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The Magnificat, Part 1

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Beloved for the way in which it highlights Jesus' care for those on the margins of society and for its care in telling the story of our Savior's life and ministry, the gospel of Luke has always been treasured by the Christian church. Dr. Sproul's expositional study of this inspired account of Jesus looks at the significant events of His life and His teachings while unfolding the meaning of both for us today.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Singing Praises to God

  2. devotional

    From Praise to Praise

  3. article

    Created to Praise

Singing Praises to God

As soon as the Egyptians are destroyed, Moses immediately leads the people in the song of praise. He doesn’t waste any time, but turns his eyes toward heaven and lifts his voice in praise. When we have received special mercy from God, we ought to be quick in our returns of praise to Him before time and the deceitfulness of our own hearts efface the good impressions that have been made.

The song itself was a holy song, consecrated to the honor of God, and intended to exalt His name and celebrate His praise. It was not designed to magnify any man, but to focus on the Lord. Moses intended to give glory to God and to delight in Him as his Savior and King. It was God alone who saved them from their enemies, and so God, and no other, received the praise. Moses did not sing about his own actions or the actions and thoughts of the people, but of the activity of God in displaying His awesome power in their deliverance. Moses spoke of God, not in the abstract, but as a personal God, the God of their fathers. He is a covenant-keeping God, and for this Moses exalted Him.

The Hebrews sang passionately of God’s power, His sovereignty over the nations, and His incomparable perfection: “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?” This is pure praise, and a high expression of humble adoration, for the people recognized that even the greatest ruler is nothing compared to Jehovah. God is to be worshiped and adored as a being of such infinite perfection that there is none like Him, nor any to be compared with Him.

In his song, Moses also recounted the work of the Lord in Israel’s deliverance. When we praise God, we should always bring to mind the many mercies God has shown us, the many ways that He has triumphed over our enemies, and the many times He has given us the grace to overcome our sin. Our praises should not be left in the realm of generalities, but should be personal and particular.

As we consider this glorious and ancient song set before us, let us remember to go and do likewise. Let us put the Lord, not our subjective feelings, our experiences, or our insights, at the center of our praises. Let us praise Him for who He is, for His incomparable majesty and power: “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”

From Praise to Praise

Theology should begin in praise and lead to praise. This is how our worship services should be structured, and it is the structure of history itself. Consider that Adam was created on the sixth day, so that his first full day was the Sabbath—the day of praise and worship. While Adam rebelled and did not begin his life in praise, the principle still stands: the first day of the week is also the last day, so that we begin and end each week in praise.

Praise and thanksgiving should permeate our lives—though sadly they all too often don't. The apostle Paul breaks into doxology (praise) from time to time in his writings, showing that his theological meditations led him to worship. Paul did not study the Bible so that he could know more than everyone else; he studied so that he could praise the Lord better. His theologizing led to worship.

Here in Romans 11:33–36, Paul launches into doxology. This paragraph is the climax of the first eleven chapters of Romans, which lay out the theology of the book. Starting in chapter 12, Paul makes applications based on his teachings. His outburst of praise is thus not only the fitting conclusion to his discussion of God's truth but also the first application of that truth. Our first response to God is to shout an "amen" of thanks and praise to Him.

Coming in contact with God's thoughts and God's plan, Paul is amazed at the vastness of God's knowledge and wisdom, and bows his mind before that of the Creator. "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?" (verse 34).

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (verse 36). Behind all the machinations of human history that Paul has been discussing stands the sovereign predestinating God. "From Him": He is the creator of everyone and of all things. "Through Him": All things exist by His activity and through His power. "To Him": Not only that, but all things exist for Him, for His glory. Human history takes its rise from God's great plan, exists only by means of God's plan, and ultimately is for the purpose of glorifying God and leading all creation back to Him.

Created to Praise

Andrew Peterson

My little sister used to whisper to herself. On family road trips, in the olden days when kids wore no seatbelts, I lounged on the dash of the rear window and listened to my parents' conversation in the front seat, audible mainly as the soothing susurrus (whisper) of my mother's soft replies. It often lulled me to sleep, especially when I couldn't quite make out what they were saying. But sometimes I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, my little sister Sharon staring out the window and mouthing the last thing anyone said. "We'll be there in ten minutes," my dad would tell us, and then my sister would repeat in a tiny whisper, "Ten minutes, ten minutes, we'll be there in ten minutes." Even as a six-year-old boy, I was aware of the way the words sounded as she murmured, fascinated by the way she seemed to savor them. Soon I tried it myself, enjoying the way they felt as they floated out of my mouth like bubbles, full of meaning and mystery. (Mystery, mystery, meaning and mystery.) All the while, my mom's gentle voice rose and fell like the hiss of ocean waves in the front seat of the Dodge Colt.

Words were everywhere. Books lined the halls of my youth. Commentaries on Romans, Ephesians, the Gospels on one shelf, and on the shelf below were classics by Twain, Poe, Dumas, Dickens. We memorized the books of the Bible, and I remember the relief I felt whenever I blurted the rhythmic finale of the Old Testament: "Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi." At church camp, I helped other kids memorize the books, verses, and weird pronunciations. If the leaders needed someone to read aloud, my hand shot up, so eager was I to demonstrate my mastery of "Melchizedek" and "Methuselah." And every preacher's kid knows that of all the Sermon Survival Resources at one's disposal, along with "Doodling on the Bulletin" and "The Mid-Sermon Bathroom Break," the most unobtrusive and accessible may be "Hymnal Browsing." Oh, the archaic language of the hymns. The orderly rhyme schemes, the unsung third verses, the odd truncated words (such as heav'n and e'en), all available in a maroon hardback hymnal while my dad preached every Sunday morning and e'en.

Back to my sister. Somewhere along the way, I developed (and may have perfected) the skill commonly referred to as "teasing," or, more accurately, "being a huge jerk." At first it was just older brother mischief, but it soon turned into something sinister. I employed words like "stupid" and "moron." Of course, I got in trouble. I claimed that I was only kidding, no harm done, though I secretly understood that the words caused her pain. And it was the pain that got my attention. Words, I realized, have power. They can bludgeon just as surely as they can bless. I have since apologized to my sister—using words.

This all brings me to another memory that crystallized things even as they deepened the intrigue. At church camp I had to memorize John 1:1. For some reason, that verse and the rest of John's opening passage has always fascinated me. It has haunted and delighted me, like a secret place in the woods that I keep coming back to visit without knowing why:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I didn't know what it meant, but I liked it. These words about the Word, obvious in their loveliness and yet pulsing with deeper meaning, have orbited in my heart since I was a boy. Who was this John, I wondered, and who was this Word? John, of course, knew Jesus personally. Can you imagine writing something like that about someone you've eaten dinner with? Either John was off his rocker or Jesus was God. I whispered those words as I lay under my Star Wars sheets staring at the glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling: "The Word was God. In him was life. . .in him was life. . .life. God. Word. Life."

Somewhere along the way, I gave my heart to that Word that had made His presence known all along the road in a quiet, constant murmur, like my mother's soothing whispers. He wrote me into His hymnal. When I was nineteen, I asked my dad if I could sing a song in church. No, I assured him, it was not a Van Halen song. It was about the gospel. I wept my way through every verse. I had for so long understood the power of words but had denied their true purpose, which was to build the kingdom, to draw attention to the Word that was God, to declare His love, all for His glory. Twenty years later I can close my eyes and feel His pleasure as I sang at last of His great grace and power. I was cut to the quick that my words had been so wicked for so long. This same tongue that had uttered such cruel darkness was at last, in weary and joyful submission, saying, "Let there be light." And do you know what? There was light. Hallelujah.

Go ahead, repeat it to yourself a few times.

Since the beginning,

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