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“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house”—Luke 1:39-56.
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We can well understand the emotions that would fill the heart of the blessed Virgin Mary after this interview with the angel. When she knew within herself that the angel’s words were in course of fulfilment, she must have been greatly moved as she meditated on the marvelous mystery which had been revealed to her. She—an unmarried young woman who had lived a life of perfect physical purity—to become the mother of a child! How would she ever be able to explain things to those of her acquaintance who would naturally question the story she had to tell of the angel’s visit and the message he brought. Perhaps it was such thoughts as these that led Mary to go up into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda, and there visit her cousin Elisabeth; for although Elisabeth’s circumstances were altogether different from those of Mary, still the supernatural entered into her condition too; and we can well believe that the elder woman would have much to say to the younger woman that would be a comfort and help to her. In fact, Elisabeth’s first words of greeting must have thrilled the soul of Mary and confirmed the angel’s words, as Elisabeth exclaimed, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Here was absolute faith, not only in the purity of Mary but also in the words of Gabriel, that the mysterious child to be born would be none other than God manifested in the flesh. Just imagine how cheered Mary must have been by such a greeting. Then as Elisabeth went on to express her further approval and to pronounce a blessing upon her young cousin because she had believed the word of the Lord, there must have been double assurance, for, apparently, she had not said one word to Elisabeth concerning her condition before the elder woman exclaimed there should be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
When at last Mary opened her mouth, it was to praise the Lord in a beautiful psalm which compares favorably with any of those written by divine inspiration by David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel. Unquestionably, Mary herself was inspired to utter these words. They are of great value to us, not only because of their poetic beauty and their high devotional character, but also because they give us to know on what Mary, herself, rested for her own salvation. Romanists may declare that she was born without inbred sin and therefore did not need a Redeemer, but she herself says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Notice those last three words, God my Saviour!
Mary, then, lovely as she was; beautiful in character, perhaps beyond any other young woman of her day, yet realized that in herself she was a sinner who needed a Saviour, and she found that Saviour in God Himself. She took no credit to herself for any extraordinary righteousness that lifted her above other people, but she went on to acknowledge, “He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.” Realizing that everything was of grace, she could rejoice in the loving-kindness shown her.
It is well that we Protestant Christians should note carefully her next words: “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Because, in the Roman Church, Mary is given a place far beyond any that is accorded to her in the Word of God, we are inclined to fear that we might honor her too much if we speak of her as the “Blessed Virgin.” We have warrant for calling her blessed in her own words as here given. She was indeed marvelously blessed above all’ other women and we need not fear to acknowledge it. Since our Lord Himself chose Mary to be the means whereby He came into the world as a little Babe, why should we hesitate for a moment to speak of her as the Blessed Virgin?
She attributes everything to the goodness of God as she exclaims, “For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name.” She shows an understanding of God Himself far beyond her years or her station in life. It is evident that she had been divinely taught, and that to a very remarkable degree. Her last words indicate that she had often meditated on the lowly condition of her people and the oppression that they were enduring, and she recognized in her unborn child the promised Messiah who was to deliver Israel from their afflictions and visit with judgment their Gentile oppressors. Note her words: “He hath showed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” Had things been normal in Israel, her home would have been a palace instead of a peasant’s cottage; Joseph, her betrothed, would have been recognized as a prince of David’s royal house, and would not have had to earn his living as a carpenter; but how wonderfully God has exalted the lowly in bringing them into this blessed and remarkable relationship with Himself.
A divine principle is expressed in ver. 53, that runs throughout all Scripture and characterizes God’s dealings with men in all dispensations, “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.” The trouble with men generally is that they do not realize their need; they are not aware of their lost condition, and so, they do not turn to God for deliverance. They attempt to feed their souls with the husks of this world, and have not yet learned how futile is such an effort, and how impossible it is to satisfy a soul made for eternity with temporal things; and, because of their fancied wealth, they turn away from eternal riches and continue in their sins. Just as men recognize their need; as soon as they begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness; as soon as they recognize their spiritual poverty—as soon as they realize all this, they find in God One who meets every need. May we not well cherish in our hearts the blessing that belongs to the poor in spirit: that is, to those who have no spiritual assets in which to trust, but who come to God as poverty-stricken sinners to receive of the bounty which He delights to bestow. Scripture speaks of His riches in four different ways: we read of the riches of His mercy, the riches of His grace, the riches of His love, and the riches of His glory. All these are for those who come to Him acknowledging their poverty and need, and who are ready to receive at His hand the bounty which He delights to bestow.
The spirit of prophecy enables one to speak of the things which are not as though they are; and in the closing verses of the Magnificat, Mary does this very thing. She already sees by faith the fulfilment of all God’s promises in connection with the restoration of Israel, and their further blessing in the kingdom promised by the prophets. She exclaims, “He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy. And He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.” There is something beautiful and sublime about the way in which this lovely young woman lays hold of the promises of God and counts on Him to fulfil them to the letter. May the same faith and comfort be ours!
We are told that for three months Mary abode with her cousin Elisabeth, and then returned to her own home in Nazareth. This was before the birth of John the Baptist, so she was not with Elisabeth when that event took place. Nazareth was in the northern part of the land of Palestine, and the prophet Micah had declared that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. It might seem as though there were little likelihood that this prophecy would be fulfilled, but we shall see later how God wrought in order to bring it about.