Luke 1:46-55 - Mary's Song - The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55 (NIV) And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of
the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will
call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for
me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from
generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he
has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has
brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He
has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away
empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to
Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
Mary's song of praise is called The Magnificat (from the Latin
word for magnify). [Wiersbe Expository Outlines]
This hymn of praise is known as the Magnificat because in the
Latin Vulgate translation the opening word is <Magnificat,> which
means "glorifies." [NIV SB]
Mary knew the Scriptures, for there are at least fifteen OT
quotations or allusions in her song. [Wiersbe Expository Outlines]
There are 15 discernible quotations from the OT in this poem,
showing how much the OT was known and loved in the home in which Jesus
was reared. [Ryrie SB]
Mary's song, called the Magnificat, makes free use of the Song
of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10) [Believer's SB]
In Mary's song, as in Hannah's song, these holy women were
filled with wonder to see that "the proud, the mighty, the rich" were
not chosen to usher in the greatest events, but the lowly. They sang
of this as no capricious movement, but as a great principle of God
by which he delights to put down the mighty from their seats and to
exalt them of low degree. In both songs the ultimate focus is on
Christ. In Hannah's song, he is "Jehovah's King"; in Mary's song, he is
my Saviour. [Jamieson, Fausset, And Brown Commentary]
Some compare this song with that which her name-sake Miriam, the
sister of Moses, sung, upon the triumphant departure of Israel out of
Egypt, and their triumphant passage through the Red Sea; others think
it better compared with the song of Hannah, upon the birth of
Samuel, which, like this, passes from a family mercy to a public and
general one. . (Matthew Henry's Commentary)
From a contemplation of His goodness to HER, she enlarges her
views to a contemplation of His goodness and power IN GENERAL, and to
a celebration of the praises of God for ALL that he has done to
all people. (Barnes' Notes)
Her praise poem has four distinct parts: (1) personal adoration
and thanks (vv. 46-48); (2) celebration of God's attributes (vv.
49-50); (3) acclaim for correcting injustice (vv. 51-53); and (4) praise
for the mercy shown Israel (vv. 54-56). [Victor Bible Reader's
Some have questioned whether a young girl, probably in her
early teens at the time, could have spontaneously produced a poem of
such depth and so filled with biblical allusion. Yet there are at
least two things to remember. The Jews in the first century remained
at heart a theocratic community. It was their relationship with God
that gave them not only their identity as a people, but also was the
foundation of their hope for the future. These were truly a people of the
Book, and biblical phrases and images were woven into daily speech,
memorized and sung, and discussed in the synagogue every Sabbath.
The second thing to remember, of course, is that Mary was a
young woman of deep faith and spiritual insight. She was truly an
exceptional person, as we quickly learn as we see her response to the
announcement by the Angel Gabriel (1:38). Not every young woman in
first-century Galilee could have composed the Magnificat. But as Mary traveled
to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah's hill country, a journey of
some three to four days on foot, Mary pondered her experience and
Mary did compose these wonderful words of praise.
What a challenge to us in our day. If we expect to be used
by God, we need not be great in the eyes of the world. But we must
saturate ourselves with the Scriptures, till the thoughts and concepts
revealed by God become an integral part of our hearts and minds too.
[Victor Bible Background Commentary]
There is a blessing for those of us who learn to believe in
spite of doubt. There is blessing for those of us who respond as Mary
did with perfect, childlike trust.
Mary's faith-response is even more striking when we realize
that, according to Old Testament Law, her pregnancy while still single
might well be dealt with by stoning! And certainly her fiance, who
would know the child was not his, would hardly go through with the
marriage. Yet all these things Mary was willing to trust God to work out!
Instead of worry, joy filled Mary's heart. And her praise
song, known as the Magnificat (vv. 46-55), was filled with praise for
God and with a vivid awareness of His greatness and love. What was
Mary's vision of God?
[He] has done great things (v. 49).
Holy is His name (v. 49).
His mercy extends to those who fear Him (v. 50).
He has performed mighty deeds (v. 51).
[He] has lifted up the humble (v. 52).
He has filled the hungry (v. 53). [Victor Teacher's
Have you ever noticed how saints and songs seem to go
together? It's hard for people of God to congregate without spontaneously
enjoying the atmosphere of praise, thanks, and worship that music
provides. One mark of a Spirit-filled believer is "speaking . . . in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your
heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). Even if you can't sing, you can
still speak forth the majestic praises of God that are in your heart!
When Mary shared with Elizabeth the good news about a Savior
to be born through her, the result was a song (1:46-55). When
Zechariah's voice returned after his faith-inspired declaration of his son's
name, he couldn't help but sing ( 1:67-79). When Jesus was born in
Bethlehem, the heavenly hosts of heaven declared the news in a song
Do you feel like singing (or speaking forth) the praises of
your Lord right now? Then read out loud those songs of Mary,
Zechariah, and the angels in today's reading. Better yet, compose one of
your own. Praising God in song is never out of date--even if you can't
carry a tune! [Your Daily Walk SB]
There's a vast difference between calling Mary the "mother
of my LORD," as Elizabeth did, and the "mother of God." In Jesus,
God took on human nature, and that human nature was derived from His
mother, Mary. God the Son, like God the Father, eternally existing, had
no mother. In no way can His divine nature be attributed to Mary,
who was merely a creature like you and me.
It's this that Luke seemed to emphasize in his lovely
portrait of Mary. She was a creature, like you and me. But her unusual
response to God sets us an example.
Mary is an example of submission. "I am the LORD's servant,"
she said. "May it be to me as you have said" (v. 38). Mary knew full
well what she risked as an unmarried woman: rejection by Joseph, the
scorn and contempt of her neighbors. Yet Mary did not hesitate. She
committed herself totally to the LORD's plan for her life.
Mary is an example of humility. Twice in that poem known as
Mary's "Magnificat," she mentions her "humble state" (vv. 48, 52).
Though to Mary alone was granted the privilege of being mother of the
Messiah, the "One desired by women" (Dan. 11:37), she never became proud.
Many men of Scripture through whom God worked succumbed later to
pride. Mary, who had more to boast of than any of them, never lost her
spirit of selfless dependence on God.
Mary is an example of thankfulness. She responded to God's
touch with her whole soul and spirit, praising and exalting the LORD.
She saw in God's work in her own life evidence of His love for all
His people, and was thrilled with God's might, grace, mercy, and
Today we should honor Mary, and thank God for her simple
trust. But the best way to honor Mary is not to pray to her. Rather the
best way to honor Mary is to model our own relationship with God on
the traits she displayed. The acts of recognition of which Mary
would approve remain the same: to readily submit to our LORD, to
nurture a humble spirit, and to express our appreciation to God in
praise, as Mary did so long ago. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary]
It has been said that religion is the opiate of the people;
but, as Stanley Jones said, "the Magnificat is the most revolutionary
document in the world."
It speaks of three of the revolutions of God.
(i) He scatters the proud in the plans of their hearts. That is
a moral revolution. Christianity is the death of pride. Why?
Because if a man sets his life beside that of Christ it tears the last
vestiges of pride from him.
Sometimes something happens to a man which with a vivid,
revealing light shames him. O. Henry has a short story about a lad who was
brought up in a village. In school he used to sit beside a girl and they
were fond of each other. He went to the city and fell into evil ways.
He became a pickpocket and a petty thief. One day he snatched an
old lady's purse. It was clever work and he was pleased. And then he
saw coming down the street the girl whom he used to know, still
sweet with the radiance of innocence. Suddenly he saw himself for the
cheap, vile thing he really was. Burning with shame, he leaned his head
against the cool iron of a lamp standard. "God," he said, "I wish I
could die." He saw himself.
Christ enables a man to see himself. It is the deathblow to
pride. The moral revolution has begun.
(ii) He casts down the mighty--he exalts the humble. That is a
social revolution. Christianity puts an end to the world's labels and
Muretus was a wandering scholar of the middle ages. He was
poor. In an Italian town he took ill and was taken to a hospital for
waifs and strays. The doctors were discussing his case in Latin, never
dreaming he could understand. They suggested that since he was such a
worthless wanderer they might use him for medical experiments. He looked
up and answered them in their own learned tongue, "Call no man
worthless for whom Christ died!"
When we have realized what Christ did for all men, it is no
longer possible to speak about a common man. The social grades are
(iii) He has filled those who are hungry ... those who are rich
he has sent empty away. That is an economic revolution. A
non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass
as much as he can get. A Christian society is a society where no
man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every
man must get only to give away.
There is loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness
there is dynamite. Christianity begets a revolution in each man and
revolution in the world. [Barclay Commentary]
Those who see their need of Christ, and are desirous of
righteousness and life in him, he fills with good things, with the best
things; and they are abundantly satisfied with the blessings he gives.
He will satisfy the desires of the poor in spirit who long for
spiritual blessings, while the self-sufficient shall be sent empty away.
[Matthew Henry Commentary]
When the Bible tells us that God hath scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts we see a beautiful and powerful principle of
Scripture here. The proud person, the one who has refused to allow God to
lead and guide in their life, are like a sheep without a shepherd.
They run after the imaginations of their own heart totally out of
God's plan for their life headed for destruction no matter how
wonderful they may think their life of delusion is going.