In those days Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah,
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.
(C. Geikie, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
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.)
(Harriet B. Stowe.)
(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.
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.
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