48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
1901 ASV Translation:
48 For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name.
There is only one variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. In verse 49, the Textus Receptus has a word for "great things" that is a derivative of a more basic word and that signifies "the splendid works of God". It is used only twice in the New Testament. The Nestle/Aland 26 reverts back to that more basic word that signifies a kind of generic "greatness" and that is used 195 times in the New Testament As the translators acknowledge, there is no discernible difference in meaning in this text since the meaning is derived, not from the word itself, but from what Mary describes [her miraculous pregnancy and its consequent impact on the valuation that others place upon her for being God's chosen instrument for bringing Messiah into the world].
I. Luke records Mary's "reasons" for her soul's "magnifying" the Lord and her spirit's "rejoicing" in God as her Savior.
A. God has considered Mary's "low estate" and determined to "raise" it.
B. This action will cause all generations to come to consider her "blessed".
C. This "blessedness" arises from The Mighty One's decision to "do" great things to Mary.
D. Then, there is this: she adds a comment that does not, on the surface of it, seem to "follow": "Holy is His name".
I. When we look at the remainder of what Mary said, it is pretty clear that she has a "big picture" in view that has her pregnancy at a rather major point of focus.
A. She gives a rather large overview of God's historical dealings with humanity (generations and generations).
B. She focuses upon God's "opposite" methods of dealings with men according to the attitudes those men take toward Him.
1. There is no indication of where those various attitudes have come from.
2. There is only the recognition that "pride" and "personal exaltation" and "abundance of possessions" exist in some and not in others...and God favors those who do not have.
C. Luke raises this issue: how are his readers supposed to relate to God's treatment of Mary?
1. It is pretty much a slam dunk that none of us are going to be "Mary" in the plan of God.
2. The same issue is raised by the promise of a "Great Name" to Abraham...none of us are going to be "Abraham".
3. At some point, the issue of the Spirit's granting of spiritual gifts is going to have to come into the picture if "doing some significant thing" is involved.
a. It is pretty clear that Mary considered her "elevation from" her humble estate to be locked into her being the mother of Messiah.
b. This makes it difficult to see the issue of her spirit's exultation in any light other than that of having a significant contribution to make to the outworking of God's plan.
c. Obviously there are all kinds of "significant contributions" that run the gamut from being a fly swatter so that a farmer's house can be fly free (a very small matter of comfort) to being a Joseph whose actions saved an entire nation from starvation. The Kingdom of God is a greater enterprise than this creation and "significance" that arises from having a part to play in that enterprise is pretty relative.
1) At the bottom of this issue is the reality that "significance" only really comes from the attitude God takes toward you, and this is not "of works". But, it clearly leads to some works.
2) Above this bottom line is the reality that whether a person has a part to play in the Kingdom enterprise is a "significance" issue...and this is almost altogether a "works" issue.
3) The ultimate biblical issue of "insignificance" is that of being "cast into the Lake of Fire".
4) Obviously, anything short of that signals "significance".
a) Even in the "fly swatter" issue, there is a gamut of "effective swatters" that runs all the way from a rolled up piece of paper to the latest techno-swatter that has an unbreakable flexible handle and an overlarge swatter face for those whose aim is a bit off target.
b) The bottom line always returns to one reality: significance by works is relative, but significance by the sacrifice of life is pretty much ultimate.
II. This is the backdrop for Mary's addition of the words "and Holy is His name".
A. What has "holiness" to do with God's special actions of favoritism?
1. There are those who attempt to deny "respect of persons" to God based upon the statements of texts like Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11 and James 2:9.
a. These attempts are doomed to failure by the multitude of other texts which assign "respect of persons" to God's dealings with men -- predominantly in the matter of His "grace".
b. The fact is that there is an evil "respect of persons" (when favor is given because of external, or superficial, cause [like how wealthy a person is or how much power among men he may wield] -- this kind of evil often shows up in the board rooms of churches and ministries because the wealthy and influential sit there and the godly do not) and there is a good "respect of persons" (when favor is given in spite of the absence of external, or superficial, reasons [like being a 'nobody' who has 'nothing' to offer the extender of "respect" -- this kind of good often goes completely unnoticed, but it is sometimes seen in the kind treatment believers extend to one another when there is nothing to be gained by it]).
2. Mary clearly understood God's opposition to the self-important and His favor upon those who are self-unimportant. This seems to be the foundation of her statement that God is "holy".
a. It is beyond debate that God sent His Son into the world via the womb of Mary in order to bring man back to the holiness of God.
1) Every aspect of the Gospel message addresses the conflict between holiness and wickedness...there is no place to turn in the Gospel where this issue is not paramount.
2) The statement "holy is His name" puts a very strong focus upon the lengths to which God is willing to go to maintain "holiness" while yet reaching out to the ungodly.
3) The very fact that the "holy" Son of God was alive and developing in Mary's womb is among the most crucial truths regarding how important "holiness" is...why should the Son be given if holiness is a discardable issue?
4) But, we need to remind ourselves that the fact that the Son was in Mary's womb is also a statement of the transcendence of Grace over Holiness.
a) If 'holiness' were all that mattered, judgment would suffice to establish it.
b) The giving of the Son proves that "Yahweh is gracious" [name him 'John'] and the proof of the superior demandingness of grace in the character of God exists in this gift that holiness did not require.
b. Mary's focus upon those issues of self-importance versus self-unimportance reveals that holiness takes attitude into account when displaying mercy. But, the degree to which this plays a part is an issue we should consider...
1) First, we need to be careful to identify what self-importance is.
a) Invariably, the ideas associated with pride and self-importance have to do with the question of "whose needs are going to be met?" in any given situation. The proud tend always to think that their needs are the ones that will be addressed.
b) This means that "pride" is simply the attitude that "what I want" is what needs to be "given" -- with little or no thought of what anyone else "wants".
c) The proud care very little about what God has declared regarding His "wants" and only use God as a means to their ends.
d) The issue involved in "pride" has much to do with the "privilege of having an important contribution to make".
i. Mary's "low estate" was fundamentally a condition of having little to nothing to do in regard to God's program. This is a crucial observation: the "lowly of heart" are satisfied with having little to nothing to do in regard to God's plan if that isGod's plan. The problems arise from those who will not be satisfied with God's plan and their place in it. Someone has to be the fly swatter; someone else has to be the Messiah-bearer. Who decides these things? And if, in fact, God decides these things, who is he who determines to be a mal-content in the plan of God?
ii. God's address to Mary's "low estate" was to give her an extraordinarily important task to accomplish.
iii. The envy of all generations centered upon the recognition that God had chosen Mary for one of His "bigger" jobs.
iv. The problems of "pride" are...
(a) If one has "position" and "wealth" these are taken by the proud to imply that they have "a great contribution to make".
(b) If one has "position" and "wealth" these are taken by the proud to imply the wisdom of God in giving them "to me".
2) The apostle Paul, when he described himself as 'an insolent man' (1 Timothy 1:13), expressed his own personal amazement that God had reached even to him -- because it is atypical for men to think of God that He has concern for the insolent. This amazement is the result of the familiar truth that God does take attitude into account [consider with some care how few of the insolent Pharisees God saved and think of how Paul was an unusual conversion for that very reason]. But, the fact remains that God did save "an insolent man" by reaching to him while he was in the very throes of his insolence and God did this, according to Paul, to give forth a "pattern" of His willingness to save for the sake of all of those who would, after Paul's "example", believe on Him unto eternal life. What good is a "pattern" that is not "followed"?
3) There does seem to be a rather strong focus upon a divine 'continental divide' that finds its most fundamental 'upshift' in the question of man's insolence or humility. It seems that God is most antagonized by impenitent arrogance. The operative word here is "impenitent". God is not, by the established "pattern", put off by extraordinary levels of arrogance...as long as they are reversed at the point of confrontation. Paul's salvation was in spite of his arrogance if that insolence is viewed as "ignorant and unbelieving" (as 1 Timothy 1:13 clearly declares); but there is no salvation for those who, in their insolence, are confronted by the divine glory and retain their arrogance. It is, apparently, one thing to be insolent in ignorant unbelief, and altogether another thing to continue in insolence once the ignorance has been addressed. The Bible holds out no hope for those who refuse to be humbled.