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The Magnificat, Part 2

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

    The Lord's Song over His People

  3. article

    I Will Sing an Old Song

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.”

The Lord's Song over His People

From David’s organization of the Levitical musicians (1 Chron. 25) to the book of Psalms to the song of the redeemed in Revelation 19:1–5, Scripture has much to say about the music of the covenant and its importance in worship. What we might often forget, however, is that the Lord Himself participates in this music. This is one of the points of today’s passage.

The prophet Zephaniah spent much of his ministry speaking about the day of the Lord, a day on which unfaithful Judah and the enemies of God’s people would suffer His wrath (1:1–3:8). Much of this prophecy was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem and exile of Judah in 586 BC, although there remains a final day of the Lord in which all people will receive final judgment (Rev. 20:11–15). Nevertheless, Zephaniah’s prophecy is not only about judgment, for he concludes his book by looking at the future salvation of men and women from the Gentile nations and from Israel (3:9–20).

Remarkably, while the redeemed most certainly rejoice in their liberation from sin and evil, Zephaniah tells us that the very God of the universe also sings with joy at the moment of His people’s salvation. The same Hebrew word for rejoicing is found both in 3:14 and 17; the former describes the joy of the people and the latter describes the joy of the Lord. God Himself will sing and make music as He brings His children into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.

Such joy points to the deep affection our Father feels for His children, not on account of our worthiness but because of the simple fact that God has chosen to set His love on us (Deut. 7:6–8). It is in our Lord’s nature to love His children; this is who He is. O. Palmer Robertson comments, “Delight, joy, and singing on God’s part underscore the mutuality of emotional experience felt by God and the redeemed” (The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, p. 339).

God is described in Zephaniah 3:17 as the “mighty one,” language that echoes the description of the son of David in Isaiah (Isa. 9:1–7). Here, it is hinted that the creator God and covenant Lord would enter into humanity, through David’s lineage, in order to accomplish redemption. This has been done in Christ Jesus, who sings over us and leads us in singing songs of praise to our Father in heaven.

I Will Sing an Old Song

R.C. Sproul Jr.

Trouble comes to the people of God. If it is not here now, it will be here soon. Those who promise that the Christian life is a breezy walk through the meadow not only have not taken up their cross and followed Him, but, I fear, He may not have taken up His cross for them. Our walk, according to His Word, will be fraught with peril, our days filled with troubles. His yoke is indeed easy, and His burden light. But we follow Him on the via dolorosa. Praise God that He has not left us wandering in the dark. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. He has told us troubles will come, and He has told us how we ought to respond.

Take, for instance, the life of David. He was the original renaissance man, a man of deep and varied talents. Were we to look at his life with rose-colored glasses, we might think he moved from victory to victory. We might remember the killing of the bear and the lion, the service to King Saul, the astonishing victory over Goliath of Gath. We might recall the cries of his countrymen who sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). He was made king over all Israel, expanded her borders, and established his throne in Jerusalem. He was the father to the wisest man, short of Jesus, ever to walk on the planet, a son whose rule is the very picture of the pinnacle of blessing. He was, and this surpasses all of the above, a man after God’s own heart.

Such an account of the life of David shows some glaring holes. First, there he was tending the flock, and a bear came after them, and at another time a lion. The king that he served was at best a mad man, given to fits of rage. Facing Goliath was no picnic, nor could it have been easy to go so often into battle throughout his life. Saul killed his thousands, but his special target was David, leading him to flee for his life and live in exile in Egypt. His own son toppled him from his throne, and in the end, his hands were too bloody to allow him to build the temple of the Lord. David’s highs and lows were as varied as his talents.

David’s greatest influence over the ages, however, is found in none of the above. He was a great warrior. He was, for the most part, a model king. He was an outstanding shepherd. But it is his lyrics that still shape the world. The truth of the matter is not only that the Christian’s life is much like David’s, with both breathtaking highs and soul-numbing lows, but that the life of the church is the same. The church of Jesus Christ has had, over the millennia, moments of grand triumph and episodes of grave sin. Whether it be the conquering sword of Islam or the steady decay of the Roman empire; whether it be feuding barbarian hordes or feuding clerical factions, the church of the eighth century did not move from triumph to triumph. It did move, however, under the care of the great shepherd of the sheep. And she went on her way singing the wisdom of David (Ps. 20:1–4):

May the Lord answer you in
 the day of trouble!
May the name of the God
 of Jacob protect you! 
May he send you help
 from the sanctuary and
 give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your
 offerings, and regard with
 favor your burnt sacrifices!
May He grant you your heart’s
 desire, and fulfill all your plans.

This blessed hope, however, is no mere hope. He delivers in the day of trouble precisely because He is the author of the day of trouble. He sends the trouble and the deliverance for the same purpose, to strengthen us, to grant our hearts’ desire, to fulfill all our purpose, that we would be like the One whom He remembers, Jesus His Son.

In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that “we will rejoice in Your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.”

He calls us not to fear, not to worry, but to seek first the kingdom of God (Ps. 20:6): 

Now I know that the Lord
 saves His anointed; he will
 answer him from His holy
 heaven with the saving might
 of His right hand.

In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that we must look to the resurrection. The Lord has saved His anointed, and in Him, He saves us. So we will walk as the fools (Ps. 20:7–8): 

Some trust in chariots, and some
 in horses, but we trust in the
 name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
 but we rise and stand upright.

David’s wise son told us that there is nothing new under the sun. Troubles — like those in poverty — we will have with us always. But the son of David reigns on high. And He shall reign for ever and ever. Thus we cry out in times of need, “Save, Lord!”

May the King answer us when we call.  

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