“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’” (Luke 1:46a)
Mary has been through so much when we get up to Luke 1:46 … a visit from an angel … the declaration that she would give birth to the Messiah, and, oh by the way, she would be a virgin when this happens … and prophetic words from her cousin Elizabth. After all that has happened, Elizabeth’s words to Mary seem to be the tipping point, all the confirmation she needs, and she cannot contain herself any longer and these words burst from her soul: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Mary magnified God. We are called to do the same. John Piper has said that the whole duty of the Christian is to feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as He really is. If that is the “duty” of the follower of Jesus, I have to ask myself what will keep me from doing that? What are some of the things that could keep me from magnifying God? If Mary did it right, what do I do wrong?
Well, I know that I cannot magnify God if I’m busy magnifying myself. In verses 48, 51, and 52 of Luke 1, Mary is reminded that God honors humility. This is a truth that fills the pages of Scripture.
In his book The Road to Character, David Brooks recalls listening to a radio re-broadcast that originally aired the day after V-J Day, on August 15, 1945. Some of the biggest celebrities of the day were on that show: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Betty Davis, Burgess Meredith, etc. He describes the broadcast as being permeated with humility. One person read an article written by the war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. In that article, Pyle anticipated the end of the war and he wrote: “We won this war because our men are brave and because of many other things – because of Russia, England, and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature’s materials. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other people. I hope that in victory we are more grateful than proud.” Brooks went on to write: “The people on that broadcast had been part of one of the most historic victories ever known. But they didn’t go around telling themselves how great they were. They didn’t print up bumper stickers commemorating their own awesomeness. Their first instinct was to remind themselves they were not morally superior to anyone else … they intuitively resisted the natural human tendency toward excessive self-love.”
After listening to that re-broadcast, Brooks then went on to describe watching a football game that same day. He said, “A quarterback threw a short pass to a wide receiver, who was tackled almost immediately for a two-yard gain. The defensive player did what all professional athletes do these days in moments of personal accomplishment. He did a self-puffing victory dance, as the camera lingered. It occurred to me that I had just watched more self-celebration after a two-yard gain than I had heard after the United States won World War II.”
We like to magnify ourselves. The problem with that is this … any preoccupation with ourselves will always put us at odds with God. When we focus more energy on seeking to build up our name or our reputation, we will be spending less energy acting in a way that will make God look as great as He really is. We will either magnify God or magnify ourselves, but we will never do both.
This could be why God tells us in Proverbs 8:13 that He hates pride. Pride drags us away from God. It refuses to admit that we need a Savior. It refuses to admit that we have a total and complete dependence upon God. It refuses to admit that we’re broken. It refuses to admit that other people are not my biggest problem … I am my biggest problem. It refuses to admit that I have issues and that my issues may be contributing to the relational problems in my life … it refuses to admit that I have habits I can’t break, and thoughts I don’t want, and emotions I don’t like, and insecurities and fears that I can’t hide … regrets and resentments that I can’t let go of. Pride keeps me in bondage to the worst this life has to offer. And, until we are willing to let go of our pride and admit that we are helpless to change on our own, we will always feel this sense of opposition because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Not because He’s out to get us but because God, the Creator of our souls, has a sense of obligation to keep our souls dissatisfied until we begin to humble ourselves enough to acknowledge our need for Him.
“So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then He will lift you up when the right time comes.” (1 Peter 5:6 ERV)