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Archive for May, 2018

The Song of Mary

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

You can see the similarity in Mary’s song to other songs in the Old Testament. Here is a list for you to look up: Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18); Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21); Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10). We will refer to many of these songs in this post below.

Turn to Luke 1:46. Filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s goodness Mary sang:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

Hannah – “My heart exults in the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:1)

Moses – “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).

Miriam – “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:21)

Deborah – “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:3)

 

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2)

Isaiah – “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)

 

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

Hannah –

“For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the Lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“For thus says the high and exalted One… I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)

“How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

“And she (Elizabeth) cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Luke 1:42, 45)

 

(Why is Mary going to be called “Blessed”? Note the word is “blessed” not “bless-ed”. She is the one who has received the blessing. Why? Read on.)

 

 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

“Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
“The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” (Psalm 126:2)

“Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21)

 

 And holy is His name.

“And give thanks to His holy name.” (Psalm 97:12; 105:3)

“Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111:9)

“Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4)

 

And His mercy is on those who fear Him

“’I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

 

 From generation to generation.

“Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever.” (Psalm 12:7)

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. …. I will cause Thy name to be remembered in all generations; Therefor the people will give Thee thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 33:11; 45:17)

“Thou, O Lord, dost rule forever; Thy throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5:19)

 

He has shown strength with His arm;

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; Strength and joy are in His place.” (I Chronicles 16:27).

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“With the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6; 21:1; 28:7; 31:4; 37:39; etc…)

“For the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2).

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,” (Judges 5:5)

 

 He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Hannah – “Boast no more so very proudly; Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth.” (I Samuel 2:3)

“Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud.” (Psalm 94:2)

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty.” (Isaiah 2:12)

 

 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his Throne to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon…” (Exodus 12:29)

“And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations” (Haggai 2:22).

 

 And exalted the lowly.

“He sets on high those who are lowly” (Job 5:11)

“Yet He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 He has filled the hungry with good things,

Hannah – But those who were hungry cease to hunger. … He raises the poor from the dust.” (I Samuel 2:5, 8)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:7)

 

And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah – “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread” (I Samuel 2:5)

“Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, …. For when he dies he will carry nothing away” (Psalm 49:16, 17).

“… his eyes were not satisfied with riches” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)

“But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 

 He has helped His servant Israel,

Moses – “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. … Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15; 3)

Miriam – “The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

Moses – “So Israel dwells in security, …. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 33:28, 29)

 

 In remembrance of His mercy,

I am the Lord your God, etc……..

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

Referring to Israel and God’s dealing with them:

“In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

“’Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

“Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” (Judges 5:31)

 

 As He spoke to our fathers,

The Ten Commandments – “Then God spoke all these words saying” – (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-22)

“Hear now and I will speak” (Job 42:4)

“Hear, O My people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“God has spoken…” (Psalm 60:6; 62:11; 85:8; 99:7; 105:31; 108:7, etc…)

 

 To Abraham and to his seed forever.

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country … to the land which I will show you; …. I will make you a great nation … I will bless you …. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12: 1-4)

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

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As we turn to the stories of women in the New Testament let us begin with:

A Note About Jesus and Women

Women were not treated with respect in Jesus’ day. The rabbis had a saying, “Talk not much with womankind.” And this statement was found in the Talmud, “It was taught: Do not speak excessively with a woman lest this ultimately lead you to adultery.” In other words, men can’t speak straight across to women as equal human beings.

Jesus broke the mold. By interacting with women the way He did, He was directly violating the rules of the Pharisees. In contrast to this the Gospels, especially Luke’s Gospel, show Jesus lifting women to a place of freedom and respect that they had not known before in Judaism.

Christianity is different from all of the rest of the world’s religions.

While the leaders in Israel would cater to the rich, Jesus would go to the poor. While the Pharisees would only speak with other men, Jesus would speak with women. The leaders would emphasize the externals of religion; Jesus would emphasize the heart condition.

I’ve never heard a sermon on the interaction of Jesus with women. I’ve heard only a handful of sermons on any woman period. This really concerns me. At the very least it leaves the impression that women are not important. At the worst, it gives the impression that we have not learned anything from the Lord Jesus about how to treat women.

Jesus showed that He valued women when He spoke to them. This must have been shocking to those around Him. We know from John’s Gospel, for example, that even the disciples were “surprised to find him talking with a woman,” (John 4:27).

Jesus knew His Scriptures better than anybody. Women were created in the image of God at the same time as men (Genesis 1:27). Putting aside all of the issues in today’s “gender debate”, let us focus on how Jesus treated women. What can we learn from that?

Let’s begin with the story of the first woman in Jesus’s life – His mother Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

We learn the most about Mary in Luke’s Gospel. Doctor Luke took it upon himself to interview many disciples of Jesus in order to write his story. Luke wanted everyone to know that he was giving the exact truth of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, and so he wrote the things “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” (Luke 1:2). The main eyewitness was of course Mary who was there from Christ’s conception until His death.

It should not surprise us then that we have Mary’s words recorded for us in Luke’s Gospel or that there are so many details about Mary’s interaction with Jesus. Mary was still alive and probably shared all of the stories with Luke personally. Even after the resurrection Mary continued to be a faithful witness. That explains how we know the very conversations that Mary had with the angel, Elizabeth, Jesus, and others.

We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Salome was also a devoted follower of Jesus and was there at the cross with Mary when He was crucified. Of course, we also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.

From her song, the Magnificat, we can see that Mary grew up in a godly family. Perhaps listening to and reciting or singing the Scriptures was a big part of her every day life. Girls did not go to the synagogue as boys did, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, who loved God with all of her heart would not have loved to hear the stories of God’s mighty works. When the angel came to see Mary, she knew Who God was and what He had promised, and was ready to obey God.

In the Scriptures, we first meet this humble peasant girl when an angel of the Lord goes to Mary’s home and announces God’s plan for her to bear Jesus. At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.

In those days a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage. In fact, if a betrothal was broken by one of the parties, through infidelity for instance, there had to be a divorce proceeding. There were two ways to get the divorce, a public trial, which would have been very humiliating for Mary, or a quiet proceeding. In the quiet proceeding, the wronged party could get two witnesses to sign a release with him and send the other party away. In Joseph’s case, he thought that he would just send Mary somewhere to have her child secretly and avoid disgrace. We know that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and then Joseph knew that everything was all right. This was God’s plan. And so he willingly took his part as Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus.

Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally when she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will.

Some people think that Mary did not believe the angel when she was questioning, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Luke had already told the story of Zacharias who did not believe the angel. When the angel told Zacharias that he and his barren wife would have a child, it was just too hard for him to believe. (Luke 1:5-25)

But unbelief was not the motive behind Mary’s question. Mary was not questioning the angel because she doubted God. She merely wanted to know how a virgin could get pregnant. Though the Bible doesn’t say, I have to wonder if the humble maiden also wondered why she was the one who was chosen. After all, the Israelites had been waiting for their Savior for hundreds of years. Perhaps Mary thought that she wasn’t good enough to be the mother of the Messiah; nevertheless she believed God.

So the angel explained to her that God would be the Father of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would cause the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Indeed, Jesus would be the King who would sit on David’s throne. Mary’s response was of total submission to God, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

And so, Mary’s faith is an example to us. She proved her faith by responding with humble obedience. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who confirmed this, “and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 2:45) Mary knew that the child she carried was the Savior that everyone had been waiting for. Jesus is the promised king, the promised son of David.

Mary, the first New Testament Theologian

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

Mary’s song fills this pattern. (Luke 1:46-55) – In the next post we will focus on Mary’s song – the Magnificat.

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

In our next post we will continue with Mary on her life’s journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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