Luke 1:39-56 Extending Mercy

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Extending Mercy

God extends mercy, but our world is losing its need for mercy.  Of course, I don’t mean this in real terms, but in perception.  We define children as good.  I heard over the weekend a number of parents complaining about their children, but then saying that they are a ‘good kid’.  Why do they use the term good? Are they thinking that the child is justified and made right with God through the blood of Jesus?  I think that isn’t the case.  We are assuming that we are born with a predisposition to good.  The way we are born is just fine.  Lady Gaga makes the argument this way:

It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

Verse:
My mama told me when I was young,
We are all born superstars.
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir.
“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “’cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

Chorus:
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

Post-chorus:
Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
(Born this way)
Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Right track baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be!

Verse:
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
L’amour a besoin la foi

Repeat chorus + post-chorus

Bridge:
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

Repeat chorus + post-chorus

Outro/refrain:
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

Gaga sings against the church like she is some kind of rebel, but of course she represents the mainstream.  She assumes that the way you are born is the way that you should remain, which does not allow for moral growth or change if it was literally true.  I have many desires that I was born with that I have grown out of.  I have natural desires which would be worked out in polygamy (most men do), but I keep them in check and am shaped by God’s plan of monogamy.  Just because I start life with something, that doesn’t make it right or wrong.  However, our stance in society is not one of just self-acceptance, but a lack of a need for change.  We work toward accepting ourselves with our flaws, we do not accept ourselves and deny our flaws.  As God extends mercy to us and saves us from the effects of our flawed nature, he then lavishes gifts on us, which are grace upon grace.

Our society is losing the beauty of grace and replacing it with entitlement for exactly the same reasons as I mention above.  If I am perfection when I am born, I am entitled to only good things.  All bad things that happen to me are an injustice.  Evil things happen and so there can not be a good God.  A good God would not let bad things happen to good people.  However, I am flawed at birth and I live in a flawed world.  I receive good things because of God’s grace.  That is why Mary sings.  Even though she is righteous by the standards of the world, she knows she does not deserve anything good.  With this stance of submissive humility, God lavishes on her the greatest gift a woman could receive.  She becomes the vessel God uses to enter our human world.

Unfortunately Gaga and the majority of America do not understand the relationship between their entitlement and the withdrawal of God’s grace and mercy.  Of course, there have always been evils in society and today many of those are exposed and make the past look less than ideal.  However, extrapolate a decline in gratitude for God’s grace and mercy into the future and how can America expect God to bless them.  How can an entitled generation serve others well in the military?  How can those without a sense of depravity, grace and mercy serve in the police and justice system?  If all moral standards are relative the very fabric of reality does not enable society to function in anything other than an anarchy.  The lives of the Sex Pistols might serve as a warning.

Prayer

I am grateful for the mercy you have shown Israel in the pages of the Bible.  It shows me that there may still be hope from the entitled and depraved western world.  I am no-one of significance, and yet I feel I need to speak.  I am a bold in you, but my flesh has a tendency to fear.  May you give me confidence to sing a song like Mary.  May you let me speak words of truth and proclaim your mercy.

Questions

  1. Where did Mary go?
  2. What does the relationship between the women in this passage foreshadow?
  3. How would you summarize Mary’s song?
  4. How does God teach you from this passage?
  5. How could the world today authentically improve its awareness of God’s mercy?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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