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Dec 08, 2013
International Sunday School Lesson
Study Notes Dec. 8, 2013
Lesson Text: Luke 1:46-56
Lesson Title: Mary's Song of Praise
To connect the births of the forerunner John the Baptist and
Jesus Christ together, Luke records Mary's visit to the home of
Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-45). Immediately after Mary's
encounter with the angel Gabriel, she traveled south from
Nazareth to a city in the hill country of Judea to visit and
share the good news with her cousin Elisabeth. Luke doesn't
reveal the details of the conversation between Mary and
Elisabeth but it must have been a glorious time of sharing how
God was working in their lives.
As a result of Mary's visit, Elisabeth's babe, "leaped in her
womb" and Elisabeth was "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke
1:41). Elisabeth then "spake out with a loud voice" (Luke 1:42)
about what she knew about Mary's pregnancy and gave her honor as
the bearer of the Messiah. Neither Mary nor Elisabeth understood
the full significance of all that was taking place but Elisabeth
knew the unborn Messiah had entered her home and that Mary was
the mother of her Lord. Elisabeth also knew that everything
taking place was "...a performance of those things which were
told her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).
Mary's response is the heart of our lesson text recorded in Luke
1:46-55. The name of her response has been given the Latin title
Magnificat, based on the Latin translation of the first Greek
word in verse 46, which means "my soul exalts" or "magnifies."
These ten verses we are studying may not seem to be that amazing
on the surface but they are deeply significant in the life of
Mary and the Christmas story. Remember, when Gabriel told the
Virgin Mary she was going to have a child who would be the Son
of God, she responded with a question, "How shall this be,
seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34). Now that Mary has trusted
God and traveled to talk with Elisabeth, and since she has
witnessed the response of Elisabeth's baby still in her womb,
Mary needs no further confirmation. It's time to worship!
Mary's song is rooted in Hebrew Scripture. She reaches back into
the Old Testament and blends quotations and prophecies together
into a beautiful tapestry of worship and praise. Her song flows
out of her heart and off her lips in a way that every person who
knows the Lord should covet. God is about to change the history
of the world. The most important three decades in history have
started and Mary realizes it has started with one old barren
Hebrew woman and one young Hebrew virgin. Mary is so moved by it
all that she can't contain her emotions.
Mary's Song of Praise is a Reaction to What God is Doing in Her
Life (Luke 1:46-50)
"And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit
hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
Everything that has happened in the life of Mary is directly
connected to a word from God. Her life was that of a normal
teenage Hebrew girl until God intervened and sent her a message
through the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-27). Mary is a model
believer. She heard a word from the Lord, she submitted to it,
acted upon it, and is now worshipping as a result of it.
Mary began her song by expressing just how exuberant her soul
actually was. She said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord." This
aspect of her song is taken from 1 Samuel 2:1-2 and Psalm 34:2-3
where Hannah rejoiced over the birth of Samuel and the psalmist
David was delighted to be out of enemy territory. "And my spirit
hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" is taken from Psalm 24:5; 25:5;
35:9; Isaiah 12:1; Micah 7:7, and Habakkuk 3:18.
The word "magnify" means "to extol, laud, and celebrate." It
also carries the thought of "making something or someone
conspicuous." Mary wants everyone to know that what is happening
here is not about her, Joseph, Elisabeth, Zachariah's or anyone
else. This is about the "Lord!" Literally, Mary is saying, "My
soul makes great the Lord," or, "My soul enlarges the Lord." She
"rejoices" in the fact that "God," theos, the divine Trinity, is
her "Saviour." The word "Saviour" is "preserver, deliverer."
Mary is not singing about God being a "Saviour" in general, but
she says, "God my Saviour." Mary was a sinner in need of God's
saving grace as are all of us who were born in sin.
"Lord" is the Greek word kurios meaning "the master, controller,
the possessor and disposer of all things." This title is given
to God, the Messiah. When Mary references her "soul" and
"spirit" she is speaking about her total self, all that she is.
To combine the words "soul" and "spirit" is a powerful way of
expressing that Mary's total being is consumed with the worship
and adoration of the "Lord."
This type of worship is what our Lord desires. He alone is
worthy of such a song of praise. May the Lord elevate our
worship to that of Mary's and when we come together collectively
as the church may Christ alone be magnified and praised!
"For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for,
behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."
This portion of Mary's praise comes from Psalm 138:6, "Though
the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the
proud he knoweth afar off." By identifying herself as a humble
"handmaiden," Mary is confessing to the Lord that she knows she
has not been chosen to bear the Christ child because she is an
outstanding person deserving of heaven's attention. "Handmaiden"
is nothing more than a "bondmaid, a female slave." Mary knew
that she or no one else in the nation of Israel could do
anything to bring or secure their deliverance. But God in His
mercy and grace "hath regarded," or, "turned His eyes" upon the
young Hebrew virgin and has chosen her to give birth to the
Once again we are brought face-to-face with the truth that God
is glorified when people realize and confess their unworthiness
before Him. Mary was a nobody they could do nothing to save
herself or her people and yet God "hath regarded" her. As a
result, "from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."
Because God has blessed Mary in giving her the honor of giving
birth to the Christ child, generations after generations will
identify Mary as one who is "blessed," or "one who has received
favor from the Lord."
Don't think for a moment that there is one ounce of pride in
Mary's words. The words, "For, behold, from henceforth" are
words of exclamation and surprise. What we have here is a
statement of wonder and surprise. Mary can't believe that
generations to come would even acknowledge she was here on earth
but because of what God is going in her and through her people
will say, "Blessed" when they hear her name. If that seems
shocking to you just remember what Jesus said about those of us
who are saved by grace. He said, "Then shall the King say unto
them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit
the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"
(Matthew 25:34). Just as it was fitting for Mary to worship and
magnify the Lord for what the Lord was doing in her it is
fitting to magnify and worship the Savior for our blessedness we
have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-12).
"For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is
his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation
Mary quotes from Psalm 24:8, "Who is this King of glory? The
Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, and Zephaniah
3:17, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will
save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his
love, he will joy over thee with singing." She then uses the
word "for" again which indicates she is giving another reason
for her song of praise. She now sings of three divine attributes
of God. First, "he that is mighty" is a reference to God's
power. Mary is but a "handmaiden" (Luke 1:48) but the Lord is
"mighty." God was certainly manifesting His power to both
Elisabeth and Mary. God can do the impossible, therefore Mary
sings and worships because of God's "might." Second, "holy is
his name" is a reference to God's holiness. Gabriel had told
Mary that the child she would conceive and bare was "that holy
thing" (Luke 1:35). God's holiness, more than any other of His
attributes describes His essence and being. Three, "his mercy is
on them that fear him" is a reference to how God deals with His
people. "Mercy" is the gracious undeserved forgiveness of God to
sinful man. Mary could have possibly been thinking about the
words of the psalmist when she praised the Lord for His "mercy.
"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's
children" (Psalm 103:17).
It is interesting when speaking of God's "mercy" that Mary says,
"his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to
generation." Mercy offered is not always mercy received. Only
those who "fear him from generation to generation" will be
recipients of His "mercy." To "fear" God is to have a solemn
reverence and respect for His person and a right estimate of His
Mary's Song of Praise is a Reflection of What God is Doing for
His Own (Luke 1:51-55)
Up until this point in Mary's song she has focused on personal
aspects making reference to "he" and "men." Now she focuses on
national aspects with references to "he" and "them."
It is clearly evident from the following verses that Mary had
knowledge of the history of Israel. She understood the covenant
promises of God through Abraham to the nation. Once again the
significance of knowing God's Word is presented. Pure worship is
rooted in scriptural knowledge. Mary's parents must have taught
her the word of God and the history of God's people. Biblical
worship is a result of biblical knowledge. Mary proves that to
Something to Think About: Isn't it interesting that many people
no longer attend Sunday School but will attend worship service.
If Sunday School gives us a better knowledge of God's Word which
is essential to worship, doesn't it make sense to believe that
attending Sunday School will help our worship?
"He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the
proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the
mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree." He
hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath
sent empty away."
Mary's hymn changes from adoration to celebration of the mighty
results to be brought about by the coming Messiah. Mary speaks
in these verses as though the future had become the past; so
Mary here speaks as though the unborn Babe had already lived and
done his mighty work in the world. The phrase "shewed strength
with his arm" was an expression in by gone days in Israel
referring to God's delivering power. Here Mary uses the phrase
and recognizes the "arm" of God as belonging to the coming
Deliverer, her son, Jesus. His chosen instruments would be those
of whom the world thought little, like herself. The "proud" and
"mighty" would be put down; the men of low degree, and poor and
humble, would be exalted. The "hungry" would be filled; and they
who were rich only in this world's goods would have no share in
the new kingdom. They would be "sent empty away."
When Mary's son is born there will be a social reversal of the
human order of things. Mary is so convinced of this that she
sings it in the past tense, "hath...hath...hath...hath...hath."
Mary saw those who were strutting in pride being brought down.
She saw those who had exalted seats and high positions giving
way to those of "low degree." The "hungry" would be "filled" and
those who were "rich" would go away "empty." Christ would
reverse the order of everything.
Those who think they have arrived in this world without Christ
will be found wanting, empty, and spiritually hungry. But those
who are humble and lowly will find all the fulfillment and needs
of life to be met in Jesus Christ.
Note: On what do you rely today? You may not speak of yourself
as "mighty" or "rich," and yet you rely totally on personal
success and things you can do for yourself. Mary's song is a
reminder that Jesus Christ came into the world to change
everything. If we want to be blessed by His coming we must
utterly depend upon Him for everything.
"He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for
Finally, Mary looked back on God's covenant promise to Israel
first given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and then repeated
numerous times (Genesis 17:19; 22:18; 26:3, 4; 28:13, 14). Once
again Mary makes reference to God's keeping His covenant in past
tense: "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed
for ever." God's covenant is a "done deal." Add to that the fact
that as Christians, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham through
saving faith (Romans 4:9–12, 18–22). As such, his covenant mercy
extends to us forever and forever. His mercy is an accomplished
As Mary thought about her beloved nation Israel and the promises
God had made to her through "Abraham," she praised the Lord that
He had "helped his servant Israel." In the coming of Mary's son,
all the promises God had made concerning Israel would be
fulfilled. Every time a Jew or Gentile is saved by grace, Mary
Mary's Song of Praise is a Relationship with Jesus (Luke 1:56)
"And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her
This verse may at first seem like one of those verses that just
tells us about people, a time period, and a trip somewhere.
However, this verse is saturated with personal relationship. It
is one thing to respond in worship with quotations of Scripture
and shouts of praise. It is quite another to sit through "three
months" of pregnancy in the stillness and solitude of the day.
Remember, the rest of Nazareth didn't receive a visit from
Gabriel. The rest of Nazareth didn't make a trip to Elisabeth's
house, see John leap in his mother's womb or experience the
fullness of the Holy Ghost. At this point in Mary's life she is
the bearer of the most wonderful secret in the history of
mankind. But for now, it is just between her and God.
Mary's song of praise is a reaction and a reflection of God's
work in her life and the life of the nation of Israel. Her song
is filled with reality, certainty and expectancy. The reality of
her song is in knowing that we are merely weak and lowly
creatures with no hope outside of Jesus Christ. The certainty of
her song is in believing that no matter what the challenges of
life may be that God is in control. Finally, the expectancy of
Mary's song is in believing that God will do no less than what
He promised to do through His only begotten Son.
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