by Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD, Henderson, KY
Scripture: Luke 1:39-56
39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a
city of Judah,
40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
Take a look again at the very last verb we read there in verse 46. There is a word there that guides much of what we are going to get from our study this morning. The word there 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 have a magnifying glass here this morning. I don’t usually use props, but I thought this might be helpful. If I place the magnifying glass here in front of 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 doesn’t 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. I want to talk this morning about magnifying the Lord, about seeing God for Who He is and declaring that greatness in various ways. So let’s make our way, verse-by-verse, through the text and then I want to give you a few ways we 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, “Yoo hoo, Elizabeth!” Verse 41, and it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, what happened? 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 whom? 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!
So Elizabeth, full of the Spirit, cries out in verse 42, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Verse 43, “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, “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! Now, Mary’s response in verse 46 and following;
46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 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, listen to her humility:
48 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 and following require little explanation. Mary is magnifying the Lord, declaring His greatness in song:
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.
In my study this week, I took out a sheet of paper and I wrote down this phrase:
“I Magnify the Lord When…”
I’ve got a few actions that I believe surface from our study of this passage.
Here’s what I wrote. If you’re taking notes, jot these down. I magnify the Lord when…
1) I Feel in my Soul what I Say with my Mouth (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 on the inside. Look again at how Mary begins this song of praise, back 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 can’t just do that without feeling something. There’s so much heartfelt worship in this passage! You’ve got the babe in Elizabeth’s womb “leaping for joy when Mary and the Son of God enter the room.” You’ve got Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Then you’ve got 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, I can worship. 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 am saved. I am born again. This is not merely an objective fact. It is a subjective feeling.”
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 (Meditation)
We’re 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. And listen: the greater our knowledge of God, the greater our ability to magnify Him.
This is why the study of Scripture and scriptural truth, and doctrine, and theology matters so much. Someone said in America we are preaching “sermonettes” and thus raising “Christianettes,” small, weak, 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 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’ll 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 here at First Baptist are challenged to learn the Word and doctrine from an early age, in children’s ministry and on through student ministry. I love the fact that so many of our students and parents are reading the book, Do Hard Things, a book written by two young men in their teens, who point out that young men and women are capable of doing far more than contemporary society gives them credit for. I mean, has it occurred to you that the word “teenager” isn’t 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 don’t have teenagers in our church. We have young men and young women. I enjoyed being with many of these young men and women this past weekend at Southern Seminary at the “Give Me an Answer Conference” for students. 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, putting down King Agrippa and exalting the Apostle Paul. 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 Sunday school? 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. Then, I wrote this down: I magnify the Lord when:
3) I Trust to the Lord what I Face in this World (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? How many of you remember Zacharias? Did Zacharias believe the words of the Lord spoken by the Angel Gabriel? No. And because of his unbelief, the angel struck him with muteness. He was unable to speak and probably unable to hear.
I can’t help but picture Zacharias standing somewhere nearby watching all of this. 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’s adoration). We magnify the Lord when we store in our heart what we read in God’s Word (that’s meditation). And we magnify the Lord when we trust to the Lord what we face in this world (that’s dedication).
The magnifying glass must be close to the object in order for it to magnify. If it’s 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’s not that way. If we’re not careful, we’ll 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 and behold the beauty of the Lord and declare His greatness.
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