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"My Soul Magnifies the Lord"

Luke 1:46-55

Jim Davis

It has been said that the word "hallelujah" is the one word that means the same thing in every language. "Hallelujah" simply means "Praise God." There have probably been numerous times in our lives when we just want to stop and shout the one word "Hallelujah". At other times we have probably wanted to stop and reiterate with many words what God has done for us. 

Samuel Morse invented the first telegraph. When the first transmission was made more than a century ago, the message Morse declared was "What hath God wrought". Someone has suggested if the event were to occur in our times the message would most likely say, "What man can do!" There has been a tremendous change in the attitude of the average individual on the street. We are a generation that's turned from praising God to praising ourselves. Generally speaking, there was a time when the Lord was given due recognition. His power was respected and mankind's attainments were credited to the abilities he received from his Creator. 

A well known author was speaking at a Christian writer's seminar. He has written over seventy books. He made a statement that his ability was a gift from God. He indicated that it had taken him a long time to say his abilities as a writer was a gift of God. He understood that many say it is a gift from God when actually it isn't. It's just human effort and human desires. It took him a long time to admit his abilities was a gift from God. Out of respect for God, he refused to say what he was doing as a writer was a special gift from God. He indicated that even a gift of God takes a lot of toil and sweat to develop. 

The trouble with most of us is, when we put forth the toil and sweat we begin to focus on what we have done rather than the ability God has given us. As we begin to  take pride in the work of our own hands we lose sight of God. In many ways we are too reluctant to admit the abilities God has given us. We had rather attribute it to our ingenuity. When Morse said, "What hath God wrought," he was giving credit to God. He was giving the glory to God. This seems to be better than saying, "Look at what I have done." After all God has given us dominion over the earth, we shouldn't be surprised at what he has enabled us to accomplish.

This attitude infects the church's worship. People come to worship to be recognized and made to feel good rather than recognize God as creator, sustainer and giver of all blessings. If we don't receive the praise and recognition we are looking for, we become bored.  R. C. Sproul said, "If people find worship boring and irrelevant, it can only mean they have no sense of the presence of God in it. It is impossible to be bored in the presence of God if you know that He is there." True biblical worship so satisfies our total personality that we don't have to shop around for man-made substitutes.

After attending church one Sunday morning, a little boy knelt at his bedside that night and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today--but I wish you had been there!" 

To worship and praise God is to recognize his worth or worthiness; to look God-ward, and to acknowledge in all appropriate ways the value of what we see. The Bible calls this activity "glorifying God" or "giving glory to God," and views it as the ultimate end, and from one point of view, the whole duty of man. 

Psalms 29:1-2
Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. (NIV)

Psalms 96:6
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (NIV)

My soul magnifies God when I begin to focus on what the Lord has done and is doing for me. Praise must begin with what God has made possible for each of us. This may sound sort of self-centered, but keep in mind that we are focused on what God has done or is doing. The focus is on what God is doing. Until we see what the Lord has done for us, there is no cause to burst out in praise.

"The Mighty One has done great things for me . . . "

When Mary conceived the Christ child she visited the mother of John the Baptist, who was now six months into her pregnancy. Elizabeth helped her see what God was doing and how blessed she was above all women. In a loud voice Elizabeth proclaimed:
 

Luke 1:42-45
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (NIV)

When Mary begins to realize the impact of it all she burst out in praise.

 
Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 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. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." (NIV)


Mary's praise proclaims, "The Mighty One has done great things for me . . . " It is a personal focus, but Mary does not lose sight of God. To rediscover the worship of praise we must rediscover the mighty things God has done for us personally. We find Mary rejoicing because the Lord has been mindful of her. Here we find Mary the mother of Jesus bursting out in a "Hallelujah" chorus in praise of what God is doing in her life.

"Hallelujahs" occur when we stand in awe of what God is doing for us personally. Mary stood and sung, "My soul magnifies the Lord . . . " There can never really be true worship of God until we understand what God has done for us personally.  It is one thing to come to the Lord's table and see what God has done for the salvation of the world, it is quite another to see what God is doing for me personally. It is one thing to stand with the saints and shout songs of praise to God, but to sing praise for what God is doing in my life, well that is real praise. 

Whether times are good or bad this is where praise begins. In the book 450 Stories for Life, Gust Anderson tells about visiting a church in a farming community of eastern Alberta, Canada, where there had been 8 years of drought. The farmers were deep in debt, and their economic situation looked hopeless. In spite of their poverty, however, many of them continued to meet together to worship and praise God. Anderson was especially impressed by the testimony of one of these farmers. Dressed in overalls and an old coat--the best clothes he had- -the man stood up and quoted Habakkuk 3:17-18. With deep meaning he said, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no food; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Anderson thought, that dear saint has found the secret of joyful praise!

Mary exclaimed " . . . the Mighty One has done great things for me . . . " 

"He has regarded my lowly state . . . "

Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. 

Hannah praised God when she conceived a son she prayed earnestly for.

 
1 Samuel 2:8
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. (NIV)


God gave Nathan the prophet a message for David. It was actually a reminder of what God had done for David and a revelation of what he was going to do for him. "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth . . . " (2 Samuel 7:8-9 NIV)

Notice the response of David after God has given him so much. 
 

2 Sam 7:18-19
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD? (NIV)


As we read these verses, we may continue to believe that these promises are to virgins and men after God's own heart. Yet, these promises are to every person. In Mary's song of praise, she says, " . . . His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation . . . " God leaves no one out. That was the point of him coming to the humble and lowly. He specifically says so in the following verses. 
 

Luke 11:27-28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (NIV)

Psalms 113:7-9
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people. He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD. (KJV)


We all know what dung is; it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out what a dunghill is. You have heard someone say about a person: "He or she could fall into a sewer and come out smelling like a rose." This usually referred to a person's luck. It meant that the person was so lucky that nothing ever went wrong. But the Psalmist says God lifts the needy out of the dunghill and actually gives them the Rose of Sharon. It has nothing to do with luck, but rather what the Mighty One has done for us. 

"He has scattered those who are proud . . . "

As Mary focuses on what God is doing for her personally, she begins to see the bigger picture. She begins to comprehend what God is doing in the world to exalt her life. Mary says, "He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts." (Luke 1:51) He scatters the proud. It is impossible to fathom the depth of the destructive forces of pride. We know what it is to deal with proud people. A proud person lifts self above others to get a nasal view of the world. They imagine themselves to be above the fray of life. A proud person believes that rules are for everyone but self. We know the trouble they cause. As Mary walked among a proud troubled world, she sees God exalting her as he scatters the proud. It is amazing, how God hurls the insults of the proud upon their own heads.

As men were building the tower of Babel, they were trying to make a name for themselves. God made each of them speak in a different language and scattered them over the face of the earth. Mary envisions God scattering the proud to make a straight path for her personal life. 
 

Psalms 138:6-7
Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. (NIV)

Isaiah 66:2
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (KJV)

1 Peter 5:5-7
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn't know what to do. Napoleon's massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church. The preacher rose and said, "Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord's resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us." The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left.

"He has brought down rulers . . . "

Mary's song of praise says, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." (Luke 2:52) 
 

Job 5:10-17
He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. (NIV)

Luke 18:11-14
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (NIV)


"He has filled the hungry with good things . . . "

Mary's praise continues. "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 2:53)
 

James 2:5-7
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (NIV)

1 Samuel 2:1-8
 Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.  "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. "Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.  "The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.  Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.  The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. (NIV) 

1 Corinthians 4:8
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings-- and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! (NIV)


You can't really know how rich you are until you realize how poor you were to begin with. Notice in the following verses how poor the Corinthians were.
 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)


How were they made rich? It was the same way Mary was made rich. Through the blessed birth of Christ.
 

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (NIV)


A widely respected man known as "Uncle Johnson" died in Michigan at the incredible age of 120. Perhaps his advanced years could be credited in part to the cheerful outlook that characterized his life. One day while at work in his garden, he was singing songs of praise to God. His minister, who was passing by, looked over the fence and called, "Uncle Johnson, you seem very happy today." "Yes, I was just thinking," said the old man. "Thinking about what?" questioned his preacher. "Oh, I was just thinking that if the crumbs of joy that fall from the Master's table in this world are so good, what will the great loaf in glory be like! I tell you, sir, there will be enough for everyone and some to spare up there."

"He has helped his servant Israel . . . "

As Mary focuses on what God has done for her, she is forced to back up and refocus her life on the sovereignty of God. Mary says, "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he has said to our fathers." (Luke 254-55) What God was doing for Abraham, he was in essence doing for all of Abraham's descendants. In fact, the fulfillment of the covenant to Abraham was what the birth of Christ was all about.

The Psalmist looked back and reiterated what God had done for Abraham's descendants. 
 

Psalms 107:32-43
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders. He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; to here he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; he who pours contempt on nobles made them wander in a trackless waste. But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD. (NIV)


Conclusion:

Someone said that a eulogy is "Praise that is long overdue."

Contrary to popular opinion, God is not dead, but his praise is long overdue.

 

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