Jews knew the Tanakh very well. They knew God has promised to send Messiah through a woman in the Davidic line. For centuries they were anxiously waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. There had been many Jewish women who had the desire to be chosen by God to be the mother of Messiah. May be, some might have thought that the daughter of the high priest could be the perfect divine choice. But, out of every women ever born on earth, God has chosen a poor peasant teenage girl who was at the beginning of her life, in an unknown little town of Galilee for His eternal purpose. She was 12-14 years old (according to historians) unmarried virgin betrothed to a young man named Joseph. An angel appears to her and delivered the incredibly startling news that God had chosen her to serve as the mother of the Savior of the world.
Who would believe she was pregnant by God? Certainly, Joseph would know that it wasn’t his child. Would there be a public disgrace? Would she be an outcast? According to the Mosaic Law Mary could face the execution (Deut. 22:20). Would she be stoned? No doubt that all these thoughts were flashing in her mind. Despite the fear of societal repercussions, Mary responded “I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). That’s a tremendous faith! She put her life on the line for God’s promise.
After learning about her old-aged cousin Elizabeth’s supernatural conception from the angel, Mary hurried to the hill country, to a town in Judah to see her. When Elizabeth heard the greetings of Mary upon her arrival, the baby leaped in her womb. Now, the exclamation of amazement from Elizabeth to Mary was prophetic and a confirmation of what the angel had told her. Elizabeth did not know about Mary’s pregnancy and it’s a revelation to her by Holy Spirit. Having witnessed two miraculous conceptions, Mary burst out in praise to God. Mary’s praise song is known as the Magnificat which is similar to the Hannah’s Prayer of Praise in Samuel (1 Samuel 2).
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever. – Luke 1:46-55
Mary’s Scripture-based Worship
She begins with “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoice in My God Savior”. This song of praise and adoration is welling up out of the depths of Mary’s heart. She is not in a lip service to God. Every element of her being came together in a crescendo of praise. Her song of praise is filled with Messianic Hope and Psalms which indicates Mary’s knowledge in Old Testament scripture. She knew the God of Abraham and His covenant promises. She knew God’s redemptive history and the providence of God. She had memorized the scripture. The song of Mary contains scores of references to the law, to the Psalms, and to the writings of the prophets. Her heart was saturated with scripture, and like a wave after wave in an an ocean, scripture just poured out of her lips as praise to God. Out of the abundance of her heart she praised, and her mouth was filled with Scripture. Old Testament allusions in the Magnificat
Mary, a Recipient of God’s Grace
Mary never puffed up with the tremendous and unique privilege she received from God to bear the Son of God. She consider herself as the recipient of God’s grace, and not the dispenser of blessing. When she said “All generations will call me blessed” (v48), she didn’t claim all generations will look up to me to bless them. Mary did not identify herself as being the object of adoration, but rather she adores God. She never identified herself as the Queen of Heaven. When she cries out “For He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave” [δούλη, doulé => female slave]. she approaches God in worship according to the Beatitudes -“Blessed are those who are poor in spirit” realizing she is totally bankrupt; “Blessed are those who are meek,” knowing she has nothing to offer. She knew she was a sinner. She knew she was nothing. It is very important to see how Mary identifies her object of worship – “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (v47).
We worship God not because He’s the Creator, not because He’s the sustainer of life, not because He has brought into the world so many things that make us rich. We worship God because in the end He saves us from sin and hell. And that’s where Mary was. Mary knew the salvation comes from this child. She was worshiping God as the saving God whose salvation is now coming into history through her child. Mary is worshiping God as a sinner because she is so thrilled that God will save her from her sin. – Dr. John MacArthur
Mary, a Model Worshipper
Mary’s expression of praise is the result of her great faith. And, she praise God for three reasons:
What God is doing in her (V48)
What God would do for others who fear Him (V50)
What God has already done for others in redemptive history (51-54)
And, she celebrates three attributes of God, in her song of Praise.
Mighty power of God (V49)
There are seven “He has” in her song of praise. Mary understood that God is sovereign and never constrained to do a thing that He wills. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. His sovereignty is a natural consequence of His omniscience (all knowing), omnipotence (all powerful), and omnipresence (present everywhere). Mary celebrates God’s power, wisdom, and executive rights to do anything He desires. Mary was reflecting on the great and mighty power of God.
The Holiness of God (V49)
There is one attribute of God that is ever raised to third degree of repetition in the whole scripture. That is His Holiness (Isaiah 6:3). This is the dimension of God that consumes His very essence. Calvin says the uniform report of the sacred scripture is that every human being that ever exposed to holiness of God trembles at His presence. There is a pattern to human responses to the presence of God in the scripture. And it seems that the more righteous the person is described the more he trembles when he understand the Holiness of God. Mary understood who this God is, and that this holy God has stooped down to save a sinner like her. She was pouring out her praise for the great salvation she received from the Holy God.
The Mercy of God (V50)
Mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve. Mercy is not something God has to do. Mercy is something God does voluntarily, freely. Mercy is never obligatory. Mary saw God’s mercy in the past. Mary reflects God’s mercy in the present. And she saw God’s mercy for future generations. She is worshiping the God who is a Savior, saving her now, saved Israel (His people) in the past, and will save generations to come who fear Him.
Mary, a Sinner Saved by Grace
Mary is one of us, a sinner saved by grace and mercy. She is a model worshiper, and she gives us an example of how we ought to worship. She heard a word from God and she believed it. And, she willingly submitted to it no matter what the consequence might be, and in response she burst out in praise. True worship is always based on faith fortified by the knowledge of God’s word over circumstance.
She is never the dispenser of divine grace. She doesn’t hear our prayers, she doesn’t answer any prayer. She’s not a co-redemptrix. She cannot save any one or mediate between a sinner and the Holy God. She must be grieving in heaven when she learns that people worship her. She has never sought honor then or later, and blended into the church with everyone else as a simple woman. She is a model of the true worshipper who worshiped the only One who is worthy to be worshiped. God alone is Holy! He alone is worthy of our Worship and it is our Holy duty to worship Him only!
The Abrahamic Covenant, Dr. Keith H. Essex. Associate Professor of Bible Exposition, The Masters Seminary
Expositional commentaries by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Various teaching by Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R.C. Sproul
Mary's Song of Praise - Old Testament allusions in the Magnificat
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Psalm 34:2,3; 1 Samuel 2:1
“My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Isaiah 45:21; Psalm 35:9; Habakkuk 3: 18
“He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave.” 1 Samuel 1:11; Gen 29:32; Psalm 136:23; 4 Ezra 9:45
“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Genesis 30:13
“The Mighty One has done great things for me.” Psalm 126:3; Deut. 10:21; Zeph. 3:17
“His name is holy.” Psalm 111:9
“His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him.” Psalms 103:17; Psalms 33:18
“He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts.” Psalm 89:10
“He has toppled the mighty from their thrones.” Daniel 2:21; Job 12:19
“He has exalted the lowly.” Job 5:11; 1 Samuel 2:7-8
“He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Psalm 107:9; 1 Samuel 2:5
“He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Isa. 41:8-9; Psalm 98:3; Micah 7:20; 2 Sam. 22:51). Mary knew God’s promises to Abraham and to all of Israel (Gen 12:1-3; 15; 17; 21:12; 26:3–4; 2 Samuel 7:12–16; Jeremiah 31:31–34) and recognized the fulfillment of these promises in the conception of God’s son on earth and praise for His eternal faithfulness. Mary knew her covenant theology.