November always makes me think of the good things I am grateful for. With that in mind, I’m sharing a chapter entitled “Theologian” from my book, Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth (Richardson, TX: Pondered Treasures Books, 2019), 47–50.
And Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed, because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him. He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”Luke 1:46–55
Most Jewish girls did not have formal education nor access to theological books. Instead, they relied on the oral tradition of parents reciting the stories of their ancestors and memorizing words from the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms. From this conscious storehouse of knowledge, Mary composed one of the most beautiful songs in Scripture—The Magnificat. The theology in this song of glory—for that is the meaning of magnificat—reveals a deep, courageous faith.
Mary starts out by focusing on Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God, not on herself or the child in her womb. Most of her song simply describes the Mighty One, revealing an intimate knowledge of him.
Mary knows that God is mighty. He does great things. For her specifically, he performed a miraculous conception.
She knows that God is holy. He is the only pure, blameless God, without fault.
She understands that God is merciful. He shows his grace, not only to Mary by choosing her to be the earthly mother of his son, but also to anyone in any generation who acknowledges him.
Mary has learned that God is her provider. He fills her when she is hungry and needy.
She knows that God is good. He gives her good things—a son and the honor of raising him—but even better, he gives her a Savior.
Mary grasps that God is omnipotent. He performs powerful deeds, he scatters the proud, he removes rulers from leadership, and lifts up the humble, as he does for Mary.
She comprehends that God is just. He does not favor the wealthy and privileged. After all, he chose her.
Mary knows that God keeps his covenants. He remembers his promise to Abraham so long ago and continues to help Israel—now by sending the promised seed (offspring) to crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15).
Mary’s courage challenges me. Her reference to bringing down rulers was a prediction of the overthrow of current oppressive leaders by the promised Messiah. These were “fighting words”—words that could have caught the attention of Rome and landed her in deep trouble. She is brave, gutsy, tenacious, and a danger to the status quo.1
Mary’s theology impresses me. Without twelve years of school, Bible college, or seminary, she expresses profound truths. I am especially drawn to her words: “he has filled the hungry with good things.” A quick look at the original language tells me that the hungry could also be translated “the needy.” That’s me. And good things mean “pleasant, useful, upright, and pleasurable” things. I want those too.
In other words, Mary teaches me anew that my God is good, and he gives to me that which benefits me, even if it also brings pain. Mary’s “good thing” brought about the cross. What was painful for her produced the best of all good things—the salvation of the world.
Because Mary views God correctly, she views herself correctly. Thus, she glorifies God and rejoices. She expresses humility and realizes the future impact of this miracle, that she will be called blessed up until the present day.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
What characteristic of God encourages you today and why?
How has God shown his goodness to you?
Lord God, Mighty One, I so need the reminder of your goodness. I feel so needy. My neediness sometimes overwhelms those around me. But you have filled me with good things, and today I choose to focus on what I have in you and not on what I lack.
1 Scot McKnight, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2007), 15. “In the 1980s the government of Guatemala banned any public reading of Mary’s Magnificat because it was deemed politically subversive … In countries whose citizens lack the basic liberties to say what they think, worship as they want, and to acquire basic needs, a bold plea for justice is an act of subversion.”