And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.Luke 1:46-56, ESV
In Mary’s song of praise, she weaves different Bible texts, and Scriptural themes together to form a beautiful whole. The last line of the Magnificat points our attention to Abraham as the climax of her praise. Why Abraham? Mary is an orthodox Jewish woman of the first century and that means both her national identity and her religious identity are intertwined and traced back to a single man to whom God made a covenant with. Abraham is that man.
Abraham’s story can be found within the narrative of Genesis between chapter 12, where He first encountered God, and chapter 25, where he died as a friend of God (James 2:23) beginning to see God’s promises fulfilled through his son Isaac. Mary knows this story of Abraham well. She calls us to remember the fundamental promise given to Abraham by God, “offspring.” When Abraham was initially called by God to leave his homeland in Ur to follow God to a land that the Lord would give to him Abraham obeyed (Gen 12). He wandered as a sojourner for the rest of his life (Heb 11:8-16). This man of God was promised land for an inheritance but that was not the inspirational motivation that led him to leave all behind. Abraham was promised a land, but better still was the promise God gave him to make him a father and multiply his offspring to create a nation who would inherit that promised land. Abraham and Sarah’s hearts must have sung at the thought of having a son. I think Mary and Abraham had this in common, the promise of God to them for a miracle baby boy was almost too good to believe, but like that man of God Abraham before her, she did believe God too.
Mary’s mention of Abraham had a much deeper significance than a simple likeness of experience. Abraham and Mary were indeed both promised by God to have a son, but God’s promise to Abraham was far more expansive and forward-pointing. Mary was promised that God’s power would overshadow her and she would conceive. The fulfillment of God’s promise given to Mary didn’t last more than nine months before fulfillment. Abraham waited for decades to receive the son that God promised him. However, Abraham’s promise from God was not only for a physical descendant, but an entire nation of people who would inherit a promised land, and through Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. In Genesis 15 Abraham had been walking by faith for several years without the fulfilled promise of a son. He began to ask God for further affirmation of God’s promise and God instructed Abraham to prepare an ancient covenant-making ceremony. Abraham took a young cow, a young goat, a young ram, a turtle dove, and a young pigeon and slew them all. He cut the animals in half and created a kind of isle between the animal carcass’. This was part of the ancient ritual called cutting a covenant. God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep and God descended to walk down that aisle as He made a covenant with Abraham. This ceremony was unexpectedly one-sided. Usually, covenant-making ceremonies were participated in by both parties, but God was the only Covenanter who would walk between the carcass’. God ratified His covenant promises to Abraham with blood.
When God covenanted with Abraham His promise was centered upon Abraham’s offspring. The deep connection that unites Mary’s story with Abraham’s story is that the son of Mary is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of an offspring made to Abraham (Gal 3:16) for the blessing of all nations of the earth (Gal 3:8). God was faithful to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham more than one thousand years earlier. Imagine the impact of this faithfulness of God toward His creatures. What did Abraham do to deserve this fidelity from God? The answer is Abraham did not earn or deserve God’s faithfulness, and none of us deserve God’s faithfulness. This is admittedly a grim view of human insufficiency but there is good news to celebrate despite our unworthiness. Listen to Mary, she knows this good news. Jesus’ mother says, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things”. God does not exalt the humble because they deserve exaltation, but because God is merciful to them. The good news of God’s faithfulness toward His creatures is due to His own nature. God is faithful. Why? God is faithful because God is who He is. Christian, rest in the character and nature of God. He is faithful even if no one else around you will be. If you are unfaithful, God is still faithful.