God trains his scrutiny upon our essence. Human image and appearance is but the first layer in his investigation of our true worth. Skin tone, attainment, acquisition and status, are the mere tissue wrappings of the true self that may impress our fellows profoundly for good or ill, but these trifles are quickly peeled by the Lord as he probes our fundamental substance or lack of it. The keen insight of God parts its way through all our self-deception and illusions about ourselves to the heart of our heart and inmost interior where all the shocking truth is hidden and now disclosed. Like our first parents we stand naked before him without a leaf for concealment. Pretence and protest are precluded.
The Song of Mary, the Magnificat as it is known (Luke 1: 46-56), is an intimation of God’s unceasing examination of the heart. What is perplexing, deep, and dark to ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9-10) is an open scroll to God, a clear map of our journey into and through a lifelong course of evil. It is an indictment we cannot dispute and the ultimate destination is the bottomless pit of doom. The song of the Jewish maiden discloses the inmost thoughts of the righteous, the secret attitudes and agendas of the wicked, and traces the mind of the Lord in the matter of redemption.
The inmost thoughts of persons graced by the Spirit are humble with regard to self and trusting in reference to God. Mary is typical of the poor in spirit who turn to God in humility and fear. Pride has been quashed, sin has been mourned over, and amazement is expressed at the favour of God. Self-importance and a sense of desert has been eliminated. Preoccupation with self is banished and praise towards God is pre-eminent. The Lord is extolled in his nature and action – a covenant keeping God who swears mercy to Abraham and his descendents and maintains his promises continuously to generation after generation of his elect people. Mary perceives the culmination of that promise in the news she has received from Gabriel the archangel assigned to bearing momentous messages concerning the Messiah (Daniel 9:21). The Mighty One is magnanimous in his mercy, full of strength and success in his deeds, constant in his faithfulness, and condescending in his choice of the servants he selects in his purpose of salvation. Mary is not arrogant or presumptuous but stunned at her unique privilege to bear the Son of God into the world. Divine honour does not breed hubris. It lowers the lowly in awe and gratitude. In this context Mary is full of grace, not to dispense it to others who supplicate her, but in her heart before God. Her humility, homage, and thankfulness are fruits of the Spirit who causes the fruit of her womb. The Son is her long awaited Saviour and she is not Co-Redemptrix, but only one of innumerable poor sinners redeemed and “lifted up” by him.
The inmost thoughts of the proud are detested by God and they are demoted by him. Whilst all of us are possessed and driven by foolish pride the rich and ruling classes are especially susceptible to conspicuous pride in view of their power and position, in many cases attained by dubious methods and lack of principle. Those who happen to be self-reliant and self-serving are warned not to be God-forgetting, nor boatful of wealth, attainment, or rank. If they are haughty and contemptuous of the poor they attract the condemnation of God and may easily be supplanted in the sovereignty of God. A man’s state is determined by God and he elevates whom he will. The same hand can scatter the thoughts, achievements, and prospects of the lofty-minded. They are still “dust” and may be repelled by God, who, above any other disposition, hates pride.
Inmost thoughts are discoverable to God and easily discerned by him. There are no successful cover-ups however clever we may think ourselves to be. Humble hearts are created by him and arrogant hearts are loathsome to him. To the former he comes quickly and eagerly; from the latter he speedily withdraws.
But Mary has also disclosed some facts about God that are revealed to her, and these are his inmost thoughts toward the rescue of his loved ones. These thoughts are the refuge and joy of all believers. God is perpetually mindful of his humble servants (V48). They are sought and cared for over the generations. He remembers to be merciful (v54). They are to the fore of his thinking and concern. His trustworthiness and goodness encourage them to revere him and they count on his help, counting his mighty acts of deliverance and provision in his people’s past. Mary muses on the truth that the Lord who has sent her such astounding information is the God who performs the impossible not only in terms of great feats but also in contradiction of our expectations. To a waiting, praying, believing people, concerned for the triumph of his kingdom and the welfare of souls, God can do all things, and possibly may. They cannot dictate but must trustingly wait. The God they adore is absolutely, unfathomably sovereign and powerful. We should place no restrictions upon his wise and holy will to work wonders that are consistent with his perfection and power, especially when it comes to the exercise of his compassion. God rules, “And upon that throne” comments Bishop Joseph Hall, “there sits no greater Majesty than Mercy”.
Mary’s song addresses the scourge of human pride, condemns it, and says those filled with arrogance will be utterly emptied of self-importance and elitism. Mary sings in commendation of lowliness and utter reliance upon God. Believers are totally empty of desert or capacity to win approval from God – bereft of reputation and rectitude. For them, humility is the inevitable flipside of saving faith.