50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Today we look at the second half of Mary’s song. In the first part of her song, Mary focused on what God had done for her. She glorified God and rejoiced that He had blessed her so richly and graciously, despite her humble status.
In this second half, Mary turns her attention away from herself and recounts God’s gracious acts toward all, especially those who are lowly. Mary rejoices not just in God’s favor toward her, but rather in the fact that she is just one example of God’s ongoing concern for the humble, the powerless and the poor. She celebrates that God lifts the humble and satisfies the hungry, while bringing down the proud and sending the rich away with nothing.
Her final example of God’s graciousness to the humble is His mercy to the people of God. At the time of Christ’s birth, Israel itself was lowly, poor and humble. They were a defeated and occupied people, unimportant on the world stage. God’s choice of Mary in her lowliness is similar to His choice of Israel.
In Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Moses made the same point: “7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
Similarly, the Lord chose us to be His people, not because we were more righteous or holy, but rather because of His love and His grace toward us. Luther said that God is farsighted. The farther down we are, the more clearly He sees us. And this is why we see consistently in Scripture that humility is a virtue, and pride is a vice. Mary’s song is also an encouragement to emulate God’s attitude. We follow God’s heart when we seek to share the good news with others who are spiritually in need.
But God’s concern for the lowly is not just only spiritual. The Lord’s concern for the lowly and humble also applies to the poor, the oppressed, the disadvantaged, the devalued. This is reflected in Jesus’ depiction of the judgment and the separation of the sheep and goats, where he values feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick as well as the imprisoned. As followers of Christ, we are called to similarly value those who are in a humble state in our world, and to seek to lift them up.
Holy Lord, I praise you for lifting me from my humble state. Grant me your Spirit that I may follow after you in caring for the lowly around me.
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