The Power of Praise
So begins what is sometimes referred to as the "Magnificat" or Mary's song.
It is her response to her cousin Elizabeth's words: "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45).
Praise is the ultimate result of faith. It's how we say that we believe. Praise is not the logical response to our circumstances. For Mary, it was not logical to praise God for being an unwed pregnant girl whose only explanation was that the Spirit of God had overwhelmed her and given her a child who was the Son of the Almighty and Saviour of the world!
But faith is often illogical. It opposes the odds. It rises above the statistics. It races ahead of the favourites to win against the strongest doubts and the swiftest fears.
It makes a humble teenage girl mount the podium of history as the favoured of God.
When I think of the effects of praise, and the faith it portrays even in dire circumstances, I have to go back to an Old Testament story. In 2 Chronicles 20 we read the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Faced with a vastly superior force of Moabites and Ammonites hungry for his head and his land, the king went to the Lord for help (2 Chronicles 20:5-12). His prayer ends with, "For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
He receives assurances from the Lord. "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's...You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you" (20:15, 17).
I can almost hear something similar in Mary's mind. "Big challenges, Mary, but go ahead and face them. I've got this!"
Then the king, "...appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.' As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes..." (20:21, 22). In response to praise, God worked!
Mary knew that whatever was to happen, whatever had happened, was out of her hands. King Jehoshaphat knew that too. But both of them knew in whose hands the outcome rested.
And that faith expressed itself in praise.
In herself, Mary was helpless. But her God wasn't. And so she could say with assurance: "I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38), and praised the Lord for what He had done (1:51-55) and for what He was going to do.
Go ahead, make "a joyful noise" (Psalm 95:1) and see what the Lord will do.