Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Magnificat: Mary, one of the 99%

Then Mary said, "My soul praises the greatness of the Lord!

Before I go on to talk about the 99%, I just want to pause and ponder this "magnifying" the Lord.

Here is a description of what "magnify" means in the Hebrew context. People are always asked in the Bible to magnify the Lord.

 Barnes' Notes on the Bible
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3
O magnify the Lord with me - This seems to be addressed primarily to the "humble," those referred to in the previous verse. As they could appreciate what he would say, as they could understand the nature of his feelings in view of his deliverance, he calls upon them especially to exult with him in the goodness of God. As he and they had common calamities and trials, so might they have common joys; as they were united in danger and sorrow, so it was proper that they should be united in joy and in praise. The word "magnify' means literally "to make great," and then, to make great in the view of the mind, or to regard and treat as great. The idea is, that he wished all, in circumstances similar to those in which he had been placed, to have a just sense of the greatness of God, and of his claims to love and praise. Compare Psalm 35:27; Psalm 40:17; Psalm 69:30; Psalm 70:4; Luke 1:46.
And let us exalt his name together - Let us unite in "lifting up" his name; that is, in raising it above all other things in our own estimation, and in the view of our fellow-men; in so making it known that it shall rise above every other object, that all may see and adore.

Her Magnificat echoes the song of Hannah (another song by a woman about being poor and powerless) and makes me think of Psalm 78 where the Psalmist recalls what happens when one "limits" the holy one. Remember, earlier in this chapter, Zechariah has already gotten a promise from God and failed miserably to not limit the Holy One. It's only after the blessing actually appears (when God is sure Zechariah's mouth isn't going to ruin the promise) that Zechariah's mouth is opened and Zechariah can sing his own song of praise. But Mary gets her revelation at the moment of the promise (and her affirmation later when Elisabeth is also given her own revelation and greets her.)

So what does Mary say?

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Okay, such a song makes me think, "Okay, Mary, what's up with that?"

True, it's a song from the Holy Spirit but it also rises from Mary's heart. Mary is all about the poor, and she is not about forgiving the rich in some gooey sentimental way. She is about totally revamping the system as the religious world has declared it. And it is often this way in our days. God DOES help the poor and he DOES send the rich away empty. Why are people in Africa, India, etc more likely to receive answers to their prayers? Because they have less than we do.

So she magnifies God for this. Perhaps religion had made her forget what God was like. Perhaps the teaching of her day had made her limit God but she has found herself again. God is for the poor!

Psalm 78 (various passages)

9The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;
11And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

40How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!
41Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
42They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
43How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:

56Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:
57But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

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