After nearly two hundred fifty years, it has only happened twice – a son following in his father’s footsteps as President of the United States. Rare. But even rarer is to know how the son felt about his father. Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but hasn’t said anything most of the day. I said, “Dad, I love you, and you’ve been a wonderful father.” And the last words he would ever say on earth were, “I love you, too.” To us, he was close to perfect. But, not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us. Finally, every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally… [Dad] we’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So, through our tears, let us see the blessings of knowing and loving you — a great and noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have.
These are the good words, the eulogy, George W. Bush shared at his father’s funeral.
Mary’s Earnest Desire to See Elizabeth
Shortly after young teenage Mary heard the greatest news ever proclaimed (cf. Luke 1:26-38) she got up “and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40). In Luke 2, after some shepherds hear the greatest news ever proclaimed on the greatest night, they too make haste – earnest desire – seeking to get to a particular somewhere to see a particular someone. And here, first, was young teenage Mary, maybe no older than fourteen years old, who with the same earnest desire sets out on a one hundred mile, three to four day journey to get to a particular somewhere to see a particular someone – it is Elizabeth. And other than being Mary’s relative, who was Elizabeth? She was old, too old. She was barren. And she was experiencing the God of the impossible. She was pregnant. And who was Mary? She was young. She was a virgin. And she, too, was experiencing the God of the impossible. She was pregnant.
And I love Luke 1:40. Mary does not come knocking on Elizabeth’s door, she just lets herself in with an eager, “Elizabeth! E-LIZ-A-BETH!” Now, question. Why did Mary make haste to get to Elizabeth? I think it has something to do with what Mary heard. In Luke 1:36, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “And behold.” Last week, we were sure to point out that this word behold is a command and literally means to look. “And look Mary! Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” We are not sure how close these two relatives were, but apparently this was breaking news to Mary. Elizabeth who was called barren, who was told by the best medical minds that she was incapable of bearing children was, in her old age, pregnant! And notice where Gabriel then points Mary to look. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). For no word that God has spoken will be impossible. This is really important; Gabriel urges Mary to look, to gaze upon what God has spoken and then ponder the unlimited ability of God. If God can do this, then… So, Mary with earnest desire sets out to get to Elizabeth.
Blessed Are You Among Women
Listen to Luke 1:41. “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” Remember, this is the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. And in this second trimester, this growing baby in Elizabeth’s womb is about twelve inches long, weighing maybe two pounds. He can suck his thumb and make facial expressions. And he can even respond to sounds. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, this twelve inch baby leaped, literally skipped, in his mother’s womb. And it was for joy. Why? There was a growing life, too, in the womb of this young teenage woman. His name is Jesus. He is God in the flesh and he will save his people from their sins.
And I want to point out verse forty-two. Elizabeth, filled with/controlled by the Holy Spirit exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Notice in the next verse what she calls the fruit of Mary’s womb. “…my Lord.” This word Lord is used some twenty-six times in the first two chapters of Luke alone and each time it is always in reference to God. Elizabeth called Jesus her Lord. But I want to highlight the word blessed. Elizabeth says this word twice. It is the word eulogeó, eulogy or good words. Good words will be said about you Mary! Good words will be said about the fruit of your womb! And Elizabeth keeps talking. In verse forty-five she then says, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Notice the word blessed. This is not same word as in verse forty-two. It is the same word Jesus uses in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5.
And it is the same word in Revelation 1:3. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” And it does mean happy. It is a word, a happiness, that comes from the benefits of knowing God. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
Mary is blessed Mary! But why? She believed God’s Word. She believed that God was bringing his plan to completion. I just want us to put it together. No one word that God has spoken will be impossible. Mary believed God’s Word; that God was bringing his plan to completion.
My Soul Magnifies the Lord
Luke 1:46 begins, “And Mary said.” Mary is responding to or answering Elizabeth. She is answering all that Elizabeth just said, but especially the last thing Elizabeth said. You are blessed Mary because you believe that God is completing his plan. And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” And what does that mean? What does it mean to magnify the Lord?
The word that jumps out is magnify. It literally means to enlarge or lengthen. I immediately think of a magnifying glass which can either make small things big or can concentrate the light of the sun and ignite a fire. Microscopes can magnify that which is microscopic, cannot be seen with the human eye and brings it up close. Telescopes can magnify that which is massive and far away so that it is brought near. None of that helps me understand what it means, though, to magnify the Lord.
This is rather important. Consider Mary. She is pregnant. She is a virgin. Soon after, days maybe, hearing the greatest news ever proclaimed, she sets out one hundred miles away to be with her relative and she will be there for three months. There is much in this young teenage girl’s life for which to worry. Being pregnant, alone, is enough to worry. But what about her mom and dad? What about her reputation? What about her town? What will they say and think? What about Joseph, her husband to be? What will he do with what people will think and say? What will he say and think and do? And rather than worry, she sings. She worships. The wonderful Charles Spurgeon shared, “I like, sometimes, to leave off praying and singing, and to sit still, and just gaze upward till my inmost soul has seen my Lord; then I say, ‘He is inexpressively lovely; yea he is altogether lovely.”
It is important to note a few things. First, in these verses God is the only one she magnified. Second, listen to verse forty-seven. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary calls God my Savior. Only those who are needy and in need of a Savior, call God their Savior. And third, this magnifying is the glad rejoicing of one who knew God intimately as her Savior.
But the big question remains. What does it mean to magnify the Lord? This really helped. It helped to think of those words like this: tell out, my soul, the greatness of God. Her thoughts in this moment got big. She will say in verse forty-nine, “he who is mighty has done great things for me.” But she is thinking bigger than herself, bigger than what all this means for her. She gets it. She gets the big picture, the grand plan.
Mary is Filled With Scripture
Look and listen to Luke 1:47. What does it sound like? “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18). Look and listen to Luke 1:48. What does it sound like? “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant’” (1 Samuel 1:11). Look and listen to Luke 1:49. What does it sound like? “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126:2-3). Look and listen to Luke 1:50. What does it sound like? “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9). Look and listen to Luke 1:51. What does it sound like? “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37). Look and listen to Luke 1:52. What does it sound like? “he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (Job 5:11). Look and listen to Luke 1:53. What does it sound like? “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9). Look and listen to Luke 1:54. What does it sound like? “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:3).
These verses, this telling out from the soul the greatness of God, are permeated with Old Testament phrases and language. But look and listen to Luke 1:55. This is what I mean by Mary considering herself and getting the big picture and her place in the big picture. This is all, including Luke 1:5-38, as God spoke to Abraham way back in Genesis. Mary knows, really knows the Bible, all the way back to Genesis. She is telling out that God is helping as he promised and this, forever. God helps as he promised forever.
So, What Does It Mean, to Magnify God?
Mary was filled with Scripture. This fourteen year old girl knew the great truths of God. So, what does it mean to magnify God? It means to know the great truths of God as revealed in the Bible. And the telling out of these great truths means that whatever I am going through is not isolated from what God is doing to accomplish his plan. And his plan is not merely the plan he has for my life. It is to see bigger than that, hence magnify. It is that my life, all of it, is in his plan. And he is bringing his plan to completion.
I have been praying that God would make me experience his presence (Psalm 27:9). God has commanded that we seek his presence. So, how do we do that? It is time. What am I doing with time?
What time am I spending, daily, in God’s Word?
And what am I doing with that time, daily, in God’s Word?
And what am I doing with God’s Word? Am I applying it to my life and how? Am I obeying it gladly?
Each night, before you close your eyes, rehearse in your mind what great truths of God you learned from his Word that day. And in the morning, once awake, rehearse once more what you learned yesterday.
It is these questions, these things that then lead the soul to tell out the greatness of God.