Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Mary's Magnificat: Beautiful and Theologically Profound (Protestant Caucus)
byFaith ^ | Dec 2010

Posted on 12/02/2010 3:30:00 PM PST by Gamecock

Full Title:

Mary's Magnificat: Beautiful and Theologically Profound, Our Conversation with Dr. Phil Ryken

In The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, October 2008) coauthor Philip G. Ryken calls Mary’s Magnificat the first of four nativity hymns in Luke’s Gospel. The other hymns, he tells readers, are Zechariah’s Benedictus, the angels’ Gloria, and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis.

Quoting author and theologian Graham Scroggie, Ryken identifies these songs as “the last of the Hebrew psalms, and the first of the Christian hymns.” They appear only in Luke because, Ryken suggests, Luke understood that “the gospel is and must be a musical.” It is not enough “simply to say what God has done to save us,” he writes. “What He has done needs to be celebrated in song.”

In this four-part series, “The First Songs of Christmas,” byFaith speaks with Ryken about the insights we can glean from the very first Christian hymns. In part one, we explore how Mary, a young girl, could have composed something so beautiful and theologically profound as the Magnificat.

Mary’s Magnificat is a sophisticated piece of poetry. You point out that there are echoes from Hannah [Samuel’s mother] in it, and that it either quotes or alludes to verses from 11 books of the Old Testament. How does a young girl extemporaneously compose something so complex?

Reading the Magnificat, you can’t help but come away with an enormous appreciation for Mary’s maturity. In this song, we get a sense of her insight into spiritual matters and we hear her joy in the Lord. But more than that, there’s something of Mary’s character reflected in this song. You not only see an intimate relationship with the Lord, but an almost inexplicable capacity for putting it into words.

How did she do this? The first thing we need to remember is the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. Ultimately these aren’t merely the words of Mary, but the words of God. Which, of course, makes us wonder how God worked in Mary’s life: How, in His sovereignty, did He produce this kind of worship in someone so young?

One of the unavoidable conclusions, I think, is that Mary was raised in the Scriptures. I have to believe that Scripture reading was part-and-parcel of her family life—that she memorized portions of Scripture, and used them regularly in some sort of personal devotion.

When you look at how Mary’s song is organized it reminds me of a patchwork quilt, the kind that takes persistence to create, that requires familiarity with the fabrics, years of experience, and a thorough knowledge of how, exactly, these disparate materials can be stitched to form a beautiful pattern. This song is like scraps of fabric brought together from various places in the Old Testament. It’s fabric Mary knows, fabric she’s worked with many times before—and with it, she produces something beautiful.

In the Magnificat Mary is magnifying the Lord. It is a “song of gospel joy” but she doesn’t mention Jesus by name. Why do you suppose that is?

We need to understand Mary’s words in the context of the announcement that she has heard. Her song, everything she says in these verses, has to be understood in the context of Messianic expectation, and of her obedience to the Lord.

To magnify means to enlarge, and that’s what Mary wants to do—enlarge her vision of God. Therefore, she broadens her song, focusing first on what God is doing in her life, and then to the broader purposes of redemption.

In this song we see some of what the Christ will accomplish through His kingship. We hear Mary worship His power, she makes reference to His holiness, she expresses an awareness of His mercy for sinners, and she praises His faithfulness … . We see that she, when confronted with what God is doing in the world, can’t stay focused on her personal circumstances. As she begins to grasp how God will work through the birth of this child, she has to rejoice in His character.

There’s also a sense of deliverance in this song, a sense of God lifting the humble. As she composes this song, Mary’s aware that she’s a nobody; she knows she’s a sinner. That’s why she praises God as her Savior. Though none of us will have an experience like Mary’s, ultimately, God worked in her life the same way He works in ours. He exalts the humble, He does great things for those who honor Him, He shows mercy to those who fear Him. And so there’s a strong flavor of deliverance in Mary’s song, a sense that God will bring in a new era of salvation.

In the second half of Mary’s song you point out that the personal becomes national and international. What do you mean by that? And why is it central to the Christmas story?

In the opening verses Mary speaks personally: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” “My soul magnifies the Lord.” She talks about how God looks on the humble estate of His servant, and how all generations will call her—personally—blessed.

It’s always appropriate to be grateful to God for what He has done in our lives but, when we view His work from too narrow a perspective, our gratitude can become self-indulgent or even prideful. Mary doesn’t make that mistake. She recognizes what God has done in her life, but then she broadens her view, she sees that “this mercy is not just for me; it is a mercy for many.” She expands from the personal outward—to the community of faith, to those who, with her, fear the Lord.

In [Luke 1] verse 50 she shifts to, “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.” This language of “generation to generation” is Old Testament language for the people of God, for the communion of saints from one generation to the next. There’s a breadth of vision here. Mary goes beyond what God is doing in her life, and sees that it’s a part of what God is doing in the world.

If we think about our own experience—about how we praise God for the Incarnation—we want to do the same. We want to recognize what God has done for us, but we want to see the big picture, too. We want to see the coming of His kingdom and the great reversal—of how Christ will humble the pride of intellect and humble the pride of position and humble the pride of wealth … .

Mary understood that Christ would turn things upside down. She knew, somehow, that Christ would exalt the humble servant who does His will, and that He’d humble the proud who refuse to acknowledge their need for God. This has to be part of the Christmas story, because it’s a part of why Christ came.

Mary is able to see the personal implications of God’s grace, but she also sees the communal implications. It’s a model for our own praise and meditation on the true meaning of Christmas.

In the next installment, we discuss Luke 1: 68-79, Zechariah’s Benedictus.


TOPICS: General Discusssion; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: magnificat; mary
Dr. Phillip G. Ryken earned a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from the University of Oxford. Ryken joined the pastoral staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia in 1995, and became the senior minister when Dr. James Boice died in 2000. He’s currently the president of Wheaton College.

Ryken has published more than 30 books, including The Message of Salvation (InterVarsity, 2001); City on a Hill: Recovering the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century (Moody Press, 2003); Ryken's Bible Handbook, with Leland Ryken and Jim Wilhoit (Tyndale, 2005); Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts (P&R, 2006); and expository commentaries on Exodus, Jeremiah, Luke, and other books of the Bible.

1 posted on 12/02/2010 3:30:08 PM PST by Gamecock
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: drstevej; OrthodoxPresbyterian; CCWoody; Wrigley; Gamecock; Jean Chauvin; jboot; AZhardliner; ...

2 posted on 12/02/2010 3:32:34 PM PST by Gamecock (New TSA Slogans: 1. If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On 2. We Love Your Fly and It Shows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: metmom; Quix; TSgt

Ping.


3 posted on 12/02/2010 3:34:05 PM PST by Gamecock (New TSA Slogans: 1. If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On 2. We Love Your Fly and It Shows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
In the next installment, we discuss Luke 1: 68-79, Zechariah’s Benedictus.

Please post this, too, when it shows up.

"Now may thy servant, Lord
According to thy word..."

4 posted on 12/02/2010 4:18:32 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." Isaiah 27:1)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

“Which, of course, makes us wonder how God worked in Mary’s life:.....”

.
The same way God inspired Isiah to write about the Suffering Servant some 6 centuries before it actually happened. God’s ways are not our ways, thank God.

Isiah must have scratched his head in utter disbelief after reading what he wrote. And that goes with all the prophets.


5 posted on 12/02/2010 4:28:40 PM PST by 353FMG (Soon, the peoples of the West will have to choose between ISLAM and their country.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

I love the magnificat ..it is a song that all the saved are be able to sing


6 posted on 12/02/2010 4:46:34 PM PST by RnMomof7 (Gal 4:16 asks "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: RnMomof7

Indeed!

Luke 1:46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”


7 posted on 12/02/2010 4:54:55 PM PST by Gamecock (New TSA Slogans: 1. If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On 2. We Love Your Fly and It Shows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: RnMomof7; Gamecock
I love the magnificat ..it is a song that all the saved are be able to sing

Amen. As Mary states: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Yet, it is interesting that twelve years later we find the following:

Mary knew that a Savior was born to the world, yet could not fully grasp the meaning. I believe this may be similar to how our Lord spoke to His disciples yet hid the meaning until the time had come.
8 posted on 12/02/2010 5:07:34 PM PST by HarleyD
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: HarleyD

Good point Harley!

We see the same throughout Scripture.

All sorts of folk encounter God and they just don’t get who He is.


9 posted on 12/02/2010 5:12:15 PM PST by Gamecock (New TSA Slogans: 1. If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On 2. We Love Your Fly and It Shows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

THX THX.


10 posted on 12/02/2010 5:52:52 PM PST by Quix (Times are a changin' INSURE you have believed in your heart & confessed Jesus as Lord Come NtheFlesh)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: 353FMG

You are, of course, right.

Ryken knows that too.

But God works in each of us in a different way, each of us will have a different story. I suspect that is what the Ryken is wondering about.


11 posted on 12/02/2010 6:03:37 PM PST by Gamecock (New TSA Slogans: 1. If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On 2. We Love Your Fly and It Shows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

Mary knew she was a sinner (not sinless) and needed a Savior. Moreover, I believe, she understood from the angels saying that the baby she bore was that Savior.

Those who say she was sinless should take another look at this verse.

12 posted on 12/03/2010 7:05:42 AM PST by sr4402
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: HarleyD

Well, quite frankly, how could she understand what He meant by “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
“? Remember also that the Jewish idea of a messiah or savior was not completely clear and Mary being a monotheist may not have completely understood what Jesus meant by “my Father’s business” — it’s a difficult enough concept for people these days to grasp!


13 posted on 12/03/2010 7:06:11 AM PST by Cronos (Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis (And the word was made flesh, and dwelt amonst us))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: HarleyD; RnMomof7; Gamecock
Mary knew that a Savior was born to the world, yet could not fully grasp the meaning.

You raise a very interesting question. I believe she probably thought Jesus was either a prophet, or the Jewish understanding of their Messiah (never thinking this was actually God). In the Jewish thinking their Messiah would come and immediately vanquish all of Israel's enemies and establish the Kingdom. No one had any idea that a spiritual reconciliation would occur first.

14 posted on 12/03/2010 7:47:39 AM PST by wmfights (If you want change support SenateConservatives.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: sr4402; Gamecock
I believe, she understood from the angels saying that the baby she bore was that Savior.

Her actions say just the opposite. She rebuked Jesus when he stayed at the Temple. She was confused when Jesus said why He stayed at the Temple. She tried to control Him when she told Him to turn the water into wine. She came with His brothers to take Him home because she thought He was crazy. These are not the actions of someone who believes Jesus is not only the Messiah, but the Son of God.

15 posted on 12/03/2010 7:53:25 AM PST by wmfights (If you want change support SenateConservatives.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: wmfights
How, at that moment, when she praised God, saying "God my Savior", is that not recognizing her Savior?

Your comments only prove what I was saying that she was Not sinless and Not that she recognized her Savior.

16 posted on 12/03/2010 8:33:25 AM PST by sr4402
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: HarleyD; wmfights; Forest Keeper; Gamecock; Alex Murphy; Dr. Eckleburg
Mary knew that a Savior was born to the world, yet could not fully grasp the meaning. I believe this may be similar to how our Lord spoke to His disciples yet hid the meaning until the time had come.

I agree ! All throughout the OT God reveals the Savior, and that He will save men from their sins.. not there political situation.. But Jews had their eyes darkened and they could not even understand their own prophecies.

I think the fact that mary knew the scriptures well and yet did not grasp the full meaning of them shows she was, like all men, before we are saved, walking in spiritual darkness..

17 posted on 12/03/2010 9:30:21 AM PST by RnMomof7 (Gal 4:16 asks "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: sr4402; wmfights
How, at that moment, when she praised God, saying "God my Savior", is that not recognizing her Savior?

The Jews were looking for a political savior, not a Savior of their souls , even the apostles did not fully grasp the truth of that when they were called.

Like most unsaved men they thought they did not need a spiritual savior

18 posted on 12/03/2010 9:34:29 AM PST by RnMomof7 (Gal 4:16 asks "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: RnMomof7

Ditto!
I love Simeon’s song as well. We named our son after him.
Luke 2:22-35


19 posted on 12/09/2010 10:48:07 PM PST by 4Godsoloved..Hegave (Trusting God is a full time job, He is on duty 24/7 .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson