By Thanking the Lord for His Mercy

Dr. Rob Green December 5, 2019 Luke 1:46-56
Outline

3 truths that can help us respond well to the birth of Jesus

I. Give Thanks to the Lord with Passion

1 Samuel 2:1-10 - Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.”

A. Use meaningful terminology

B. Thanksgiving that comes from within

II. Praise Him for Using You to Accomplish His Plan

Luke 1:48 - For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

A. Despite your humble beginnings

B. Even though his plans are amazing

Ephesians 4:16 - …from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

C. So that your story can serve to encourage others to give the Lord glory

“To regard Mary as blessed is to praise God for what he has done for her because of what it means for us.” (Donald Garland, Luke in Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011], 95)

III. Praise Him for His Mercy Throughout Human History

A. Due to a proper understanding of the character of God

B. Due to a proper understanding of how God works

C. Due to a proper understanding of the promises God makes and keeps

Each year we devote a few weeks to a Christmas series. This year our annual theme has been Growing What God has Given. We know that the Lord has given us a lot. We wanted to devote an entire year to the subject of helping all of us work toward growing what the Lord has given.

  • Stewardship celebration was so encouraging. If you missed it many of the testimonies are available online to watch.
  • Matthew begins with a genealogy to show us that Jesus is in the line of David and Abraham, Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus, John explains that Jesus was the Word of God in the flesh.
  • Luke begins by telling us the birth stories of John the Baptist and Jesus. For our purposes this morning, Luke is the one most interested in Mary’s understanding of her role.

While there are a lot of potential ways, we could consider the Christmas story, this year we are going to study portions of Luke 1-2. As we do, we will also think about Responding well to the birth of Jesus.

Please open your Bibles to Luke 1:26. That is on page 43 of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are turning there, remember that each gospel writer has his own unique way of beginning his book.

Let’s start reading in v. 26 in order to get the context (read from Luke 1:26-45)

  • Zacharias and Elizabeth longed for a child. Zacharias was a priest serving in Jerusalem when he learned they would have a baby despite their advanced age. In God’s plan, however, Elizabeth did conceive and now we learn about Mary.
  • Mary is a young lady (likely in her late teens) who is engaged to Joseph.
  • She is from a small town a fair distance from the capital of Jerusalem.
  • She is from a poor family.
  • In vv. 31-32 she learns that she will conceive and give birth, that the child shall be called Jesus, that he will be great, he will be called the Son of the Most High, he will be given the throne of David, and his kingdom would have no end.
  • Here is an observation just for fun. What is the difference between Zacharias’ question in v. 18 and Mary’s question in v. 34? Zacharias has plenty of biblical warrant to believe that God opens dead wombs.
  • In vv. 36-37 she is told that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she is going to conceive as a virgin and that is why Jesus, the holy child, will be called the Son of God (v. 35).
  • It is the like the Black Friday sale where you get to buy a brand new 4K 70” Smart TV which does not have a remote because it knows what you want to watch for $9.99.
  • Or you receive an email from Madam Thompson who is the late widow of General William Thompson from Nigeria who recently died and left $21.4 million (or sometimes they get fancy and put it in euros) in oversees banks. Madam Thompson needs some help procuring the funds and will gladly give you 20% for your role.
  • I do not believe Mary intends a distinction between soul and spirit, but rather adjusts terminology to emphasize how all of her inner being gives thanks.
  • Some of us enjoy sports. Last week was a thrilling IU vs. Purdue game. It was everything one would want in a game. A dramatic comeback … heading into double overtime … the suspense of who is going to will their team to victory.
  • Some of us enjoy food, exercise, or the latest health product.
  • There is a danger that our joy, our hope, and our satisfaction will be found in lesser things.
  • That needs to be true in our inner man
  • It needs to be true on our face, in our conversation, and even in the vocabulary that we use.
  • Because there is nothing more exciting. There is nothing that gives more joy. There is nothing that screams hope like the birth of our savior.
  • The themes of salvation, sovereignty, using the humble, and God bringing justice are part of how she thinks.
  • It is her foundational theology on which she builds this amazing promise that she will be the mother of Jesus.
  • Not everyone is given the same physical characteristics … Last week at the baptism I was baptizing one of my young couples who must have been a foot taller than me. I think some wondered whether he or both of us were going to drown.
  • Not everyone is given the same intellectual capabilities …
  • Not everyone is given the same level of wisdom or creativity …
  • Not everyone attends equally good school systems …
  • Yet, she is going to conceive through the Holy Spirit and her son will be long awaited Messiah who is savior and Lord.
  • Her son will sit on the throne of David and reign forever. Wow!
  • This weekend was the first weekend of LN. As we tell the gospel story, Mary is a part of that story. In fact, we have 4 scenes with Mary in it. Two teams and two weekends which means we need about 16 Marys to pull off the Living Nativity!
  • She was right … when we tell the Christmas story her name comes up.
  • I love that portion of the song … I imagine it is really significant to a group who is used to seeing their name in lights. I suppose it is one of the dangers of being so popular.
  • Mary says it can be both because our story is connected to the glorious plans of God.
  • His answer was quick and to the point, “It was the end of an era.”
  • Do everything in your power to live in such a way that your family story points continuously to the Lord. Not to be “well, it was the end of an era.”
  • Pastor Viars mentioned during stewardship celebration that one take away was to sign up for another year. Another year of faithfulness, service, generosity, outreach, discipleship, and study.
    • We should want our family story and our church story to always point to Jesus.
  • I suggested first, that our praise should involve expressions of our heart and our voice.
    • Mary’s praise to the Lord flowed from a heart that was truly amazed and grateful. May that be the focus of our life. Other issues in our life will be set in their proper location.
  • That we would praise the Lord for allowing us to be part of his plan.
    • Information about Mary is relatively scarce in the Bible. Outside of the birth and at the cross Mary is not discussed. She never once appears in any of the NT epistles.
    • Jesus is far more important, but her portion of the story is valuable.
  • Bless the Lord with all that is in me (vv. 46-47)
  • Pardons iniquities … Jesus, the one coming will be my salvation (v. 47)
  • The Lord performs righteous deeds
  • God’s character is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness
  • God is not treating us the way our sins deserve
  • His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting
  • Bless the Lord
  • She does not doubt that there will be a coming Messiah
  • She does not doubt in the person and character of God
  • She does not doubt that God uses the humble
  • She does not doubt that her son will be ruler
  • She does not doubt that she will conceive miraculously
  • Why would I question whether God can bring about a conception in my womb, when I can think of the great things that the Lord has done throughout history?
    • He protected them from extinction through women unable to have children.
    • He protected them through famine and war by providing for them and giving them victory.
    • He protected them in Egypt and powerfully led them out.
    • He protected them during the days of the judges.
    • And on and on and on it goes.
  • He scatters those who thought their alliances would protect them.
  • She may reference Psalm 107 in v. 53 where she reminds us of how God provides even in difficult times.
  • Gabriel delivers a message that under normal circumstances would seem outrageous.
  • But Mary’s theology is rich. She understands her Bible.
  • As a result, she takes the amazing mercy of God and speaks a psalm of praise.
  • I hope your praise that results from being part of God’s plan will encourage you to invite others to the 15th, and to Christmas Eve services.
  • I hope your praise will result in a joy, satisfaction, and hope that oozes out Jesus.
  • I hope your praise will encourage you to build a legacy of pointing people to Jesus – for he will save his people from their sins.

There is virtually nothing noteworthy about her until the angel greets her. If “favored one” sounds strange to us, the same was true for Mary (v. 29).

If the greeting was odd, how about the message.

Now that is a message! Can you imagine being told that you are going to have a child and your son will rule the world forever?

Her response is very simple … I have not had sexual relations with anyone. Having a child is not possible. I do not understand.

The angel’s answer to her question is equally remarkable as his initial message.

This young lady takes it all in stride and responds simply with “May it be done as you have explained.” (v. 38) Mary’s next actions are also amazing as she leaves to spend time with Elizabeth. We do not have the detailed reasons for this, except that the angel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant.

It was during that 3 month visit that Elizabeth acknowledges the significance of Mary’s reaction in v. 45. It is a little ironic since earlier we read that Zachariah was not so easily persuaded and had the privilege of being quiet for over 9 months.

I have to admit that this initial offer seems so remarkable that it cannot be true.

As we look at Mary’s words … which is kind of a song, kind of a poem, and kind of a speech, we can understand why Mary responds as she does.

The title of our message this morning is Thanking the Lord for his mercy. I would like us to consider three truths that can help us respond well to the birth of Jesus.

I. Give Thanks to the Lord with Passion (vv. 46-47)

Mary might be young, but she is not new to her Bible. She might be materially poor, but she is rich in the knowledge of God and his promises. Many have noticed the similarity between Hannah’s praise to the Lord after giving her Samuel and Mary’s praise after hearing she will be the mother of her savior.

Listen to Hannah’s prayer after discovering that the Lord granted her request for a child.

1Sam. 2:1 Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2 “There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. 3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. 4 “The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. 5 “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes. 6 “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to 1Sheol and raises up. 7 “The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. 8 “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, And He set the world on them. 9 “He keeps the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a man prevail. 10 “Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered; Against them He will thunder in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed.”

The themes of salvation, God using the lowly, God judging the wicked and rescuing those who trust in him, and his sovereignty in the world are part of both praises (Hannah’s and Mary’s).

Mary praise is not in the message she received by itself. Mary understands her Bible well enough to place the angel’s pronouncement within the larger story lines of the Bible.

Even if it initially sounds like the angel’s message cannot be true … she knows her God well enough and she knows her Bible well enough to know “O, yes it can.” In this she rejoices. When she rejoices, she means it.

As we think about our response to the birth of our savior, let’s

A. Use meaningful terminology

Luke 1:46-55 is often called Mary’s Magnificat. That term is from Latin which is very close to the original Greek word. When I was growing up, I heard the word Magnificat, but I did not know what it meant.

What we find in in vv. 46-47 is that Mary uses somewhat unusual terminology. The words “exalt” and “has rejoiced” are more impassioned words than other terms.

The first emphasizes the importance or greatness of the individual being praised. It reminds me of how the Lord taught us to pray … which was part of our stewardship month this year … hallowed (holy) be your name.

Mary’s praise begins with acknowledging the importance or greatness of God. That is the Magnificat … an exaltation of the greatness of God.

The second emphasizes the exceeding joy in God her savior. Again, there are multiple words used to describe joy, but this one is the strongest. It includes not just an intellectual joy, but also an emotional one.

B. Thanksgiving that comes from within

My soul (v. 46) and my spirit (v. 37) both emphasize the inner man. Mary is not speaking about superficial joy or praise, but rather the praise that flows from the heart.

Friends, if we are being honest there are times that we can be more excited about things that do not matter very much.

There is a danger that we will be more excited about those things than we are the character, works, and plans of the Lord.

This holiday season, we want to be sure that the thing we are most jazzed about is the birth of our savior.

I have had the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with several people in the last two weeks who I know do not have a saving relationship with Christ. I have people asking me what I want for Christmas … here is what is should be … That all of those persons repent of their sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for their salvation.

II. Praise Him for using you to accomplish his plan (vv. 48)

Luke 1:48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

In v. 48 Mary praises the Lord for the role that she plays in God’s plan. I mentioned earlier that Mary knew her Bible.

Friends, if you know Christ as your Lord and savior then you also part of the grand story that God orchestrates.

A. Despite your humble beginnings

Mary acknowledges that she does not come from royalty. She is not a person of importance by birth. She lives in a small country village. She has little to offer except to be the Lord’s servant.

I think many of us can relate to that. When you think about the grand and glorious plans that God has for his people, it can be easy to think that God needs the beautiful people. It can be easy to think that God needs the strong and mighty people.

But praise the Lord that he uses the humble. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. The ground is not level anywhere else.

It seems that humble beginnings are a real obstacle in our world. However, the Lord sees us and chooses to use us anyway. That is a reason to praise him for his mercy.

B. Even though his plans are amazing

Think about the plans in this passage. Elizabeth is an older woman … beyond the normal childbearing years. Zacharias hears an announcement that Elizabeth will have a baby and he is thinking no way. Mind you he is serving as a priest. He is responsible to teach the people the Word of God. Surely he knows the OT accounts of barren women (like Sarah) who had children in their old age.

The pronouncement to Mary is even more remarkable … she is not married and is not have sexual relations with anyone. The pronouncement is beyond human possibility.

Do you realize that the story we are reading about also includes you and me. That is often how Bible stories work. A prophecy is fulfilled only to realize that there is a whole other layer involved. Jesus came to fulfill the words about the coming Messiah, but he also started the church as part of the larger story of God’s plan.

Last week Pastor Viars spoke about the body of Christ … the church.

Eph. 4:16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

We believe that the Lord has gifted and called each believer to serve a role in the body of Christ. You are now contributing to what God is doing through his church in his world.

We are part of the grand story line of Scripture. It is a reason to praise God that we were included in this amazing story.

C. So that your story can serve to encourage others to give the Lord glory

Mary’s comment in v. 48 is one we need to ponder. What does she mean when she says, “all generations will count me blessed”? Is she looking for praise? Have we been wrong to de-emphasize Mary? Some churches place a lot of importance on Mary. Have we missed the boat? Or do they not understand Mary’s words?

I found it helpful how Garland put it, “To regard Mary as blessed is to praise God for what he has done for her because of what it means for us.” (Donald Garland, Luke in Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011], 95)

Remembering Mary is part of remembering the full gospel story. It points to a God who has amazing plans and is worthy of all praise and glory.

We attempt to do that every year

In all seriousness … There is a recent song by Casting Crowns called Only Jesus. When read in context it emphasizes that our entire life is to point to the one who gave us life. It is designed to show that Jesus is the only name that lasts forever.

But the chorus is a bit too strong. “I don’t want to leave a legacy … only Jesus” sounds as if it can only be one way or the other. It can either be a legacy or it can be Jesus.

I was having dinner with a pastor from England several months ago. I asked him about the church where John Stott (a very famous preacher and writer) served. He told me that his wife had been a part of that church when she was young. I asked how it was doing today. He said that it was virtually dead. So I asked, what do you think happened.

Friends, I want to encourage you not to try to make a name for yourself, but to thank the Lord that your story is part of the way that others give the Lord glory. In addition, live in such a way that there is a story that points people to the greatness of God.

We are speaking this morning about how to rightly respond to the birth of Christ.

That brings us to the third point.

III. Praise Him for his mercy throughout human history (vv. 49-55)

Mary’s praise does not come from a vacuum. It is not solely focused on the reality that she will miraculously conceive and give birth to a son. I mentioned at the very beginning that Mary knows her Bible. It is not very long into her praise that we see larger themes coming out.

She is not only doing something similar to what Hannah did when God gave her a child, but she is bringing up issues that relate to all of human history. She praises him …

A. Due to a proper understanding of the character of God

She mentions three of God’s attributes.

  1. Holiness

She acknowledges the holiness of God. This is not just related to how he has dealt with her, but of who he is. Holiness is one attribute of God that describes who he is. Praise God that he is different than us.

  1. Mercy

Many commentators believe that v. 50 is a quotation of Psalm 103:17. I want to turn to Psalm 103 (that is on page 436 of the front section of the Bible in the chair) and show how informed Mary has been in her theology of God. Read the Psalm.

The themes are very similar to the ideas found in Mary’s praise.

Mary is bringing with her a theology from her OT that informs how she receives the news, how she processes the news, and the implications of that news for others.

Mary gives no indication whatsoever that the angel’s pronouncement is like Madam Thompson who is going to give you $4 million to handle a transaction for her.

You know the song … Mary did you know? The answer to many of those questions is you better believe she did.

Because Mary knew her Bible. Because Mary knew the character of God. Because Mary knew that God was worthy of praise from her lips and her soul.

  1. Power

In this portion of her song she is not just saying something about God’s work in her life, but in God’s power through salvation history. Verse 51 does not appear to be a direct quotation of any particular location. However, there is an OT theme of God doing mighty deeds with his arm.

The picture is that when God extends his arm things move. There is power in his movements and power in what he does.

Mary brings her understanding of who God is to this equation. Friends, part of the reason you and I praise the Lord is due to his character. The same God who protected the nation of Israel. The same God who choose to give mercy and grace to Mary is ours.

B. Due to a proper understanding of how God works

Mary knows that God uses the humble. He uses the lowly. There are times that it seems all the power and wealth is occupied by a select few. Those few control everything. But in due course, God brings them down.

Mary has read her Bible. She knows that at the proper time the exalted are brought low and the lowly are exalted.

C. Due to a proper understanding of the promises God makes and keeps

Her final words in vv. 54-55 remind us of covenant made to Abraham. The promises to Abraham were not just for the nation of Israel, but also include all those who know Christ as savior.

The birth of Jesus is an amazing story. A girl from a poor family engaged to be married to a man who does not seem particularly noteworthy learns that she will be the mother of the Lord.

As we consider the mercy of God I hope that we will be equally passionate regarding our praise (both outside and inside), I hope that we will praise him for allowing us to be part of his plan, and I hope that we will praise him because his mercy is shown throughout human history.

Your praise will result in a joyful service with LN, CFE, and the special services we have next week.

Dr. Rob Green

Roles

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Bio

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.