Friday, December 26, 2014

My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord-Sermon Notes

Luke 1:26-56
My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord
Lynchburg, Virginia

         In Elizabeth and Mary, the Lord gives us two examples of highly favored women of great faith. In both instances, their husbands stumble at unbelief but the women do not falter. They hear the word of the Lord and readily submit to it. While their situations were highly unlikely, they both embraced God’s work without doubting either that it was God that was doing the work, or that He could and would fulfill that which was spoken. They did not waver in unbelief.
         These passages are remarkable for several reasons. First, it shows us that little babies, even tiny babies in the womb, can know God and be known by God. They can know even more than this. John Baptist recognizes the voice of his relative, Mary, even though he had never heard her voice before. And through what can only be a spiritual and emotional connection, he also recognizes that the Lord Jesus is near.
         Another remarkable thing about this passage is related to the personhood argument, if you want to give it any time of day. Jesus is Jesus even though He is just a very tiny embryo, not even yet up to the status of fetus, in the womb of His mother, Mary. He is probably only a couple of weeks in utero at the time of this occurrence and yet, Elizabeth and John Baptist recognize Him as the Lord, the Messiah. Mary receives this, acknowledging this truth, as well.
         When we see such women of great faith, we should all be encouraged and exhorted to such belief. These women did not doubt the sovereignty or power of God. When God acted in their midst, they simply believed Him and submitted to His will. When He spoke, they did not doubt that it was Him that was speaking or that He would now do His will.
         While we do not have these divine utterances from the Lord, we do have His Word. In His Word, God reveals His will. He makes promises and He comes to us in the power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that will, to dispense the promises. What will you do? Will you doubt, like Zacharias? Will you disbelieve like Joseph? Or, will you humbly submit yourself to God’s will and God’s promises, like the faithful Elizabeth, like the highly favored Mary?
         There is another important thing to point out in this passage. The Bible says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous. It also says that Mary was highly favored of the Lord and that John Baptist was great in the eyes of the Lord. What can we good Presbyterian folk make of this? I thought we were all by nature objects of wrath? I thought all of our righteous deeds were as filthy rags? I thought that no sin can stand in the presence of the Lord and that we are full of sin? There is some truth to these statements but we are out of balance. We hardly have room in our minds and hearts for the Father looking at us with favor.
         We need to think balanced Bible thoughts, not puckered Presbyterian thoughts. It is true that we sin. It is true that we, who sin, need a Savior Jesus and His Holy Spirit to justify us and to make us into His image. But we should not slander the Father’s love towards us. The Father, Himself, favors His people. He looks upon them, us, with love and desires to save them to the uttermost. It is the Father who sent the Son to save us from our sins, for God so loves the world that He sent His Son.
         When we sin, we should repent. When we sin grievously, in an open or big way or over a long period of time, we need forgiveness and we also need healing and reconciliation. In such scandalous sins, we have a reason to wonder if a Spirit-filled man, woman or child could act in such a way. In such cases, there should be soul searching, deep sorrow and thorough repentance.
However, for the ordinary faithful Christian, who is seeking to be obedient to God today, who by all appearances is actively walking in God’s goodness, we should understand that the Father’s pleasure and favor is directed towards that person, towards you, towards me. We should not be fearful to come into His presence, but rather, we should desire to come to the Father and He to us, for He favors us.

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
They were engaged and an engagement could not be broken off unless there was fraud. We should keep this in mind when Joseph seeks to divorce Mary. He tried to do so quietly, not wanting her supposed sexual fraud to be made widely known.
Joseph was of the house of David. So, Joseph’s son was in the royal line but we should remember that Jesus is not Joseph’s son. But Joseph does receive him as his firstborn.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  
Mary is highly favored of the Lord.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 
Mary was confused and afraid.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 
Of His kingdom there shall be no end. And the government shall be upon His shoulders. Wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 
Mary asked a question of the angel just as Zacharias had. In Zacharias’s case, the angel was bothered and punished Zacharias with silence. Mary is later commended by Elizabeth for believing. Her question here is not one of unbelief. She believes the angel’s declaration but does not understand how she could become pregnant without carnal knowledge of a man. It is a legitimate question. You get some sense that she is making it clear that she could not be pregnant because she was pure in this regard.

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 
The Holy Ghost and power will overshadow her.
A barren woman conceives along with a virgin. Nothing is impossible with God.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Mary declares her humility even while being highly favored. She does not seize the favor but rather responds in a humble and thankful fashion. She gives herself wholly to the Lord, submitting fully to His will.

Luke 1:39   And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;  40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.  41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 
Mary traveled about 100 miles, so it probably took her about a week. We are not told if she went alone but that is unlikely.
We were already told that John Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. We see the evidence here as even while only a six month old baby in utero, he leaps at the presence of the Lord Jesus. Jesus must only have been a few weeks in utero at this point.
These are powerful passages for many reasons. John Baptist knew things even while he was in the womb. He knew the Lord Jesus. He knew the sound of his relative Mary’s voice.
Jesus was a tiny embryo at this point and yet He is fully there as man and God while in the womb of His mother.
When John Baptist leapt in the womb, his mother was filled with the Holy Ghost.

42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 
Jesus is already declared Lord while yet a tiny embryo. Mary goes to stay with Elizabeth for three months.
Elizabeth is filled with Holy Spirit and prophecies.

44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 
Do you leap with joy at the presence of Jesus?
Blessed is she that believed the Lord would do what He said He would do.

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 
Does your soul magnify the Lord? This can be mind as well as body but I suspect she means something deeper, heartfelt, hard to pinpoint. She is swelling with emotion and expresses it in this manner. This is what it is to be filled with the Spirit.

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 
This is a different word but might be referring to the same thing, that Mary rejoices in her inmost being, the life giving part of herself. In most uses of Saviour in the New Testament, the word refers particularly to Jesus.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 
God’s mercy is on those that fear Him from generation to generation. We are those who fear the Lord and thus ought to look to Him for mercy with great confidence.
Mary was lowly. We do not tend to think of her in this way. We think highly of her because she was exalted. But she was not a person of significance. She was lowly. God exalted her, not because she was worthy of it but because He chose to do so.
There seems to be a clear predisposition to receive the Lord’s favor. Are you lowly? Are you lowly of mind? That is, do you not expect God’s kindness and mercy because you deserve it? Do you think that God would be just in overlooking you? That is lowliness of mind. It is this sort of humility that invites God’s favor. And this is the case because it is honestly true.
The high and mighty do not think this way. They believe that they are worthy of blessings and honors. There is no true humility there. The Bible tells us that such men already have their reward in riches and accolades from men. But we are those who desire God’s favor above all others.
She was a woman who recognized the Lord’s Sovereignty. She says that God is mighty. He is the one who does great things. He is holy. He is the merciful one.
But there is a condition. His mercy is for those who fear God.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 
Mary does not despise her lowliness. She owns it but she looks to God who exalts her. She does not gloat over the mighty who have been scattered and have fallen but she recognizes the prerogative of God to lift up the lowly and put down the haughty and she does rejoice in this favor.
This is one reason that we need patience as we watch what is going on in the world. The Lord does take note of what is going on and He will act. Those who are rebellious and insolent, the mighty and haughty, will be brought low. God requires humility for His saints. Mary is humble, the handmaiden of the Lord, and so God exalts her. But those who are haughty, arrogant, self-sufficient do not need to look to God, our Savior. They think they have saved themselves from being hungry or that the strength of their country or the might of their army has saved them. But God will deal with all such lies.
In the mean time, the saints need to wait patiently. There is a day of reckoning. God keeps track and will vindicate the righteous. Better to be a lowly righteous man than an exalted wicked one. In the end, the tables will be turned. Remember the rich man and Lazarus.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 
The hungry acknowledge their need and are filled. The rich are not in need of the divine food and are thus sent away empty.

54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 
Mary remembers the old promises, to Abraham and to His seed forever.
Finally, the promise to Abraham of the divine seed has come true. And this promise is now fulfilled and lasts forever!
Remember the promise to Abraham that His seed will be as the stars in the heavens and as the sand upon the sea. God promised billions of faithful descendants to Abraham. Up to Christ’s day, this promise had yet to be fulfilled. Abraham had many descendants but in the New Covenant, the Gentiles, those who believe like Abraham, are counted as his offspring. The seed has sprouted in Christ and the blossoming of the promise is glorious.

56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
We are not told either who travels with Mary or whether she was there for the birth of John Baptist but the indication of the text is that she stayed until his birth, witnessing the remarkable occurrences that also were connected to her own pregnancy.

         Mary is steeped in God’s Word. She probably has Hannah’s great prayer memorized. She speaks Bible. This is why she is not shocked when the angel speaks to her or when God chooses to do a great miracle through her. She has read the Bible. She knows how God does things. So, when He acts in ways that are already consistent with what He has revealed in His Word, Mary is prepared to receive it.
         We would do well to learn this. We need to be steeped in the Word of God. We need to read it over and over and we need to memorize key passages that reveal the character and will of God for our lives. Then, when troubles come along or when God acts powerfully in a way consistent with His character, we are not dismayed. We simply submit ourselves to His will as His humble servants.

No comments: