My spirit rejoices
And Mary said:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. 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, remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors.
And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home. (Luke 1:46-56)
Roughly thirty years after Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord in this song of eloquent praise, Jesus will teach, “The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Lk 1:46; Mt 12:34). If we want to really know ourselves, all we have to do is examine the words we’re prone to speak in moments of thoughtless impulse. Consider, for instance, when another car cuts us off on the highway. Do we begin cursing, wishing for justice in the form of a flat tire on the other guy’s car? Or, are we more likely to thank God for keeping us safe?
For better or worse, the words that come most natural to us reveal our hearts.
Mary’s words reveal a beautiful, God-honoring woman rather than the disbelief and anxiety we might expect from someone in her newfound position. Her cousin, Elizabeth, has just affirmed Gabriel’s message—she will be the mother of the Lord—and her gut response is to sing God’s praises (Lk 1:43).
Though Mary is practically a child, her words are mature. Though she is a Jewish female and, therefore, uneducated in any formal sense, her theological understanding surpasses most of the spiritual leaders in Israel. Though she could not have possessed personal copies of the Scriptures, she quotes the Old Testament like it’s her native language. In this way, she proves herself to be not only a model of faith, but also an example of true worship.
Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23, 24). The kind of worship God desires from us requires the entirety of our persons. He demands nothing less than both our hearts and minds. Out of the thanksgiving and joy we feel, we praise God. From a mind saturated with the truth of God’s word, we speak and sing.
Furthermore, as Mary shows us, we shouldn’t wait until Sunday morning to step into spirit and truth. If we’re not in spirit and in truth the rest of the week, chances are, sitting in a church pew on Sunday will be little more than bodily exercise (Jn 4:24; 1Ti 4:8 KJV). “This people,” God may very well judge, “honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mt 15:8). Mary’s praise was spontaneous. It was an accurate reflection of her heart—no premeditation required.
Mary finds supreme joy in God her Savior, and the thought of him fulfilling his long-standing promise to save his people from sin prompts her to sing (Lk 1:47).
In the first part, Mary’s words are full of Old Testament citations. She quotes or alludes to 2 Samuel 22:3, several verses in Isaiah, Hosea 13:4, Genesis 30:13, and at least five of the Psalms. Keep in mind, she’s not reading from a teleprompter or prepared notes. She knows the Bible well.
In the second, Mary reveals her intimate familiarity with Israel’s history. Specifically, she recognizes that God’s will to save his people runs all through the Old Testament. Mercy is the predominant theme. God exalts the lowly and satisfies the hungry with good things (Lk 1:52, 53).
In the last part of her praise, Mary proves an astute theologian. She realizes that everything God has done throughout Israel’s history up to the birth of Christ is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, where God said to Abraham:
I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:2, 3)
Remarkably, this young, uneducated woman knows the blessing of Abraham would come to even the Gentiles—“all peoples on earth will blessed through you,” God promised Abraham—by Christ Jesus (Gal 3:13; Ge 12:3). Most of first-century Israel, including its religious leaders, were incapable of interpreting Scripture as accurately as Mary.