Old Testament references. Indeed, Philip Ryken points out that Mary's song,

"either quotes from or alludes to verses from Genesis, Deuteronomy, 1 and 2 Samuel, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah."

The point is that if you're going to exult in the Lord, you need to know your Bible. Mary knew her Bible. We usually think of Mary as an uneducated young maiden. But her song shows that she was deeply schooled in the Old Testament. So much so that Philip Ryken says of Mary's song,

"Mary tried to put virtually the whole Bible into her song!"

Mary sang from her heart but her heart was filled with God's Word. She knew her Bible and it was the basis of her song.

Today some professing Christians devalue the Bible. They're more interested in their feelings, or mystical leadings. They will accuse those of you who love the Word and meditate on it of worshipping the Bible instead of God. But that is totally misguided. If you want to magnify God, make His name great—it is absolutely essential that you bring to mind God's mighty acts. In her song Mary mentions God's holiness, His mercy, His being her Savior, His power and might, His justice to the proud and rich, His kindness and His faithfulness to His people.

R. Kent Hughes explains it this way, (Luke Volume 1: p. 48)

"We magnify or enlarge God when we take into our thinking some new aspect of his greatness. For example, when we meditate for the first time on the magnificent texts of creation, perhaps Col. 1:15–18, John 1:1–3, or Hebrews 1:1–3, our thoughts regarding God are enlarged. Likewise, meditation on Christ's death and atonement in the Gospel accounts will expand our theological knowledge. The fuller our knowledge of his greatness, the greater our ability to enlarge him."

The second thing we see about making God great is that

we can best magnify the Lord when we are humble.

As a matter of fact, we can only magnify God when we are humble. When we have pride we magnify ourselves. In order to magnify God, we have to recognize who we truly are, what our true position is. To the extent that we boast about ourselves to that extent we rob God of praise and honor. We need humility to honor God as we should. It is absolutely necessary. In a sermon on our text John Calvin wrote,

"God receives due praise only when we reserve nothing to ourselves. Devoid of any goodness, we must seek it in Jesus Christ, from whom we must receive it. He is the key to everything."

Mary knew this and she sang,

"for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant."

Mary was a poor peasant girl from Nazareth. But even when God make it known to her that she was going to be the mother of the Lord—she did not exalt herself. She glorified the Lord. She knew she was going to be called blessed by coming generations, not because she was someone great—but rather because,

"the Mighty One has done
great things for me—
holy is his name."

The good work that she was going to do, that came from God. God prepared it from before the creation of the world. As Ephesians 2:10 says,

"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus
to do good works,
which God prepared in advance
for us to do."

The third thing to note about Mary's magnifying the Lord is that

Mary rejoiced even though she was in a difficult situation.

I believe at this point she was pregnant and not married. This also seems to have occurred before Joseph agreed to marry her. There was much uncertainty ahead of her. Yet she rejoiced and exulted in the Lord. She knew that because her Savior had come that even in the midst of so much uncertainty, she should rejoice.

John Calvin writes, (Songs of the Nativity, p. 25)

"although in the world's eyes we may experience many troubles, we should nevertheless press on and overcome all things through the joy that is ours, since everything works for salvation when God loves us and when we are acceptable to him."

That's why Paul could insist that the Philippian Christians rejoice even though they had many struggles. Repeatedly in Philippians he told them to rejoice. He wrote, (Philippians 4:4)

"Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:

Christians, rejoice. Your Savior has come! He has defeated death, Satan, everything that was against you. He is now at God's right hand ruling all things for you and His glory.

Lastly, if you're not in Christ, you need to be. Would God have sent His Son into the world, to suffer, to die, if it was not necessary? If you could be saved by doing good, by trying hard would God do that? If you could atone for your sins yourself—would God have done that? No. He did it because it was the only way. Go to Jesus now. Trust Him. Ask Him to save you.