Luke 1:39
We already have seen the angel suggesting to Mary the propriety of visiting Elisabeth. We may reasonably believe that she had no mother at this time to whom she could communicate her mighty secret, and that Elisabeth is the most likely person from whom to get the sympathy she now required. For the four days' journey from Nazareth to the priest's city in the south she would need some preparation; but she made her arrangements promptly, going" with haste," and reached the home of the dumb priest without delay. If she had any fear and trembling on the way as to how she would be received, it was instantly dissipated through timely inspirations. And here let us notice -

I. THE INSPIRATION GRANTED TO ELISABETH. (Verses 42-45.) And here we may mark the directness of the inspired address. There was no lengthened introduction, no conversation about health, or weather, or news, but an immediate mention of the all-important matter which concerned the Virgin.

1. Elisabeth assures Mary of her signal blessedness in being selected to be the mother of Messiah. She was to be the blessed mother of a blessed Son. How delightful a balm this would be to Mary's anxious heart! Instead of suspicion, there is a salutation such as a princess might thankfully receive.

2. Elisabeth beautifully depreciates herself. It is the way the Spirit takes with those he indeed inspires. It is not boastfulness, but self-depreciation he implants within them. Elisabeth feels herself so unworthy, that she wonders the mother of Messiah deigns to visit her! A royal visit would not have been to the priest's wife such an honor. She is Mary's humble servant, because Mary is to be the mother of her Lord. In fact, had Mary been a queen, she could not have been more lovingly and reverentially treated.

3. A holy joy thrills through her from Mary's advent. It was the "chief joy" of human hearts asserting his marvelous power. The Holy Ghost conducts the humble woman to the most entrancing joy.

4. Mary's faith is recognized and encouraged. The contrast between Mary's faith and Zacharias's doubt must have been very marked. The poor priest is stealing about the house dumb, while Mary is in the enjoyment of all her faculties and powers. Elisabeth would rejoice that Mary, through unhesitating faith, had escaped such a judgment as her husband was enduring. The blessedness of faith in God cannot be too emphatically asserted. It is the secret of real happiness just to take him at his word. As the "faithful Promiser" he never disappoints any who put their faith in his promised aid. Not only do we who believe enter into rest (Hebrews 4:3), but we also enter into blessedness (cf. μακαρία of ver. 45).

II. THE INSPIRATION OF MARY. (Verses 46-55.) We have in the Magnificat of Mary the noblest of Christian hymns. There are traces of such earlier efforts as Hannah's prayer; but this only brings out the continuity of the revelation, and in no way affects the originality of Mary's inspiration. And here let us notice:

1. How God is the Source of Mary's joy. It is not in herself she rejoices, but in God as her Savior. This is the great fact we have all got to realize - that our Savior, not our state, is the fountain of joy. And when we consider his power, and his revealed purposes, and the course of his redeeming love, we must acknowledge that there is in him abundant reason for our joy. Mary felt in body, soul, and spirit the joy of her Lord.

2. Mary recognizes in her own selection the condescending love of God. It is not those the world would select as instruments whom God chooses. The world selects the rich. God chooses "the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him" (James 2:5); so here Mary signalizes her "low estate" as magnifying her Lord's condescending love. How beautiful a spirit to cultivate! Instead of the honor done her unduly exalting her, it only leads her to adore the Divine condescension in stooping to such as she was.

3. She believes in her everlasting fame. She knows that the Incarnation will prove such a stupendous fact that all generations will call her blessed. As the mother of Messiah, she cannot but have the homage of all coming generations. She ought consequently to be with all of us "the blessed mother of the Christ of God."

4. She feels herself the subject of great mercy from the Holy One. And is this not the acknowledgment which all God's people may make? Hath he not done great things for all his people, whereof they are glad (Psalm 126:1)?

5. She takes the widest views of God's dealings with others. Thus she recognizes:

(1) That those who fear God receive his mercy in every generation. (Verse 50.) This is the law of mercy - it is given to those who fear God. It was never meant to encourage men in recklessness or presumption.

(2) The proud experience his dispersive power. (Verse 51.) This is brought out in history. The Jewish captivities, their present dispersion, "the decline and fall of the Roman Empire," and many a judgment since, have been illustrations of this line of procedure on the part of the Most High.

(3) The deposition of rulers and the exaltation of the humble. (Verse 52.) Mary is here speaking of the usurpers in Palestine, and the exaltation of those they despised. The law was marvelously illustrated in the case of Mary's Son, whose exaltation above all dynasties is the greatest fact in civilization (cf. δυνάστας of verse 52).

(4) The satisfaction of the needy, and the disappointment of the rich. (Verse 53.) Here is another aspect of the law of the Divine dealings. Those who feel their need, and hunger after satisfaction, receive it from God. Mary experienced this, and so do all who really hunger after God and righteousness. They have a beatitude always in store for them (Matthew 5:6). On the other hand, those who are rich, that is, who feel inde- pendent and will not look to the Lord for help, who have, in short, "received their consolation," are sent empty away. Disappointment sooner or later becomes their portion. This was the experience of Pharisee and Sadducee and all the well-to-do and self-righteous classes in our Lord's time. And undoubtedly the arrangement is just.

(5) The fidelity of God to his covenant with Israel. (Verses 54, 55.) In the Incarnation God was sending real help to his people. It was the crowning act of mercy, and the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and his seed. Mary thus began with God's holiness, and passed in review his power, his mercy, and finally his faithfulness. All these are illustrated pre-eminently in the Incarnation.

III. THESE INSPIRATIONS PRESENT TO US THE CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL, For we have before us two lowly women, deep in their self-abasement. The self-righteous spirit has been annihilated within them, and they are thus fitted to be God's instruments. Secondly, we find them maintaining this beautiful spirit after they have become the special objects of the Divine favor. Grace does not spoil them, but provokes within them gratitude. They abound in praise, not in pride. Thirdly, they enter into hopes for their people and the world, as well as for themselves. It is so with real Christians. They become of necessity large-hearted. The inspirations received lead to outbursts of joyful anticipation for all the world. The assertion of Luke that Mary returned home (verse 56) does not necessarily imply that she did not wait for John's birth and circumcision. The probabilities are in favor of supposing that she did so wait, and received the additional consolations which the song of Zacharias was so fitted to bring. Strengthened by her long visit to Elisabeth, she would be the better able to go back to Nazareth and brave all suspicion there. God, by a special communication, made Joseph's suspicion altogether to cease, and Mary was taken by him as wife, instead of being privately divorced. The Virgin's trust in God smoothing her way was thus gloriously fulfilled (Matthew 1:18-25), and she found herself passing onwards upon a path of peace towards that signal influence and power which she has exercised among men. - R.M.E.

And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country.
Juttah, an ancient priestly town, is held by the Greek Church to be the birthplace of St. John the Baptist, and as such it is the goal of pilgrimage to thousands of Greek Christians each year. Support to this view is believed to be found in the words of St. Luke, which, in our version, speak of the Virgin Mary as journeying " into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah." This, it is held, should be " to the town Judah " or Juttah, since it would be vague in the extreme to speak merely of "a city of Judah." On this ground, so great authorities as Reland, Robinson, and Riehm think this place was actually the residence of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and the birthplace of the Baptist. it is a large stone village, standing high on a ridge; but some of the population live in tents. Underground cisterns supply water, and on the south there are a few olive trees, but the hill and its neighbourhood are very stony, though the vine must in ancient times have been extensively cultivated, since rock-cut wine-presses are found all round the village. There are, besides, some rock-cut tombs, which also date from antiquity. But, poor though the country looks and is, the population are very rich in flocks, the village owning, it is said, no fewer than seven thousand sheep, besides goats, cows, camels, horses, and donkeys. The hills everywhere are very rugged and stony, consisting of hard crystalline limestone; but the valleys, which are numerous, have good soil in them, some of them being especially fertile. The vineyards and olive plantations on the west, north, and south of Hebron — for the east side of the town has none — appeared like a great oasis in the desert, though the Negeb is very far from being a desert as things are judged in such a land as Palestine.

(C. Geikie, D. D.)

It will prove an interesting exercise to trace on the map the route which this Jewish maiden must have taken in going down across the plain of Esdraelon, from Nazareth southward. It was doubtless the same general path to which she had been accustomed, from her ordinary journeys to the Holy City, at the solemn annual feasts. But just now her mind was in a strange new frame of feeling. Each familiar locality, so crowded with history and devout reminiscences of her nation's annals, would, under these present circumstances, make on her imagination a far deeper impression than usual. We must remember this, for it gives help in the interpretation of her song. Out from under the shadows of western hills, she would come into full view of the whole country, quite across to Mount Carmel, on the desolate ridge of which Elijah defied and conquered the priests of Baal. Megiddo, where Josiah lay dying; Jezreel, where Ahab sinned; the brook Kishon, beside which Deborah sang, after Sisera was slain — these were close at her feet. Before long she would arrive at Shechem, and seem to hear the old burden of cursing and blessing echoing from Ebal and Gerizim. Perhaps she paused a moment beside Joseph's grave; perhaps she sat to rest, and quenched her thirst at Jacob's well. A little further down she would reach Jerusalem, "beautiful on the sides of the north," and catch glimpses of the golden-roofed temple shining in the sun. Diminutive Bethlehem next would have to be passed, and her tired feet would tread the lonely path that goes by Rachel's tomb. Her eyes would roam over the verdured fields where David tended his father's flocks, and caught the starry figures of the eighth and the nineteenth psalms. And while she lingered on such a spot, she would think of Ruth returning with Naomi after bidding Orpah farewell. Hard hills are those which now she would have to climb, before she could reach the cave of Machpelah, or discover the small houses of Hebron in the distance. Of this we have no detail. But it aids us much afterward to keep it in mind; for it shows how she went thinking all the way to her destination. We meet her first in the story in the presence of Elisabeth, dwelling, perhaps, almost beneath the shade of Abraham's oak in Mamre.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The dialogue is brief; those two women talked together as only two women could talk who perfectly understood each other. Mary heard Elisabeth hay, "Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Her troubles had been so hard, her joys had been so great, and her silent heart had been so full of both of them, that her relief must have been sudden and overwhelming. When the sweet face of that pure, unmarried maiden saw in the joyous countenance of that incorruptible Jewish matron the sign that she would be welcomed as faultless and true, oh, in that supreme moment, she could answer only with a song, and pour forth her gratitude in nothing less than the inspired numbers of a New Testament psalm!

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

When serious persons are met together, the example of Mary and Elisabeth teaches them how they ought to be employed. Let not the time be wasted on trifles: but needful and becoming attention being paid to the demands of courtesy and common life, let the concerns of religion occupy a prominent place in their conversation. Such intercourse is most acceptable to God, and will be most advantageous to yourselves.

1. It will be the means of your being better informed, for " the lips of the wise increase knowledge."

2. It will operate as a check on all that is evil, and as a stimulus to all that is good.

3. It will give an opportunity of comparing your experience, which will greatly encourage and edify you in the faith and obedience of the gospel.

4. It will elicit many a latent spark of affection and zeal.

5. It will support your mind under temptation, and steel your heart with resolution to act a decided part in life; for it will convince you and keep you in mind that there are some of the same sentiments with yourself, anxiously watching your conduct, and deeply concerned for your stability. Nor can you deem it a light matter that you will find those who will be safeguards to you in the time of prosperity, and will not forsake you in trouble. The hour of sorrow, sickness, dissolution, is drawing on apace — an hour in which worldly associates would withdraw, as conscious of their unfitness for such a scene; or, if they remained, would prove but miserable comforters; but an hour in which those who know and love the truth would delight to stand by you, to suggest comforting and edifying thoughts, and assist in cheering the last moments and smoothing the pillow of death. Seek the society of the pious, and you form a friendship which, although interrupted for a season by death, will be renewed with increased endearment, where infirmity no longer troubles, nor separation divides.

(James Foote, M. A.)

The next step taken by Mary is in accordance with the calmest practical good sense, and displays an energy and a control over other minds which must have been uncommon. She resolves to visit her cousin Elisabeth in the mountain country. The place was supposed to be near Hebron, and involved a journey of some twenty miles through a rugged country. For a young maiden to find means of performing this journey, which involved attendance and protection, without telling the reason for which she resolved upon it, seems to show that Mary had that kind of character which inspires confidence, and leads those around her to feel that a thing is right and proper because she has determined it.

(Harriet B. Stowe.)

Remarkable that Elisabeth allowed herself to be swallowed up in the greater icy of Mary. Did not felicitate herself, but pronounced the mother of her Lord blessed among women. Her ecstatic reference to her own babe is in marked consistency with the whole tone of her spirit. These were some of the real blessings of the advent of Jesus Christ. Before He was yet born the promise of His coming sent gladness into human hearts. The mother rejoiced, and her coming child seemed already to share His mother's ecstasy. All this typical. The coming of Christ should always be associated with the creation of new and higher joys. The exclamation of Elisabeth shows how possible it is for all our tenderest interests and proudest hopes to be absorbed in noble Christian emotion. If ever a woman could be tempted to exalt her own comforts and expectations, so as to shut out from her view the condition of other people, Elisabeth was surely exposed to such a temptation. The case, however, was not one of each woman rejoicing in selfish anticipations of her own happiness; already there was a payment of homage when homage was the price of self-suppression — a beautiful proof this, that the work that was done in the case of Zacharias and Elisabeth was the work of the Holy Ghost. Probably there is no finer test of the religiousness of our spirit than the subordination of our personal joys to the gladness which is demanded by the presence and claims of Jesus Christ.

(Dr. Parker.)

peech: — St. Luke seems to assert as much when he says that she was "filled with the Holy Ghost," and that she spake out with a loud voice and described the blessed virgin as the mother of her Lord. And observe that in this inspired speech Elisabeth addresses Mary in the very phrase which the angel had already used, "Blessed," &c. Observe also the manner in which Elisabeth speaks of the blessed virgin's faith. There is a peculiar emphasis in the phrase, "Blessed is she that believed." It was her faith, in the one great instance in which it was tried, which made her, as it were, a fellow-worker with God, and gave her the high honour and privilege of being something more than a mere passive instrument in the great work of human redemption.

(Bishop Goodwin.)

The blessed maid, whom vigour of age had more fitted for the way, hastens her journey into the hill-country to visit that gracious matron whom God had made a sign of her miraculous conception. Only the meeting of saints in heaven can parallel the meeting of these two cousins: the two wonders of the world are met under one roof, and congratulate their mutual happiness. When we have Christ spiritually conceived within us, we cannot be quiet till we have imparted out" joy.

(Bishop Hall.)

Blest earth, whereon she trod,

Put forth your fragrance sweet:

Blest hills that felt her feet,

The mother with her God.

More blest ye friends, whose guest

She now doth silence break,

Of heavenly things to speak,

And where her footsteps rest.

(Parisian Breviary.)

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