Luke 1:39-56 – Songs of Advent -Mary’s Song

Mary’s hymn is one of three major hymnic pieces in the infancy material (the others are known as the Benedictus, Lk 1:67-79, and Nunc Dimittis, Lk 2:28-32). The Latin names come from the phrases that begin the hymns. Mary’s hymn expresses praise to God for his treatment of her, but then extends her praise to how God has treated the righteous throughout the ages and how he will vindicate them fully in the future. Understanding what God is doing, Mary possesses a mood of joy. She speaks for herself and for her community, the people of God throughout time. God is worthy of praise for what he will do in taking care of his own. Understanding God’s blessing moves the believer to joy and appreciation, since the Almighty cares personally for us and acts on our behalf.

These verses express the traditional Jewish hope of vindication in the face of oppression at the hands of foreign, pagan rulers (1:71-75 is similar; in Judaism, see Psalms of Solomon 17–18). Mary’s remarks are often misinterpreted in two directions. Some see them solely as a reference to God’s defense of all the poor, all the hungry. A whole theology of liberation is built around such a reading of these verses and others like them. This ignores the spiritual dimension present throughout the hymn, not to mention the national character of the hope expressed in verses 54-55. On the other hand, some want to dilute the references to the poor and hungry altogether and speak only of the poor and hungry in spirit. This also undercuts the passage’s force. The spirit of this text is reflected in other New Testament texts (1 Cor 1:25-31; Jas 2:5). Often it is those in need who are the most spiritually sensitive to God and who are gifted with faith by him. God promises them that despite their current deprivation, they will experience great reward in the future.

God is acting for his people, Israel. God’s actions reflect his mercy. He committed himself to such loyalty and compassion when he made promises to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). One of the lessons of the infancy section is that God keeps his word, including the promises made to the nation of Israel. Mary knows that the promises of God abide, and this is evident in her praise. God’s loyal love is central to the hope and assurance of those to whom God has made himself known.

Though Luke will develop the concept of God’s constant care for Israel according to covenant promise, his portrayal of Mary here shows a woman confident that God will care for a remnant in his nation. They, like she, will see the Lord’s powerful hand move on their behalf. God’s loyal love and the truthfulness of his holy character make such assurance and hope possible. Even more amazing is what the progress of Luke’s story reveals. Others who were not originally included in the promise, namely Gentiles, will come to share in this hope and will benefit from the vindication described here. In fact, it is quite likely that Theophilus himself is one of these additional beneficiaries, along with many others after him who have come to fear the Lord.

In fact, the two points of assurance are linked. Since God remembers the loyal love promised in covenant to Israel, Theophilus can rest assured that God will remember his promises to this Gentile believer. God’s care for one promise reinforces the other.
Darrell Bock

Read Luke 1:39-56 and consider the songs of praise about the coming Messiah. What themes particularly stand out? How does those influence your personal worship of Christ?

Of the Father’s Love Begotten by Out of Darkness

Posted on: November 28, 2020 - 10:46AM

Comments are closed.