Mary’s Magnificent Magnificat
December 3, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Every time I read Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise found in Luke 1:46-55, I marvel. This is a beautiful song of praise for God’s mercy and might. With no direct quotations, at least 35 different Old Testament passages are alluded to in Mary’s song. She’s weaves together prominent OT themes, such as God’s covenant faithfulness, his enduring steadfast love, the exaltation of the humble, judgment on the proud, and God’s service to his people as the Divine Warrior.
Mary’s song is so magnificent on so many levels that some biblical scholars question whether Mary even composed or sang such a song. Thankfully, other scholars have demonstrated convincingly that Mary is the original speaker of these words. Why would anyone doubt that Mary spoke these words? What makes this song so amazing?
As a peasant girl growing up near Galilee, Mary would have received no formal education. Elementary schools were formed during the 1st century BC among the Jews to counter the spread of Greek culture and influence. Only Jewish boys, starting at age 6, would attend school, where they learned to read the Hebrew Scriptures. After this elementary education, the boys would continue in their secondary education (ages 10-13). They would learn and memorize more of the Old Testament, while learning the rabbinic teachings on the Scripture. At age 13, most boys would apprentice with their father or another local tradesman, their formal education complete.
Girls, on the other hand, would stay in their homes, taught by their mothers to cook, sew, clean, and help with the family trade. The only education in the Hebrew Scriptures girls would receive would have to come from their fathers. Then, most girls would be betrothed to be married between the ages of 12 and 14.
This educational setting for Jews at the time of the New Testament demonstrates how astounding Mary’s song is. She has a well-developed understanding of God’s character and his covenant keeping ways. She perceives that the promised Christ, conceived in her by the Holy Spirit, is a fulfillment of Old Testament scripture. She interprets the events of her life through a biblical lens.
All of this gives us a window into what sort of person Mary was and what kind of parenting she received.
- Mary was a [young] woman of faith who loved Scripture. She did not have a lot of exposure to Scripture (she certainly didn’t own a copy either), but what she did hear, Mary pondered in her heart (cf. Lk. 2:20). The words of praise in the Magnificat do not spring out of a vacuum. I think we can safely say that Psalm 119:97 was true of Mary, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” She meditated much on God’s faithfulness and had eyes to recognize his work in her life. May we be edified by Mary’s habit and let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).
- Mary’s parents let Scripture be prevalent in their home. For Mary to meditate on God’s word, she needed regular access to it. Her parents, especially her father, were her primary access point to Scripture. They must have spoken of God and the OT stories on a regular basis. The singing of Psalms, the worship practice in the synagogue, must have been common in their home. Mary grew up in an environment that delighted in Scripture and kept God in the forefront of their minds and hearts. Their home would be an example of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 being lived out, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
May we prioritize God and his word in our homes so that he would be the defining mark on our lives.
 Darrell L. Bock gives a robust defense of Mary’s authorship in his Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), p. 146.