Throughout the Word of God, we read hundreds of praises and thanksgivings directed to God. They come from kings and prophets and apostles and others. Among the others are Mary and Zacharias. We read about these two in Luke 1, where we meet Mary, the young woman who birthed Jesus, and Zacharias, the elderly father of John the Baptist.
Mary was met by Gabriel, the angel from the throne of God. He carried quite the message for her. She, a young virgin betrothed to Joseph, living in a dusty, nondescript town known as Nazareth, had been chosen to bear the Messiah. From her would come Immanuel, Jesus, God with us, the Savior, the Anointed One.
Obedience, the Key
Obedience is Mary’s great testimony to us.
Among assignments from God, few carried more weight than Mary’s. And, yet, the requirements were so simple. Mary said, “Be it unto me according to your word.” A girl said yes to the plan of God, and her life and the lives of those around her would never be the same.
What did this do to Mary? We don’t have much to go on about this. Much more has been made about Mary than what we read in the Scriptures. In some circles, Mary has been idolized in ways inconsistent with the Word.
In the Bible, we read that she was a lot like any other mother. She treasured everything she heard as it related to the Son born through her. We read also that Mary had her moments of anxiety related to raising Jesus.
Mary and her other sons once came to rescue Jesus while He was in the midst of His ministry and drawing crowds with His message and authority. He disturbed the religious leaders and His family feared for His safety, it seems (see Matthew 12:38-50).
Luke supplies significant details about Mary and her family. It was a family that stayed true to the Word, as it came through Moses and the prophets. The Law was their guide.
These were people of expectation. They made their offerings and celebrated the feasts. As a result, their lives became pictures of praise.
A Revelation of Union
From Mary’s mouth, we get one of the clearest definitions of true praise: “My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
These words from Luke 1 were spoken by Mary to Elisabeth, a relative of Mary’s and the wife of Zacharias; she was an older woman who now carried John the Baptist in her womb after years of barrenness.
What a scene this must have been. Two miraculously pregnant women celebrated the greatness of God. The glory of the moment carried such power that it stirred John to leap for joy within Elisabeth’s womb.
Mary’s soul proclaimed the majesty of God and her spirit rejoiced in her Savior. Praise flowed from this woman through the communion of life going on within her.Pure praise from obedient hearts reveals the Gospel message from God. Click To Tweet
Hebrews 4:12 reveals the quick and powerful nature of the Word. The sharpness of the Truth divides soul and spirit as it pierces and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Truth does so much more than dissect us, however.
When the Word is readily received, it also brings oneness, a union described in Psalm 86: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore” (Psalm 86:11-12).
Mary received the commission of the Lord, and she chose to follow His way. She then magnified God for what had been brought together in her obedient heart.
Mary had more to declare in Luke 1. She said, “He who is mighty has done great things for me; and holy is His Name. And His mercy is on them who fear Him from age to age.”
These are not words coming from a doctor of the Law, nor are they coming from a priestly servant in the Temple. This is the voice of a young woman, a girl, a little one. Childlike hearts, Jesus said, are the hearts in which praise is perfected (see Matthew 21:16).
From Silence to Shouting
The priest in the Luke 1 account tells us another story. Zacharias, husband of Elisabeth and father of the Baptist, had also seen Gabriel. The angel brought a message for him, too. It involved a miracle that would be an answer to his and his wife’s prayers for a son.
It all happened in the midst of the Temple while Zacharias presented the incense offering. Gabriel appeared and Zacharias stood stunned at the words he heard.
One so faithful and true to the Word struggled at the promise delivered to him. One whose expectation was seemingly always afire was found wanting at this point in his life.
Unbelief got the best of him. Result: this rugged, determined servant spent his next months in silence.
Still, Zacharias went forward in obedience. He continued to walk with God, though he could not talk about it. He and Elisabeth came together and soon she was with child. Nine months later, John would be born. Then, this priest finally would have his chance to shout to the Lord.
Praise burst forth from Zacharias, and the noise of his words left the hills of Judea shaken. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He has visited and redeemed His people,” so Zacharias pronounced in Luke 1:68.
Pure praise from obedient hearts reveals the Gospel message from God. He is mighty to save. He is ready to redeem. Salvation has come from the house of David in the Person of Christ, the everlasting One, whose Kingdom shall have no end.
To learn more about praise and its power for our lives, watch this message from Thomas Schaller, pastor of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.