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Mary Praises Her Savior

INTRODUCTION: Luke is the only gospel writer to provide the account of the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary, and Mary's subsequent visit to Elizabeth. These passages provide an example of a female saint whose firm faith lifted her from a position of obscurity to one of honor, because of the hand of the Lord on her life, not anything inherent within herself. However, the focus of this study is more for the LORD as Savior, than about either Mary or Elizabeth as individuals. I selected the KJ21 version from the Online Bible software, for its clarity of more contemporary English language where words differ, since it is otherwise very close in text to the KJV. Thus, the bulk of my time was devoted to the content of the text, rather than developing a personal paraphrase. The KJ21 uses quotations to set off spoken statements, whereas the King James Version does not use quotation marks. Other verses brought into the study for reference are from the King James Version, and I add quotes around those passages in their entirety to separate them from my own comments.

Luke 1:24-25

24 And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 "Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."

COMMENTS: Elizabeth was already past the age for child bearing (see Lu 1:36 below), and she "hides herself" until the fifth month, when the baby would have been fairly well developed. Her husband had been told beforehand that she would become pregnant, but he was made unable to speak until the birth of his son.
Luke 1:19-20 "And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season."

The Lord provided a child for Zacharias and Elizabeth in a similarly unusual manner as he had done with Abraham and Sarah.
Genesis 18:14 "Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." Sarah did have a son, and likewise Elizabeth did have a son, both when they were at the age considered past the time of childbearing, because God determined that it would be so.

Luke 1:26-29

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. 28 And the angel came in unto her and said, "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women." 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and cast about in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

COMMENTS: The "sixth month" period is in reference to the pregnancy for Elizabeth, and the angel will tell Mary about the sixth month in Lu 1:36 below. The text tells us that the angel appeared directly to Mary, not in a dream, as was the case with Joseph (Mt 1:20). The angel told this young woman who was a descendant of David, that she was highly favored, that God was with her, and she was blessed among women. Mary immediately began to think about the greeting she had just received from this messenger from God, with no description that she was frightened; although the angel may have observed a mixture of emotion as he watched her, because he offers comfort before continuing.

Luke 1:30-34

30 And the angel said unto her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor 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." 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

COMMENTS: Now, this information is a lot for anyone to comprehend in just a few brief statements, and especially when it has been delivered by one who has appeared from out of nowhere! Is it just a small wonder that Mary would need to process these things in her thoughts? There were references in the Old Testament, of the Lord taking away a woman's barren condition, but this would not apply to Mary as a young virgin, so we look at a prophecy. Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah's prophecy was an especially unique reference to the birth of Messiah, not to women in general. Perhaps Mary was thinking of this, or perhaps the Holy Spirit was beginning to reveal in her inner thoughts the full meaning of the message.

If you review the items spoken by Gabriel, you will see that Mary concentrates on the news that she will conceive, and does not ask about the spoken characteristics for this child, of being the promised king and the Son of the Most High God. She apparently believes the conception will soon take place, because she questions how it will occur without a man being involved. She has only been pledged to marriage, and has not yet been with any man, by her own testimony still a virgin. God's word through the prophet centuries earlier give the outline for the rest of the message delivered by Gabriel.

Isaiah 9:6-7 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." And indeed, the Lord of Hosts did perform this miraculous conception within Mary.

Luke 1:35-38

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that Holy Being who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth: 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." 38 And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." And the angel departed from her.

COMMENTS: Now Gabriel clarifies this as a conception within a virgin, directly wrought by the Holy Spirit of god, and reaffirms to Mary that her baby will be the very Son of God. We are not told in this narrative how much she understands of this incomparable honor, but her later praise gives some indication. Mary asks no further question about the miraculous mode of conception he has just described, or that her child would be the Son of God; but accepts it with a submissive spirit, so Gabriel leaves her. The revealed truth to Mary about Elizabeth also requires faith to be believed.

Two verses from Jeremiah are applicable here, the first from man's point of view, Jeremiah 32:17 "Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:" and the second from God's point of view, Jeremiah 32:27 "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" Jesus, who is both man and God, makes a statement later in this gospel covering both perspectives, Luke 18:27 "And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

The apostles Paul, Peter, and John each give clear testimony that Jesus indeed came in the flesh to make possible, as God, that which was impossible for man.
Romans 8:3 "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:"
1Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
1 John 4:2-3 "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."

Luke 1:39-45

39 And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elizabeth. 41 And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 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 fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

COMMENTS: Mary has something she can act upon, that being to see the sixth month of a special pregnancy; and she has in Elizabeth someone with a most unique position to relate to the miracle within Mary. Mary must travel from Nazareth in Galilee to the hill country of Judah, a trip of at least several days by transportation conditions of the period, but Mary wastes no time in beginning her journey. Upon hearing Mary's voice, Elizabeth speaks out immediately with a loud voice, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit! She, and a six-month pre-born baby who leaps for joy in the womb, are both very excited at the arrival of Mary.

The angel Gabriel had told Zacharias that his child would be filled with the Holy Spirit even in the womb, Luke 1:15 "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." What a unique display of response from an unborn child!

Elizabeth makes several important statements even before Mary has told her of the angelic visit:
1) Elizabeth is honored by a visit from the mother of her Lord,
2) Mary is blessed as is the fruit of her womb,
3) Mary also is blessed for believing that which she had been told, and
4) and indeed it will be fulfilled.

This brief passage is marvelous regarding these two women who have been made very special by God.

Luke 1:46-50

46 And Mary said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 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."

COMMENTS: Mary joins with Elizabeth in the exaltation of God, first exclaiming, as her own soul soars, to magnify the Lord; then rejoicing in her relationship with God her Savior! The one who is mighty and whose name is Holy, has done to her great things. Mary recognizes in humility the grace shown to her, and indeed shows her faith in what the angel has spoken, by stating that all future generations will call her blessed. She further states that his mercy extends to many generations, to those who fear him. Israel's songbook contains similar praise for the Lord's salvation,
Psalms 35:9 "And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?"

Luke 1:51-56

51 "He hath shown 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. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. 54 He hath helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever." 56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

COMMENTS: Mary, still in the Spirit, uses phrases very similar to those of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2, but they describe a benefit to a much broader base of people. God has shown strength with his arm, and the proud are scattered, along with the despoiling of what they have only imagined in their hearts of pride. Those who were mighty are removed from their position of power, and those who were once low are lifted up. The hungry are filled with good things, and those who were rich (for themselves but not toward God) are sent away with nothing.

The seed of Abraham will receive the promised blessing.
Genesis 22:16-18 "And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." God also does not withhold his son, and is fulfilling his abundant mercy to Abraham and his seed forever.

The Lord's mercy in Christ Jesus is so great that it extends to encompass all the nations of the earth as "Abraham's seed."
Galatians 3:27-29 "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Since Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, and Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary set out to visit, it is likely that she left just after the joyful birth of John the Baptist.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, I thank you that you prepared Mary to accept the message delivered by the angel Gabriel to begin the process of the virgin birth as prophesied in Isaiah. Mary was espoused to a man in David's line so she would have a husband, but they had not yet come together in marital union, thus making the virgin birth a clear fulfillment. Even the fact that John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Messiah, was already in the six month in his mother's womb, is another part of the precision of your plan. Thank you Lord for the favor you showed Mary as Gabriel began to reveal that she would conceive and bring forth a son to be named Jesus. The words Gabriel spoke have become precious to me, as one among countless believers over the centuries. This child is the Son of God, given the throne of his father David by none other than the Lord God. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end!

Thank you Lord, that Mary declared herself to be a virgin, by asking how this conception could happen since she had not known a man. And as Gabriel gives detail to Mary, we, who now read the account in scripture, become aware of the direct action by the Spirit of God for conception of the Son of God. Thank you too Lord that you provided a formerly barren elder relative now in her six month, to reaffirm to Mary that you were at work in their lives, with nothing impossible for you. Help me Lord to say within my heart, behold the servant of the Lord, that you may complete that which you have planned for my life. Elizabeth words declaring Mary as the mother of her Lord, and that all would be fulfilled, bless us because the gospel accounts prove those words as true.

By faith, I have experienced my own new birth performed by the Lord, and I join Mary in saying, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he that is mighty and whose name is Holy has done to me a great thing by saving me in his mercy. The Lord has scattered the proud in their imaginations of denying him, and has lifted the humble by his own power. And since I am now Christ's, then I am Abraham's seed, and an heir according to the promise. I praise you Lord with my whole heart for your marvelous work! Amen and amen.

Published 3 June 2004, first issued 27 March 2004