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The Song of Mary (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 8, 2022 3:00 am

The Song of Mary (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 8, 2022 3:00 am

Mary praised God for His mercy toward her and others, past, present, and future. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg traces a line from Genesis to Luke’s Gospel, highlighting God’s mercy as He used unexpected people to fulfill His covenant promises.


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In Luke's Gospel, in chapter 1, Mary bursts into song, praising God for His mercy, past, present, and future. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg traces a line from Genesis to Luke to highlight God's mercy as He used unexpected people to fulfill His covenant promises. We're in Luke chapter 1, looking at verses 39-56. I found it helpful to view the song this week in my study as a song of God's mercy.

As a song of God's mercy. When you go to verse 50, you realize that God's mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation. God is not impoverished by the skeptic nor by the haughty scientist who struts and frets his hour upon the stage of his laboratory to make metaphors and says, You know, there is no God, and if there is a God, I know what he's like, and I know where he came from. And God says, I remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return. He takes the bogus, supercilious philosophers and all their minions, all their imitators, all the small fry who get a charge out of attacking God and attacking the Bible and attacking the church and saying this isn't true and that isn't true and so on. No, Psalm 2 says God looks from the heavens, and he laughs.

He laughs. It's the mighty warrior. He scatters the proud. He brings down the rulers. Nebuchadnezzar stands on the parapet of his great palace in Babylon, the way some of us are tempted to do with the little petty empires we think we have built, whether they are financial empires, or whether they're social empires, or whether they're ecclesiastical or church empires, and we're tempted to stand up and say to ourselves, And is this not the great thing that I have built? And the servants are asking, Who is it that's crawling in the grass and mooing like a cow out there? And somewhat diffidently they're saying to one another, That's Nebuchadnezzar that's down there. But what's he doing down there?

That's what we've been asking ourselves. We were so used to him up here saying, Here I am, Nebuchadnezzar, and look what I have done. And now he's mooing like a cow and eating grass.

How does that happen? God not only scatters the proud, but he brings down the rulers. And he sends the rich away empty. He doesn't have to take the riches away from them to send them away empty. He just allows them to get richer and richer and richer, and the richer they become, the more they understand their emptiness. Because the completeness of their venture reveals the ultimate disappointment of stuff. Isn't that true?

It doesn't matter how many zeros are on it, I don't think. Because I can remember when I had no money, and then I had a wee bit of money, and then a wee bit more money, and a wee bit more than I had the last time. But it doesn't matter.

There's no amount of money that satisfies the soul, that gives significance to the individual. In fact, this is a staggering message for a bourgeois congregation like this on the east side of Cleveland, is it not? Some of you are here, and this is your life before you. You've been coming, and I don't want to be unkind to you. But you're fairly proud of what you've done.

You're saying to yourself, You know, I studied hard, and I did well, and I did this, and I did that, and I did the next thing. You know what I think I'll do? I think I'll go down that Parkside Church.

There's people there. I don't know what they're into, but I'd like to add a little Jesus into the thing, a little spirituality, a little—you know, because I've got everything else taken care of now. You know, I'm basically in a position of power, and I have possessions, and frankly, I'm quite proud of it. Jesus Christ will not accommodate you. He scatters the proud. He brings down the rulers, and he sends the rich people away empty.

Well then, what in the world am I supposed to do? Is God then as a mighty warrior unkind? No, he is absolutely merciful. He brings you to a circumstance like this, where you're thinking simply to create a little context in your portfolio where you can add the spiritual dimension.

Everything else is taken care of. You just slot this in, and he brings you here to say, you're going to have to fall down on your face and acknowledge that I am God and there is no other, that everything that you have and are is on to me. And if you would be humble enough to do that and hungry enough to seek me, then I will lift you up in your humility, and I will feed you in your hunger. But you see, proud, ruling, rich people are not by nature humble and have no sense of hunger. That's why it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Because the whole ethos of that individual's life is to believe that by self-endeavor and self-generation, he or she has put themselves in a position whereby there is no club they cannot attend, there is no ticket they cannot get, there is no loge in which they cannot sit, and therefore, by golly, they will have their place in heaven as well.

And God laughs in the heavens. That is why, when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he says, Consider yourselves, folks. There's not many among you who are mighty. There's not many among you who are powerful. There's not many among you who are rich.

Why not? Because those are the very things that prevent an individual from admitting their hunger and their spiritual poverty and their need of God. Now, the flip side is so wonderful, too. He does lift up the humble. He does fill the hungry.

But those are the prerequisites. Now, let me come to my third expression of mercy. Mercy to Mary, mercy to those who fear him, and mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Notice that. He is remembered to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever. You see, we can only understand the song of Mary when we put it in this much larger picture.

And I mean a much larger frame than most of us are tempted to consider it in. Because it is by means of looking with favor on this young girl Mary that he has helped his servant Israel. It is through this girl that God has chosen to fulfill the purpose of his covenant and his promise. That what he had said to Abraham all these years ago about what he made him and of making his seed as significant as he did is being answered now in these dramatic events here in this context. And indeed, he says, the effect of this would have ramifications for all of his descendants forever and ever, even as he promised to our forefathers.

Well, you say, but what then has this got to do with me? Because who then are the descendants of Abraham? Is this not simply a statement somehow about Israel that has got kind of messed up with the passage of time?

No. I want you to turn to Romans chapter 9, and I'll show you why not. Paul, speaking of his concern for his own people, his own ethnic background, says in Romans 9, it's not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

What does that mean? Remember the prophet said to them, the outward marks implanted upon you ritualistically that designate your ethnicity cannot be equated with the circumcision of heart which is necessary for genuine, dependent faith. Therefore, not all who have the ethnic background and the benefits that accrue to them in that vis-à-vis Saul of Tarsus are themselves Israel in the sense of those who are the very fulfillment of God's promises.

Read on. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. In other words, it's not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. So the mercy of God in the song of Mary is not simply a mercy that extends to Mary and extends to those who fear him in a way that is far often gone, or extends to his covenant people in Israel in a way that we might stand as Gentile bystanders and look at it, but it is a mercy which includes you and me.

It is that in this song that Mary sings, the unfolding plan of God from all of eternity finds its focus. Galatians chapter 3 and verse 9 reiterates the same truth. Verse 6, Consider Abraham, he believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness. Understand then that those who believe are children of Abraham.

You remember the conversation with Jesus and the Pharisees in John chapter 8? We're the children of Abraham. Abraham was our father.

We've not been enslaved to anybody. Jesus said, If Abraham was your father, you would do what Abraham did, but as it is, Abraham is not your father, and you are like your father, and your father is the devil. He's the father of lies, and you are, frankly, lying through your teeth.

Sounds like the mighty warrior, doesn't it? Who scatters the proud, brings down the rulers, sends people who are rich in their own religious exercises away empty. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and he announced the gospel in advance to Abraham. There's a wonderful statement, isn't it? All nations will be blessed through you. What does it mean, he announced the gospel in advance to Abraham?

Well, it's a colon, you will notice. And then it's quotes, and he's quoting from Genesis 12.3. Paul says, This was the gospel that God announced Abraham in the making of his covenant. He said, Listen, all the nations will be blessed through you.

So, verse 9, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. In other words, this song of Mary is like a whole bunch of other songs that you find throughout the Bible. This is not the first hit, if you like.

There have been a number of hit songs similar to this. For example, Moses had a hit in Exodus 15. His sister Miriam followed it up with a hit of her own in the same chapter. Deborah in the book of Judges had a wonderful hit song, and Asaph in 1 Chronicles 16. Hannah had a beauty in 1 Samuel chapter 2. And now Mary has a hit song here in Luke chapter 1. And when you review the charts, you discover that all of these songs in the Old Testament were leading forward to this wonderful song which would not only reflect the songs already sung but would pick up all the pieces of the mosaic of God's covenantal purpose and would focus it in a quite unbelievable fashion so that we could study it this morning. And what Luke is doing in his narrative is showing that this event here is in direct continuity with the story that has been unfolding since the beginning of Genesis. I'm going to take you on a whistle-wind tour of the Old Testament to try and make my point.

First of all, Genesis chapter 3 and verse 15. In the fall of man, the word of God to the serpent, to the evil one, I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

Okay? This is God speaking to the evil one. And from that point, the evil one sets out an historic struggle to defeat, if he could, the advance of the messianic line, to endeavor somehow to intercept even one link in the chain of God's unfolding plan, to overthrow God's purpose of redemption, to raise up enemies from outside, and to raise up others from inside by means of intermarriage and apostasy, so as to ensure that the word of God would not be fulfilled, he will crush your head. Now, for anybody who had ever read the Old Testament and for the Jew today who reads the Pentateuch, he has to say, Who in the world is it that crushes the head of the serpent? Because from that moment on, every mother that was ever born as a Jewish child must have said, Perhaps I will give birth to the one who will crush the serpent's head.

So, for example, when Cain is born, it's not outlandish to wonder that Eve said to herself, Here we go, Genesis 3.15, he will crush your head. Here comes Cain. Maybe he is the one who will crush the head of the serpent. And what does Cain do? He steps up on the stage of human history, and he kills Abel, whom Jesus refers to in Matthew 24 as the first great prophet of Israel. And the war is engaged, and the battle is there, which ensues all the way through the corridors of history. God replaces Abel with Seth.

Seth does pretty good. Corruption sets in. It's manifold chaos, and it's time for Noah—Noah and his ark. He stands up as a preacher of righteousness, brings the people on board, comes out of that situation, and his bad son Ham is expelled.

Shem, the good boy, stays on, pioneers the position, and eventually corruption sets in. And looking down through all of this, God looks for a man and picks out Abram from Ur of the Chaldeas. Abram, then, to Isaac.

God works at just the right time. Isaac to Esau and Jacob. Who is the natural person to fulfill the line? Esau.

Why? Because he is morally superior, and he is also the older. What is Jacob? He's a schemer. Who does God use? Jacob, the schemer. To reveal what?

To reveal the wonder of God's covenant of grace, that nobody ever merited it freely, but always received it as a result of God's own mercy, which he manifests to whosoever he chooses. And that's what he's doing in the choice of Jacob. He's saying, Jacob's my boy. And people stand back and say, Jacob shouldn't be your boy. Esau should be your boy. Because after all, God says, Jacob is my man.

You see, it's a wonder, is it not? What about Joseph? Second youngest of the boys. But he's God's man.

Again, a flat-out human contradiction. Who are you going to take? Presumably one of the top guys.

Doesn't do that. Takes Joseph. Then we go to Moses. Egyptian slavery. Pharaoh is not liking the fact that the Hebrews are proliferating.

So he says, let's just cut this nonsense out. We will take all the firstborn Hebrew children, and we will drown them in the river Nile. And God looks down and lays hold of a slip of a girl called Moses' mother. She's not mighty and powerful. She's got no status in life. She's not particularly significant in God's sister. Hey, he says, you're my girl.

This is what you should do. And she takes him, and she puts him in the Nile, but she puts him in a basket. And God oversees things providentially. And suddenly, the daughter of the guy who's trying to kill all the kids becomes the kind of stepmother of the one boy who's going to be the fulfillment of the next stage of God's purpose. And Moses stands up and says, Let my people go. And they go, and they get out, and we have the Ten Commandments, but you no sooner have that going on than you have the golden calf. Then they're in the wilderness in the process of purification. Then you have Joshua, because Moses doesn't get to go in, but Joshua, whose name means the Lord is the one who saves. He gets to go in.

Then who steps up? Rahab. What was she? A prostitute. What's she doing there?

Forget that. What are you doing there? What am I doing there? What does God do with Rahab? He points out the very principle of his covenant of grace. He extends his mercy to those who are humble and who are hungry and who fear him.

He didn't come to the mighty and the proud and the rich. And she hangs the scarlet cord, symbolic of the incorporation of the Gentiles into the great plan of God in the scheme of redemption. And they go into the land, and they have judges, and they have prophets, and they have restlessness, and they have corruption. And they have Abimelech, who was a mainline rascal, who orders his great massacre and kills seventy of his brothers, and only one of them escapes, Jotham, the youngest. And Abimelech, in all of his pride, in all of his might, is involved in the taking of a city. And the lady goes up in a tower and drops a millstone, and it lands on Abimelech's head and cracks his skull. And Abimelech runs over to one of his commanders, and he says, Run me through with a sword.

I don't want it ever to be said that I was killed by a woman. And Jotham is God's man. And he steps onto the stage of human history. And then you have human kings. We want kings, say the people of God. So he gives them Saul, and he has divided loyalty. He gives them David, and he's an adulterer. And the royal line is continually threatened by apostasy.

Ahab establishes Baal worship right at the heart of the whole operation. His wife Jezebel is a mainline rascal, and God raises up Elijah, and through him drives out the prophets of Baal, condemns Ahab, and remains loyal to his covenant. Well, we'll stop at Elijah, because interestingly, it's in Malachi 4 that Elijah's mentioned at the very end of the Old Testament record. But when you read in the Hebrews 11, it says, There were many more besides these that didn't receive the promise.

They didn't live to see the unfolding of the song of Mary. You see, the reason I've done this is to point out to you, dear ones, that if you're going to understand this Bible, you and I are going to have to read it from Genesis all the way through to Revelation. You can't be reading your Bible like a little zippity-dippity, ooh, there's a nice thought, and ooh, I must share that with my mother-in-law, and ooh, there's a beauty, I like that one every now and then. Believe me, as I said, I could do a little sermon on Mary's song this morning, Mary's investigation, Mary's adoration, Mary's contemplation, you know, and so on, and you'd be going, Hey, you know, that was nice.

But you wouldn't know one thing better than when you walked in the door. So, when I die, I want you to know your Bibles. I don't really care if you're getting blessed, first of all. I want you to know your Bibles. And I want you to get so infuriated by the little journey that I just took through the Old Testament, you're going to wait and say, I'm not sure he understands that himself, and I definitely know that I don't, but I am going to go back. I'm going to find out what in the world he's talking about in relationship to that thing. That's good. Those are always the best teachers.

It's a lousy teacher that gives you everything on a sheet of paper, all the points, all the subpoints, all the answers to all your questions, and then sets you tests so that you can give the same answers that he provided to you or she provided to you in the lecture, and there may be no mechanism whereby you understood anything at all. And so, as in Ahab's day, another lousy king sits on the throne, and Herod is unwilling to surrender his title to an unknown child. And in the midst of all of that cruelty, the searchlight of God fastens on Bethlehem. O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee rise!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by, but in those dark streets shineth the everlasting light, for the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. And you see, that's what Mary was singing about. The sovereign God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob, fulfilling the promise to the patriarchs by means of the most unlikely little girl, so that not only she would know God's mercy, but those who fear him would know his mercy. And those who are the descendants of Abraham would know his mercy. And therefore, that we would know his mercy. For us to truly understand the song of Mary, we need to understand the whole Bible.

You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance. We know that God's Spirit will work through God's Word to convert unbelievers, to establish believers more deeply in their faith, and to strengthen local churches. It's a privilege to fulfill this mission alongside those of you who partner with us in ministry. If you contribute monthly as one of our truth partners, your faithful prayers and your regular giving enable all that we do at Truth for Life.

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They're all available at our cost. I'm Bob Lapine. If you were silenced for the better part of a year, what do you think you'd say once you could speak again? Join us tomorrow. We'll find out what the priest Zachariah had to say when his voice returned. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-08 05:37:06 / 2022-12-08 05:46:19 / 9

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