Praise

Psalm 148: Praise, 4 September 2022

Psalm 148: Praise!
Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea:
The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
 
Big Idea: Let all of creation praise the Creator!
 
Praise the LORD! That’s the simple message of today’s scripture reading. Praise the LORD!
 
The original Hebrew word, which will be explained more fully later in a video, means to give glory, to sing praises, to go mad, to make fools, to boast. It has a connection to wedding songs and one reference says, “acted insanely.”
 
When is the last time you went bananas? When did you last embarrass yourself with your unbridled joy and enthusiasm?
 
Last night there were more than 100,000 people in
Columbus giving praise to young adults who were passing a pigskin. They sang praises. They boasted about their team. They gave glory to a university athletic program. To some, they appeared to be going mad, and to others they looked like fools.
 
Praise requires effort, passion, and energy…and an object. Praise the LORD!
 
 
This summer we’re in the book of Psalms, the song book of the Bible. We’ve looked at several themes about our relationship with God which all lead to praising Him.
 
Are you ready?
 
The heavens praise the LORD.
 
Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. (Psalm 148:1-4)
 
Have you ever witnessed this? I think you have! We might not see angels and heavenly hosts, but the sun and moon are quite spectacular, right? Were they created just for us, or could their movements actually be an expression of praise to their Creator?
 
What about the shining stars? We’ve mentioned them throughout this summer series. The more I learn about the
stars and galaxies, the smaller I feel!
 
I’ve shared the story before, but
 
William Beebe, the naturalist, used to tell this story about Teddy Roosevelt. At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.” (
https://bible.org/illustration/now-we-are-small-enough)
 
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever—he issued a decree that will never pass away. (Psalm 148:5-6)
 
The name of the LORD is to be praised. It’s holy. It’s sacred. It’s powerful.
 
The earth and sea praise the LORD.
 
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, (Psalm 148:7-8)
 
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children. (Psalm 148:9-12)
 
That includes you and me! The late Dallas Willard said,
 
“Sometimes we get caught up in trying to glorify God by praising what He can do and we lose sight of the practical point of what He actually does do.”
 
God is awesome. He can do great things, but He also does great things that deserve our praise. God is good…all the time! All the time…God is good!
 
We need to be reminded of this. We need to remember…because we so easily forget. We get freaked out by the news. Social media can cause anxiety. Life is filled with stress and trials and problems…and some are quick to blame God for all of their troubles rather than the sin which plagues our world.
 
All of creation—everything—is to praise the LORD!
 
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. (Psalm 148:13)
  
We sang earlier about the name of the LORD. There are actually several names for God. We
often reference three because there is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We call this the Trinity. This is a mystery
 
The ancient Greek Fathers of the Church likened the Trinity to a dance. A weaving in and out, back and forth with a harmony of Spirit and a unity of purpose.
 
I like this statement from InterVarsity’s website which speaks of the Dance of Equality:
 
There is no hierarchy in the Trinity. The Son glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son.  The Spirit glories Jesus.  The gospel of John paints this picture of equality powerfully for us.
The Trinitarian doctrine that we affirm proclaims the one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit full of love and glory. Did you catch that in the doctrinal basis? “Full of love and glory.”
The Son and Spirit don’t lack glory. The Father doesn’t lack love. Far from it!  The New Testament says he lavishes his love on us by sending his Son! They highlight and spotlight and exalt and serve each other. The ancients called the relationship perichoresis, but the best way to describe it is to think of it as a dance.  They spin and whirl in a wild dance of love and trust until you can’t tell who’s leading and who’s following and all you know is that a great time is being had.
https://collegiateministries.intervarsity.org/blog/trinitarian-dance
 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
 
The Trinity is certainly a mystery. I suppose if we completely understood God, we would be God!
 
The Bible gives numerous descriptions of the roles of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason, I used to imagine the Father as the One who created everything, but John clearly states otherwise. Then again, Genesis 1:26 tells us that God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” If that doesn’t sound like more than one Person…
 
We praise the Father. We praise the Son. We praise the Spirit. They are all God. They are God. But on this communion Sunday as we prepare to remember the work of Jesus on the cross, I want to show you references to Jesus specifically in Psalm 148.
 
Jesus the Messiah can be seen in this psalm. He is the
 
-       Creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17)
-
       Captain of the hosts of the LORD (Joshua 5:14)
-
       Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78)
-
       Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)
 
He demonstrated power over
 
-       Storms (Matthew 8:23-27; 14:23-33)
-
       Trees (Matthew 21:18-22)
-
       Animals (Mark 1:13; 11:1-3)
 
And he has raised up for his people a horn,  the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.
 
Praise the LORD. (Psalm 148:14)

Credits: some ideas from Warren Wiersbe

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library
here.

Psalm 8: Majestic, 31 July 2022

Psalm 8: Majestic
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms


Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
 
Big Idea: Our God is majestic and worthy of praise.
 
I often say the two most important questions might be
 
Who is God?
Who are you?
 
How you answer those questions will tell me a lot about you, your identity, your values, and your worldview. Today we’re going to look at the first question, and I hope it impacts the second for you.
 
 
Who is God? Who are you?
 
Although God created us in His image, many have unfortunately returned the favor! We tell God what is fair. We define what is right and wrong. We jump in the driver’s seat and put Him in the trunk. I’ve got a very offensive thing to say to you today:
 
You are not God!
 
It’s tempting for all of us to want to be in control, to do things our way, to turn to God only when we need something from Him, and to make an idol out of ourselves, our needs, our desires. We do this out of pride and arrogance, but I wonder if there isn’t another reason. Could it be that our God is too small?
 
We don’t see too many visual depictions of God, but He is often seen as weak, angry, stupid, or sleeping. After all, why is the world out of control if God is truly sovereign and in control?
 
The short answer is He has chosen, for whatever reason, to allow satan and demons to tempt us for a season, but it won’t be forever. It might end when every man, woman, and child has heard the good news that Jesus is LORD. That’s our mission!
 
Today we’re continuing our series on the book of
Psalms, the songbook of the Bible. It’s important to recognize the psalms are not a history book. They are not a science textbook. The psalms are poetry, art, lyric.
 
The first course I took in seminary was called hermeneutics. It simply means interpreting the Bible. Our textbook was
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart. Perhaps the most profound statement in the book is:
 
A text cannot mean what it never meant to its author or his or her readers.
 
It’s amazing how many people read the Bible as if it was written in English in 2022 and jump to application today.
We begin with what it originally meant. The technical term is exegesis. Then, we examine what it means for us today…hermeneutics. Then, we seek to apply it to our lives. Sometimes this process is quick and easy. For example, in the book of Exodus, Moses records this command of the LORD:
 
“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 10:13)
 
Looking at the context—the Ten Commandments—and the repetition of this message elsewhere in the time period, it’s safe to assume God meant to communicate to His people they should not murder.
 
What does this verse mean for us today? Was it written only for people thousands of years ago? Was the message found in the New Testament? Did Jesus support the teaching? Yes! Could it mean we should not murder in 2022? I’m confident in saying yes. The application, then, is we should not murder!
 
If only every verse in the Bible was so simple and clear!
 
As we look at Psalm 8, notice the context is not instructions or history or even narrative story. It’s a songwriter trying to describe and worship God. This video from The Bible Project will help us understand Psalm 8. Psalm 8 is the first praise psalm and the only one addressed entirely to the Lord.
 
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
 
What comes to mind when you think of the word “majestic?” The original Hebrew word is “adder,” meaning majestic, glorious, magnificent, mighty, powerful, stately.
 
One dictionary describes the adjective “majestic” as
 
1. Impressive or beautiful in a dignified or inspiring way. synonym: grand.
2. Possessing or exhibiting majesty; of august dignity, stateliness, or imposing grandeur; lofty; noble; grand.
3. Having qualities of splendor or royalty.
 
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
 
I don’t think there’s anything in USAmerican culture that compares to British
royalty. The wedding, birthday, and anniversary celebrations are spectacular. The crowns and palaces associated with the royal family are truly majestic.
 
Can you imagine the majesty of God? The psalmist begins by associating majesty with the name of the LORD. His name alone is majestic. In fact, it’s so sacred, Jewish people refuse to speak it aloud. I once asked my Messianic Jewish friend if the Hebrew name was pronounced
Yahweh. He said somewhat gingerly, “That’s very close!”
 
The name of the LORD is holy, sacred, majestic. You may be aware just a few verses before the prohibition of murder, it is stated in command number three:
 
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
 
If you never speak the name—the thinking goes—you cannot misuse it or use it in vain. Tragically, Hollywood has turned God’s name—and Jesus, in particular—as a curse word. It is holy! It is majestic!
 
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
 
It’s not just a Jewish thing. It’s not just an American thing. His name is majestic in all the earth! For all people. He is
our LORD! While we’re examining these words, the all-cap LORD is that sacred name, YHWH (Yahweh). The second Lord is Adonai, the more generic term for God or lord, literally “master.”
 
Did I mention you are not God?! You are special, loved, created in God’s image, but we are but dust, broken sinners in need of restoration, weak lumps of clay desperate for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
 
Family, if we could get the focus off of ourselves and onto our majestic Lord, I believe our fear, worry, and anxiety would diminish. As pastor Donald said last Sunday, God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good! Taste and see that the LORD is good. King David continues,
 
You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:1b-2, NIV)
 
The bottom line of our church’s mission statement is God’s glory. It can be seen in the heavens or the sky. Children and infants praise the LORD. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to say when they cry!!! Jesus referenced this verse in Matthew 21:16 while welcoming the praise of children and silencing Jesus’ enemies as predicted here. God’s power and glory are greater than we can imagine. As I mentioned, He is allowing sin on the earth now, but someday soon, Jesus will return to rule and reign forever. Death will be defeated. Satan and his friends will be destroyed. Even now, demons tremble at the sound of the name of Jesus.
 
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)
 
Have you ever admired a sunrise or sunset? Have you ever paused to stare at the stars in the sky? It’s hard in the city, but rural areas provide an amazing experience. The writer of Romans said,
 
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
 
It really takes effort to believe the universe was one big accident.
 
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5, NIV)
 
This is referring to mankind, to humans. Although it says angels, the original word, elohimˆ means God. Instead of being a little higher than animals, David is saying we’re a little lower than God. It’s truly incredible that God would be mindful of us, that He would care for us, that He would create us for a purpose, for a relationship with Him. It’s truly awesome that He would love you and me…warts and all!
Our value is determined by God, not social media, family, or our neighbors. He has created you to serve Him and share in His glory.
 
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:6-8, NIV)
 
There’s a prevailing message in our culture that we’re just animals. In fact, many seem to value animals over human life. I was recently selected to serve as a juror in a case that involved a murdered man and an injured dog. Some seemed more concerned about the cruelty to the animal than the death of the human! I love animals, but they were not created in the image of God. They were placed under the authority and stewardship of humans. The first book of the Bible—the first chapter of the Bible—makes this clear.
 
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV)
 
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)
 
I know it’s not politically correct, but it is biblically correct to say
God created humans male and female in His image. I never thought such a statement would be controversial, but people have drifted so far from God’s design, it’s no wonder we live in a land of confusion. We are to love all humans and offer compassion to those who are suffering and struggling, but our source of truth must always be God and His Word, not what we might “feel” at a particular moment. I’m deeply saddened by the despair and desperation expressed by those who live without the LORD. Taste and see that the LORD is good…all the time!
 
OK, back to the main point, we are greater than other animals, according to God.
 
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NIV)
 
We are to care for creation, not destroy it.
 
The psalm ends the way it begins.
 
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9, NIV)
 
This is the theme of this song, this psalm. The LORD is majestic…in all the earth. The name of the LORD is majestic…in all the earth!
 
In summarizing Psalm 8, Warren Wiersbe notes,
 
God the Father created us to be kings, but the disobedience of our first parents robbed us of our crowns. God the Son came to earth and redeemed us to be kings (Rev. 1:5–6), and today the Holy Spirit of God can empower us to “reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). When you crown Jesus Christ Lord of all, you are a sovereign and not a slave, a victor and not a victim. “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:9).
 
Let’s proclaim his majesty to every living creature and declare the goodness of the LORD!
 
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library
here.

Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 9 December 2018

Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility
Series—Mary Christmas
Luke 1:46-56

Series Overview: Mary may be the most underrated, godly character in the Bible (at least for Protestants!).

Big Idea: Mary was a true worshiper, filled with praise and humility…and courage.

This will be shocking news to many of you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today, music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus!

What is your favorite Christmas song?

I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “
Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

In “
Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

In
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

In “
We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

And let’s not even start with
“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer!”

My favorite Christmas song might be
“O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients. One writer said, “Music serves as the pinnacle of mankind’s culture, using words, phrases, sounds, tones, pitches, rhythms, and beats to establish both meaning and feeling.”

Of course, music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being! That must’ve been an amazing song!

The Bible is filled with music, with songs. Psalms is known as the hymn book of the Bible. Moses sang in Exodus. Songs are mentioned in many books of the Bible. David’s harp caused evil spirits to leave King Saul (1 Samuel 16). I once heard a musician tell stories about playing worship music over sick people and witnessing their healing. Music is powerful.


We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

As I mentioned last Sunday, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some being afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing. We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.” It has been recited in churches, set to music by my favorite composer—Johann Sebastian Bach, whispered in monasteries, and chanted in cathedrals. It is one of the most famous songs in Christianity.

The book of Luke begins with an angel telling Zechariah his aged wife, Elizabeth, will have a miracle baby. Last week’s passage describes the same angel, Gabriel, telling Mary she will have a miracle baby.

Dr. Luke continues his biography of Jesus.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:39-41)

It’s easy to dismiss this as background information, but Mary wastes no time making the 50-70 mile journey to Zechariah’s home. No car. No bus. No bicycle.

Virgin Mary is told by an angel she will have a baby. Such news was overwhelming in both positive and negative ways. Being chosen as the mother of God was the ultimate opportunity and responsibility, yet it came with unimaginable shame. Today, about 40% of US births are to unmarried women, but back then, the penalty for adultery was stoning!

Imagine the confirmation, though, when Elizabeth’s baby leaps and offers a blessing to her.

In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42-45)

She’s not blessed above women, but among women…because of her faith, her belief in the LORD and His promises to her. They were big promises!

Last week I posed two questions:

What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?

I believe when God calls you to do something radical—like plant a church or train for overseas missions…or carry God in your womb—He needs to make the calling clear. Some people think if God calls them to do something, everything will be easy, successful, and fruitful. Usually it’s quite the opposite, especially for a while. I’ve been privileged to meet prospective church planters, people who want to start a church from scratch. I look for a variety of skills and solid character, but I especially want to discern if this is their idea or God’s. When you want to quit—not if—you must return to the calling or you’ll throw in the towel. Sometimes God’s voice is quiet, but before you venture out on something big, it’s reassuring when the call is clear. I’m sure Mary was very encouraged by the supernatural experience and words of Elizabeth.

What follows is Mary’s response, her song, an incredible expression of praise and humility.

And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

What does your soul glorify? What causes you to rejoice? Really.

At rock concerts, fans clap, cheer, and yell delighting in the musicians onstage. How can we worship the Creator of the universe with our hands in our pockets and a frown on our faces? Worship is much more than singing songs, but music is one, powerful expression of praise and adoration. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. I’m not suggesting you’re more spiritual if you raise your hands or that the music needs to be deafening loud, but does your soul glorify the LORD?


Mary was devoted to God.

Are you? Really? Her praise continues…

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

This teenager realized she had no business bringing the Messiah into the world, but she humbly obeyed, taking on the very nature of a servant…just as her Son would do someday.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)

True!

for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

Has God done great things for you? What?

holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

The most important word to you is your name. Perhaps no other word will more quickly grab your attention. Your name is special, and the name of the LORD is even more special. It’s so sacred, in fact, that to this day Jews refuse to speak the holy name of God for fear of taking it in vain or dishonoring it. It’s a Hebrew word we usually pronounce as Yahweh.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

This is an especially wonderful promise. We tend to focus on our present world and its citizens, but God’s mercy and faithfulness can reach our kids, grandkids, great grandkids, great great grandkids…well, you get the idea!

This does not mean we need to be afraid of God, but rather see a relationship with the Creator of the universe as an honor, worthy of respect and reverence. Those who worship the LORD will experience His mercy.

God was devoted to Mary.

He is devoted to those who fear and revere Him. Mary then gives examples of God working on behalf of His people.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

Mary is possibly referencing several different Old Testament passages of scripture, including 1 Samuel, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Ezekiel. Even as a teenage girl, she was devoted to the scriptures. In the absence of the YouVersion smartphone app or even a published Bible, she most likely was attentive to the rabbis in the temple who read from scrolls. For a fascinating study, look at the Magnificat echoes Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel chapter 2.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

God’s promises are timeless. Forever is a long time! Mary knew her history, and also prophecy concerning the future.

But Wait!

This isn’t just a nice praise song filled with up to twelve different Old Testament references. This was a radical song composed in the midst of Herod’s brutal rule. We’ve made the birth of Jesus this sweet, cozy story and even have a collection of pretty songs like Away in a Manger and Silent Night to serve as the soundtrack of the season.

But his song, the
Magnificat, is gritty. It’s actual quite radical. In the 1980s, the Guatemalan government banned any public reciting of it for being politically subversive. Months after Mary sang this song, Herod would slaughter every boy two years old and younger in Bethlehem for fear of this newborn King of the Jews would overthrow his rule. I bet you never sang a Christmas carol about that!

This song speaks boldly about injustice turned upside down, God entering our world to establish justice and remove unjust rulers.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

Yes,
Magnificat comes from the first line in the Latin translation, which literally means “my soul glorifies the Lord.” But what follows has been described as being to Mary’s world what “We Shall Overcome” was to African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.

This song was threatening to the proud in power…and liberating to the weak and hungry. Mary longed for a day when Herod the Great would be overthrown by a true king in the line of David. She knew what God had done in the past and prophetically declared hints of Isaiah chapter 11:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
…with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

Both Mary and Isaiah declare so much about God.

He is merciful to those who fear him.
He will scatter the proud.
He will bring down rulers.
He will lift up the humble.
He will fill the hungry.
He will send the rich away empty.

Today, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population owns more than half of the world’s
wealth. If your annual income is $32,400 or more, you’re in the top 1%. You’d have to make more than $400,000 to crack the top 1% in the USA, but in the world, most of us are in the top 1%.

Suddenly this isn’t just a nice, ancient song, but a protest song with great relevance today. I want you to see Mary not as some weak, soft little girl, but rather a courageous woman who spoke out against the rulers of her day. He son would do the same—and it would get him killed.

Both Mary and her son, Jesus, were hardly passive, weak biblical characters. Instead, they were filled with grit, resolve, purpose, and passion. We’ll see more of that in the next few weeks or our series.

Our text for today concludes:

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

What did they do for three months? What did they talk about? How did Mary’s parents feel about this visit? Was Mary kicked out of the house necessitating the stay? There are so many things we don’t know. But there’s plenty we do know.

So What?

Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper. Are you?

We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

Mary was devoted to God.
God was devoted to Mary.

The question for today is

Are you devoted to God?

Are you a person of praise, singing of God’s goodness and faithfulness, or would people say you’re more of a whiner and complainer?

Are you a humble servant, willing to obey what God asks you to do, or would people say you’re more of a control freak, living your life for your own safety, comfort and pleasure? Humility is the natural result of knowing who God is. It’s not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

Are you a courageous person of conviction and passion, or do you do what’s safe and popular? Does your devotion to God waver when it’s not politically or socially correct?

I want to be more like Mary!

This hymn is not just about Mary, but about all who fear God, who revere God, who are devoted to God. They will experience His mercy and grace. God honors the humble and poor—not necessarily financially poor—but poor in spirit, the pious poor, those seeking God, pursuing God, desperate for God, devoted to God. Those who fear God know they are not in control. They are not better than others. They are not proud or self-righteous, instead aware of their need for God. As a result, God sees them, values them, and knows them intimately.

Devotion to God is not something we just do for an hour on Sunday, but rather a 24/7/365 way of life, regardless of the costs. Make no mistake, Mary suffered for her devotion to Jesus…and the suffering didn’t end after the labor of Jesus’ birth.

This season, I encourage you to look deeper into the story that changed the world…and that is still changing the world, one life at a time.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / Fall on your knees!

Magnificat sung by Kathryn Brinkman

Credits: some ideas from
The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.


Bless The LORD, 22 April 2018

Bless The Lord
D6 Series—
Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
Psalm 103

Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

Big Idea: God is worthy of our praise!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalms 103:1, ESV)

We’ve sung the words, but what do they mean?

Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I have mentioned how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Then we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72 and God’s love expressed in Psalm 89 last Sunday. Today we turn to Psalm 103.

At the recent Worship Night in America event, Pastor Darren Whitehead talked about the seven Hebrew words for “praise.” Just saying that makes our English language seem so simplistic!

The word repeated used in Psalm 103 for “praise” or “bless,” depending upon your translation, is the word “barak.”

Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalms 103:1)

בָּרַךְ   bāraḵ   means to bless or pronounce blessings, give praise, give thanks, extol, to kneel down, to bow or salute, to bless God as an act of adoration.

This Hebrew word appears about 300 times in the Old Testament. To bless or praise the LORD is to bow down before Him, acknowledging He is God and we are not, thanking Him and telling others how great He is…in word, song, and deed. Praising or blessing God, then, is more than just words…it’s a lifestyle, an act of worship.

King David begins this famous psalm by not merely stating, “barak,” but telling his soul, all of his inmost being, to praise the LORD and His holy name.

The Hebrew name for God is so holy, in fact, that to this day it is never spoken out loud by Jews. The word “Adonai” is a more general term for God, but the holy name which Gentiles often pronounce “Yahweh” is sacred and revered. There is so much in this one short verse. It’s as if David is throwing himself before the LORD saying, “I’m Yours, LORD. All of me. My body. My soul. My heart. My mind. It all thanks You. It all adores You. It all belongs to You.”

Have you ever felt like that? That’s devotion. That’s passion. That’s worship. And God loves it! This idea of blessing the LORD is the central idea of this psalm. The LORD has blessed David, and David returns the favor.

Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases, (Psalms 103:2-3)

David tells his soul to forget not. Why? Because we forget! What do we forget? We forget the LORD’s blessings, His benefits.

Do you like benefits? It seems like every few months I’m getting a notice in the mail about new benefits coming soon to my credit card or changes in my health insurance benefits (not always good changes!). When making a major purchase, one must always learn about the features and benefits of the investment.

We must not forget the benefits of the LORD. David lists five in this psalm.

  • 1. God has forgiven our sins (all our sins!)
  • 2. God heals all our diseases (someday all diseases will be healed; maybe today!)

  • What else?

    who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
    who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:4-5)

    Here we see the final three benefits:

  • 3. God redeems our life from the pit (now and beyond the grave)
  • 4. God crowns us with love and compassion (surrounds us, placed upon us)
  • 5. God satisfies our desires with good things (we can satisfy them with bad things!)

  • The result is our youth, our strength, is renewed. Because of the goodness of the LORD we can have hope and passion (one of my prayers for FAC).

    Is this good news, family? Absolutely! The problem for many of us is we forget. I don’t necessarily mean we have no knowledge of these truths, but rather we are so familiar with them we forget their importance, their impact, and we forget to thank God!

    The LORD works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
    He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:6-8)

    Have you ever felt oppressed? Many in our world today are oppressed—by poverty, slavery, injustice…and yet God works on their behalf. He is engaged in righteousness and justice. His timing might not be as quick as we would like, but in the end, justice will prevail.

    Moses and the people of Israel were witnesses of God’s righteousness and deliverance.

    Verse eight is echoed throughout the Bible. From Exodus to Joel to Jonah, this phrase appears:

    “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in love.”

    Because God is just, he gets angry. We should get angry when we see injustice. We simply need to direct our anger appropriately.

    … “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

    Jesus got angry. The Father gets angry, but His anger is limited by His grace, mercy and love.

    He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
    he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalms 103:9-10)

    This is great news! We come to a God of justice but also grace and mercy. He is a God of wrath, but also love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Meditate on that for a moment. Hallelujah! People often talk about what they deserve. All I deserve is eternal separation from God because of my sins, yet God does not treat me as my sins deserve. I’m so grateful. Praise the LORD!!!

    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
    as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:11-12)

    Here’s another oft-quoted scripture. God created the cosmos for us to enjoy. His love is as great as from here to the heavens! That’s infinite!

    Furthermore, our sins are forgiven, sent as far away as from the east to the west. That’s far! That’s infinite!

    God’s love is endless. God’s forgiveness is endless. There’s more!

    As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
    for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust. (Psalms 103:13-14)

    This past week I was thrilled to be present for the formal legal adoption of the Glovers’ son. Watching him during these six months since birth has brought me so much joy, and mine pales in comparison to the joy of mom, dad, and big brother.

    I was thinking about him when I read this verse. His mom and dad know he is small, young, and fragile. God knows even the strongest people on our planet are nothing compared to God’s power. We are all but dust. Those who fear—who revere—God will receive His compassion rather than His wrath and justice for our sins, which reminds of the one child the Father did not have compassion upon—Jesus. He took our punishment. He died on our behalf.

    The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
    the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more. (Psalms 103:15-16)

    Here’s another beautiful image of our weakness, our mortality. We often think we’re so strong and mighty, but when we compare ourselves to God…to the universe…we are like a blade of grass. Yet to God, we are special.

    But from everlasting to everlasting
    the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
    with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalms 103:17-18)

    All good dads love their children. They give age-appropriate feedback and discipline. They encourage, support, and provide for their kids. They are aware of the limitations of little people and nurture them to adulthood.

    But don’t miss the condition—obedience. We talked about this last week. God’s love language is obedience. We love Him because He first loved us. We obey, not out of fear of punishment, but out of reverence, respect, and love. God can be trusted. God’s Word can be trusted. God’s commands can be trusted. He’s a good, good Father.

    The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalms 103:19)

    That’s pretty comprehensive! God’s kingdom rules over all, and not just over us.

    Praise the LORD, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word. (Psalms 103:20)

    The LORD rules over the angels who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will. (Psalms 103:21)

    The LORD rules over the heavenly hosts who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion. (Psalms 103:22a)

    The LORD rules over all of creation who praise Him. There’s a great scene in the Palm Sunday account where Jesus warns what will happen if we don’t praise the LORD.

    When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

    “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

    Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

    “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40)
    I don’t want any stones praising the LORD instead of me!

    And finally, David ends the way he began:

    Praise the LORD, my soul. (Psalms 103:22b)

    So What?

    As the ushers come forward, I want to prepare you for opportunities to praise the LORD. First, you can bless and praise the LORD by giving of your tithes and offerings. The word tithe means ten percent, something of a minimum. All we have belongs to God. We have the freedom to spend and save, but the Old Testament minimum was ten percent to the LORD. Some of you give more than ten percent, which is wonderful. You’ve experienced the joy of generosity as Heather and I have. Worshipping through giving is not the weekly church fundraiser. It’s a way to tangibly declare our allegiance to God.

    If you don’t tithe, I want to encourage you to begin with something. Start with five percent. Start with one percent! I recently learned that in the average church, one third of the people give zero, zip, nada. How sad…for them! Another third give less than $10/week. That might be fine for some of our students whose only income is a paper route, but for many of us ten dollars is less than we spend a week on restaurant tips…and we’re talk about Almighty God! If you’re not prepared to give this morning, no worries. You can give via our free smartphone
    app or on our website, too.

    If we love God, we will obey, and that includes being generous with the resources He has given to us. As you listen to this beautiful song of praise, may it prompt you to fully engage in worship, in blessing the LORD.

    Benediction (containing “barak”)

    ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’ (Numbers 6:24-26)

    Credits:
    some ideas from D6, Westside Church Vancouver

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017

    Palm Sunday
    Series: A Love That Never Dies
    Matthew 21:1-11

    Series Big Idea:
    Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

    Big Idea: We can shout, "Crucify," "Save us now," or praises.

    Scripture:
    Matthew 21:8-11

    Today is Palm Sunday, the remembrance of an interesting parade in Jerusalem, a procession planned centuries earlier. The prophet Zechariah wrote

    Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
    See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
    lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

    (Zechariah 9:9)

    What was the meaning of this assembly? What’s the big deal with Palm Sunday?

    Have you ever been to a parade? There’s something exciting about marching bands, floats, waving celebrities…and candy. Don’t forget candy. I think that was my favorite part, as a kid, racing to pick up candy off the ground!

    This parade was not announced with TV ads and Facebook invitations. It wasn’t an annual festival like the 4
    th of July or Memorial Day. The setting was the city of Jerusalem. Jesus was attracting crowds, teaching the scriptures like no other rabbi, infuriating the religious people, and healing the sick. His name was a lightning rod of controversy, perhaps not unlike Trump, Obama, or Putin today. You loved him or you hated him. Rumors spread about his friend, Lazarus, being raised from the dead (John 12:17-19), and the crowd was hoping to see this dead man walking. Wouldn’t you? Matthew chapter 21 begins…

    As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:1-3)

    I love this! In our day, it might be, “Hank and Ryan, go to the Ford dealer up the street, tell the owner you’re borrowing a Mustang for the Lord, and drive it here.”

    This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

    “Say to Daughter Zion,‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” (Matthew 21:4-5)

    Don’t miss this! One of the reasons we can fully trust Jesus and the Bible is prophecy. Jesus himself fulfilled over three hundred Old Testament prophecies stated centuries before his birth. Here’s one. Zechariah prophesied Palm Sunday.

    The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (Matthew 21:6-8)

    The people made way for this processional. There was no police escort or blocked-off streets, but the crowd made their own path to welcome Jesus into the city.

    King Solomon rode into Jerusalem on a donkey centuries earlier, lowly transport for a king. Jesus was even more powerful than Solomon, yet the ultimate demonstration of humility.

    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)

    This is our God. This is our King. Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem with an everlasting love, a love that would not die. He looked into their eyes. He heard their cries.

    The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 

    “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
    “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)

    This was likely not the crowd who would yell, “Crucify him!” This group seems to be spontaneously assembled, more like those Jesus called “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They were desperate. “Hosanna” meant “save now,” a plea for help, salvation, and rescue, though it seems to have an element of praise and adoration in this scene.

    The road would have been rough and rocky. Even today it is anything but smooth. Jesus was a celebrity, riding on a donkey, jostling from one side to the other.

    Jesus knew the road ahead, not just the path of the people but the path to the cross, the instrument of death he would face days later. Yet Jesus did not weep for himself. He was sad for the city, for Jerusalem, for its people, it children. He knew the crowds were looking for freedom, deliverance from Rome. They were probably less aware of the oppression of their sins, but they sought a savior from tyranny.

    When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10)

    The whole city was stirred. Children were especially noisy and excited. Perhaps they heard of Jesus’ great love for kids in a world where only men were given respect and honor. We know the religious leaders were greatly disturbed by the cheering of the children, maybe aware of how kids often bring their parents to faith.

    I want to camp out for a moment on the city’s question, “Who is this?”

    The people did not have access to 24/7 news channels, billboards, newspapers, or websites. Even if they did, photography had not yet been invented! It was natural for them to wonder who was drawing such attention.

    Who is this? This may be the most important question in human history.

    The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11)

    Who is Jesus? A prophet? A teacher? God? Human? Messiah? King? Savior? Lord?
    Who is Jesus? That’s what you and I must answer.

    Last week we read about a sign placed above his head, “King of the Jews.” Is he your king?

    Just as his donkey stumbled on the rough road, he knows our road can be difficult. It can be rocky. There can be unexpected surprises, both good and bad. There are joys and sorrows, victories and disappointments. Where is he when things get tough? He is with us, Emmanuel, God with us. I realize this is bittersweet—comforting to know he is present but frustrating when he doesn’t intervene and fix everything broken in our world. “If you’re here, prove it!”

    I don’t have easy answers. I don’t understand a lot of things in this world—death, loss, pain…but he does. Jesus is not a fairy tale character. He’s not a superhero who flew above the storms of life. He experienced temptation and trials. On purpose! He chose to suffer. He went from the streets of Jerusalem to the way of the cross, from palms to passion, from agony to death…and then from death to resurrection. But that’s next Sunday.

    So What?

    The crowds had expectations for Jesus. They wanted him to rescue them from Roman rule. They wanted him to heal their sick. They had plans for him!

    What about you? What expectations do you have for Jesus? A pain-free life? Happiness? Financial prosperity? Instant answers to all of your prayers?

    Jesus knew the hearts of the crowds who shouted, “Hosanna! Save us now!” He knew the hearts of the crowds who would shout, “Crucify him!” He knows your heart and mine, our selfish impulses, our hopes, our dreams, and our secret sins. Yet he loves us. He forgives us for our misguided motives. He washes our sins white as snow. And that gives us reason to sing, reason to rejoice. Today we praise Jesus because he is worthy. He is alive. He demonstrated his love for us. He offers forgiveness and reconciliation. He heals diseases and broken relationships. He provides peace, hope, and joy. We love him because he first loved us.

    Credits: Some ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 7 December 2014

    Big Idea: During a visit with Elizabeth, Mary bursts into song, exclaiming timeless truths about God’s power, holiness, mercy, sovereignty, and provision while extolling the virtues of humility. It is one of the first hymns of ancient Christianity and frequently sung in many churches more than two thousand years later.

    Key Scripture: Luke 1:46-56

    Introduction

    This will be a great revelation to you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

    The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus.

    What is your favorite Christmas song?

    This week I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

    In “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

    In “Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

    In “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

    My favorite Christmas song might be “O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

    A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
    Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

    Truly He taught us to love one another
    His law is love and His gospel is peace
    Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
    And in His name all oppression shall cease
    Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
    His power and glory ever more proclaim!

    There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients.

    Of course music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being.

    The Bible is filled with music, with songs. The book of 1 Samuel describes another powerful use of music.

    Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

    Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (1 Samuel 16:14, 23)

    We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

    For the record, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing (disclaimer: two weeks ago I showed a video in which two Catholic priests insisted they do not worship Mary, but they do pray to her which is problematic for me since Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father, but that’s another matter entirely). We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

    In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

    We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
    Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.”

    Luke 1:46-56

    This song is the Magna Carta of early Christian songs. It poignantly describes the Messiah that was anticipated and would live in Mary’s womb until His birthday.

    Here’s a little background:

    At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
    where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)


    And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

    “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

    Ps. 34: 3: Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

    Ps. 35: 9: Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.

    Isa. 61: 10: I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

    1 Sam. 2: 1– 2: Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the lord; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

    Hab. 3: 18: yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

    1 Sam. 1: 11: And she [Hannah] made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

    1 Sam. 9: 16: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

    Gen. 29: 32: Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

    From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)

    Gen. 30: 13: Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

    Mal. 3: 12: “Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the lord Almighty.

    for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

    Deut. 10: 21: He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

    Ps. 71: 19b: You who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

    Zeph. 3: 17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

    holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

    Ps. 111 :9: He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

    His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

    Ps. 103: 11: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.

    Ps. 103: 17: But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S steadfast love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

    Ps. 100: 5: For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

    He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
    He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

    1 Sam. 2: 7-8: The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’S, on them he has set the world.

    Ps. 89: 10: You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

    Prov. 3: 34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

    Job 12: 19: He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established.

    Ezek. 21: 26b: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.

    Ps. 107: 9: For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

    He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
    to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

    Isa. 41: 8-9: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant”; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

    Ps. 98: 3: He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

    Mic. 7: 20: You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

    2 Sam. 22: 51: He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

    Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

    So What?

    Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper.

    We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager—likely—in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

    Cradle - Cross - Crown

    When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

    Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

    This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

    For Further Study

    The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

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