Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Do you want to really worship? According to Nancy Leigh DeMoss, here's where to start.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Surrender precedes worship and gladness. You can't go into the presence of God to worship, truly worship, if your heart is not surrendered and clean.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, December 19, 2014.

The Christmas season is a great time to worship. In fact, worship accompanied the first Christmas even though the people there were involved in some challenging circumstances. We'll study that, continuing in the series "Songs of the First Christmas." 

Nancy: If you've been around me for any length of time, you know that Elizabeth and Mary are two of my very favorite Bible characters; two women who teach us so much about the heart and the ways of God.

We actually did a whole series on Revive Our Hearts on Elizabeth and a whole series on Mary [Mary will be re-airing starting Monday, Dec. 22], but in this series we're just looking at their songs in Luke chapter 1, two of the songs of the first Christmas.

Now we come to Mary's song. Mary, a teenage girl, unmarried, engaged to be married, but pregnant with the child that the Holy Spirit has placed within her, the Lord Jesus.

We find her in a situation of life where we glamorize how wonderful it was to be the mother of the Messiah. I'm sure she felt that, and it comes out in her song. But if she'd been like many of us, she could have found a dozen reasons to be unhappy or to groan or murmur or pout or protest.

I like what G. Campbell Morgan, who was a great Bible expositor in the last century, had to say in his commentary on Luke. He says,

However dark the outlook, however much the sword was piercing her soul, however much she was entering into fellowship with God as she bore misunderstanding, reproach, and suspicionthe mighty, mighty Secret [capital S] was there [speaking of Jesus]; and Mary could do none other than celebrate God, praise God that He had acted from generation to generation, and for all that He was now doing for coming generations.1

It all goes back to where your focus is, doesn't it? What are you concentrating on? What are you looking at?

So we come to Mary's song in Luke chapter 1, one of the most beautiful passages in all of God's Word. This song is similar to two Old Testament songs that were sung by women or led by women. The one was Miriam in the Book of Exodus. After the Children of Israel went through the Red Sea, she led the women in a song. There are some similarities to Mary's song.

Then you remember Hannah. After the birth of her son Samuel, she prayed a prayer, sang a song, or what we have come to call a song, in First Samuel. There are many similarities between her prayer and Mary's psalm or song here in Luke chapter 1.

Now, keep in mind that Mary was from a poor background. She was a young girl, and she was probably illiterate. She had never learned to read; and yet it's amazing to me, in that light, that her song in Luke 1 has at least fifteen Old Testament quotes or allusions.

Here’s a woman who was familiar with the Word of God. Of course, she didn’t have copies of the Scripture as we have in every color and size and shape and translation. She had been exposed to the Word of God and had internalized it in her heart, and it came out in her song of praise. She praises God in this song. Eight times she tells us what God has done. Her mind and her heart are so saturated with Scripture that when she speaks, what comes out is the Word of God.

In verses 46 and 47 of Luke 1, we have the theme of her song. It could be said simply, “Magnify the Lord. Magnify the Lord.” In verse 46,

Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
  And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

This song has been called Mary's Magnificat because that's the first word in the Latin translation of this song. He is her magnificent obsession. He is the basis, the cause, the impetus of her praise. I think of Psalm 34, verse 3,

Oh, magnify the Lord with me.
  And let us exalt His name together.

That should be our message when we're with other believers. Magnify the Lord with me. Praise the Lord with me. What is there to thank God about in this set of circumstances? Let us exalt His name together. Mary's joy flowed out of her surrender. For earlier in this passage in verse 38 when the angel had come and told her she was to have this child, she had said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be unto me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

"Yes Lord, I give myself up for Your purposes, to be Your instrument, to be used in whatever way You want. Here's my body, have me. I'll bear whatever I have to bear as a part of that, so that You can fulfill Your will and Your purposes on this earth."

Out of surrender flows this joy.

My soul magnifies the Lord.
  And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
  (vv. 46–47).

Surrender always ultimately pours forth in joy.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 29, we read about the revival in Hezekiah's day. They cleansed the temple. There was surrender; there was cleansing; there was purifying. Then the Scripture says in verse 27,

And when the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord began also . . . and they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.

Cleansing, repentance, surrender, brokenness, humility; what comes out of those things? Gladness, joy, and worship. Surrender, worship, and gladness are inseparable. Surrender precedes worship and gladness.

You can't go into the presence of God to worship, truly worship, if your heart is not surrendered and clean. As we offer ourselves up to God for His purposes, then the real song will begin.

So Mary says, “I surrender to the Lord. I worship Him.” And gladness is the result of that.

Now Mary's song in Luke 1 has two major movements, two major parts. First, verses 48 and 49 where she praises God for what He has done for her, His saving work in her life. This is her personal testimony. This is the basis for her joy and her praise.

He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For he who is mighty has done great things for me,
  And holy is his name.

Let me say that if you can't praise the Lord, if you don't have joy in your heart, it may be because you don't have a personal testimony. She said, “My spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior. He's my Savior. That gives me a basis, a cause for true joy.”

So she praises God in verses 48 and 49 for looking on her, for doing great things for her, for what He has done for her. That's her personal testimony. Then in verses 50–55, and we're going to look at this in a little more detail. She praises God for what He has done for others, for His saving work, not just in her life but His saving redemptive work in the world. In that paragraph she highlights God’s character, His redemptive purposes, and His plan.

Let me just say it again, and I know I must sound like a broken record, but it's so obvious in this passage that the redemptive acts of God should bring forth joy and praise and singing in the lives of God's people.

I'm not saying that there aren't hurtful things in lifethere are. There is pain, there is hardship, there is heartache. This is still a fallen world, and the redemption of this world is not complete yet. So we don't have the unhindered joy that we will one day have when we are in His presence away from this cursed world, when all things have been made new, but the process is in place. It's taking place.

If you're a child of God, if you've been redeemed by Him, you can lift your eyes upward from your circumstances to look beyond yourself and to see the God of history is the God of now. He’s the God of tomorrow, and He is the God of every circumstance. He is always about redeeming His people, and you, too, can rejoice in God, your Savior, even if your eyes are still filled with tears.

In this passage God is dealing with two lowly, humble women. These women were not the go-getters. They weren't the wealthy women. They weren’t impressive in the world’s eyes, but they had experienced the reality of God's presence. They had experienced God speaking to them. They had believed the promises of God, and, as a result, they had a testimony. “I will tell you what God has done for my soul,” Mary says.

Are you telling what God has done for your soul? Are you telling others, or are you more focused on your problems, your pressures, and your burdens? Do you have a testimony? Can you say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior?”

“He's done great things for me,” Mary says. "The Lord has done great things for me." There's nothing about us that's worthy of getting attention from such a mighty God.

She says, “I'm not worthy of this. I don't deserve it. But I'm thankful for it. I rejoice in it. I receive it.” Here's a God-centered focus, who God is, what God has done instead of saying, “How am I going to handle this pregnancy?”

Mary could have had fifteen questions about what was ahead. She was young. Just think, in her humanness, which she was very, very human, how she could have been fearful, apprehensive about the future.

Here's a young girl, and her whole world's just been turned upside down. But when she speaks to Elizabeth and when she speaks to us, she's not raising all those what if's. "What's going to happen to me? How am I going to handle this? How will I tell my parents? How?" There's none of that.

Now I'm not saying that none of that happened, but here's the record that is left for us. It's all about Him. It's not about me. It's not about Mary. And it's not about you. It's all about Christ.

Verse 49: “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary exalts God for being holy. He is holy. And that's why redemption is all the more astounding, that a holy God would have mercy on fallen sinners. That He would find a way to restore us from our sinfulness and our fallenness in light of His holiness, it’s amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

“Holy is his name,” that's the starting place, that's the foundational attribute of God. God is holy, holy, holy, and Mary recognizes that.

Then in verse 50 of Luke 1, she recognizes that not only is He holy, but He is merciful and mighty. God is holy, merciful, and mighty.

Verse 50: “His mercy is on those who fear him.”

Now that word mercy, you've heard me talk about before. When it's used in the Old Testament it's the Hebrew word, hesed. There's no single English word that adequately translates that Hebrew word. And now in the Greek, we have the word that's translated “mercy.” It's a word that speaks of the covenant-keeping love of God, His faithful mercy and kindness toward those who don't deserve it. She said, “His mercy is for those who fear Him.”

Now, if God was just holy and not merciful, we would be dead. So she says, “Holy is his name,” but then she moves quickly onto praise Him, that "His mercy is for those who [reverence] him," those who fear Him (v. 50).

And then she says:

And His mercy is on those who fear him
  From generation to generation.

This speaks to me of the unchanging character of God. The word that theologians use is that He is immutable. He is always the same from generation to generation. This is something that really encourages me about the character of God. As God has been faithful to those in previous generations, so He will be faithful to us.

I've been reading an autobiography of George Mueller. I like to go back and read the lives of these great men and women of faith, prayer, and holiness from past generations. Because as I'm reading about George Mueller who started all those orphanages in England, time and time again, this is right out of his journals. It’s almost tedious because he said it so often, but he would say, “We had nothing to eat. We had no money to buy food, so we prayed, and God provided.”

The next day, “We had nothing to eat. We had no money to buy food. We prayed, and God provided.”

The next day, “We had nothing to eat. We had no money to buy food. We prayed, and God provided.”

I mean, just over 700 pages worth of this kind of journaling. (Laughter) I'm at about page 250. I don't know if I'll ever finish the book. But I need that message because, as I see how God was faithful to George Mueller, I'm reminded in the ministry of Revive Our Hearts when we say, “Lord, where's the funding coming from? How is all this going to be provided for?”

Then I think of George Mueller. There was no money. There was no food. They prayed, and God provided. I'm moved to remember that God has not changed. God is faithful. He will provide for my needs. He will provide for the needs of Revive Our Hearts. He will provide for your needs and your family, and not just financial. That's kind of the least of it, isn't it?

There are so many areas where we need God's provision. He provided for past generations. That emboldens me to pray and ask Him and believe Him to provide for me in my generation. And, by the way, as God has been faithful to you, so He will be to your children and to the next generation.

Now, your children have choices to make about how they respond to God’s faithfulness, but you can trust that the God who has revealed Himself to you, through heartache, through disappointment, through trials, through the good times as well, through His Word, through His Holy Spirit, by His grace, that same God will be faithful to reveal Himself to the next generation.

“From generation to generation,” He gives mercy; He is unchanging.

And then we see in verse 51, that our God is all-powerful.

“He has shown strength with His arm.”

Mary is saying there that is nothing too difficult for God, nothing too hard for Him.

And then He is sovereign:

He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
  He has brought down the mighty from their thrones 
  And exalted those of humble estate (vv. 51–52).

When it looks like evil is triumphing, remember that God gets the final word. Remember that God is sovereign over the wicked and over the righteous, and the day will come when God will right all wrongs. He will bring down those who are proud, and He will lift up those who are humble.

We're just a little tiny remnant of people who believe God, who are believing Him for revival, who are committed to a lifestyle of surrender and holiness. That's not even a popular message in the church today, much less the world.

Sometimes you feel like you're just always a salmon swimming upstream. It's hard to always be politically incorrect, to be saying things that run so against the current of our culture.

That's when I go back to that passage in Psalm 37 that says:

In just a little while, the wicked shall be no more;
  Though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
  And delight themselves in abundant peace.

Wait for the Lord, and keep his way,
  And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
  You will look on when the wicked are cut off
  (vv. 9–11, 34).

You see, if you just hang on, if you just wait . . . Wait on the Lord. “Don’t fret,” the psalmist says. Wait on the Lord, and in just a little while . . . You say, “It seems like a long time.” But in the light of eternity, it is just a little while. God will exalt the humble; He will bring down the proud.

That's why 1 Peter says:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God (5:5–6).

Humble yourself in that marriage; humble yourself as a wife, as a mom, as a woman of God. Take the pathway of humility, even when it looks like it makes you the loser.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, he may exalt you" (v. 6).

Mary sees the ways of God: that He is sovereign, that He is the one who brings down the proud ultimately, and He is the one who lifts the humble.

Then in verse 53 Mary praises God for being compassionate and just.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
  And the rich he has sent empty away.

I'm reminded of the words of Jesus that "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled" (Matt. 5:6).

Those who have an insatiable, spiritual appetite and hunger for God, God will satisfy them with Himself, with His presence, with the pleasures to be found at His right hand. But the rich . . . I don't think it's just talking about financially rich here because there's nothing wrong with being financially rich, materially rich, materially prosperous.

It's talking, I think, about those who think they have no need, those who are full of their own righteousness, self-sufficient, full of themselves. They are sent away empty without Christ because you'll never receive and treasure Christ if you don't see yourself as having a need.

That's why it's a good thing to be poor in spirit, to recognize that you do have spiritual need because that's the one whom God promises to fill. He's compassionate and just.

And then verses 54 and 55, He is faithful.

He has helped his servant Israel,
  In remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers,
  To Abraham and to his offspring forever.

What is Mary saying? God remembers His people, and God remembers His promises, and God keeps His promises. God keeps His covenant. God is a covenant-keeping God. What God has spoken, He will perform.

By the way, Elizabeth's husband, (Mary and Elizabeth were the ones having this conversation) Elizabeth's husband, whose name was Zechariah, that name means: “God has remembered.”

And here they were in Zechariah's home and Mary is saying, "God has remembered to be kind, to show mercy to His people. He promised Abraham that He would send a redeemer, that He would send a Savior, and God has kept His promise.”

Mary was taking to the bank promises that God had made two thousand years earlier. Generations of believers, Old Testament believers, had come, were born, lived, and died without ever seeing the fulfillment of those promises, but they had believed God. They had died in faith.

God keeps His Word. God fulfills His promises, and now here was Mary experiencing the fulfillment of promises that God had made two thousand years earlier to Abraham.

Today we cling to promises that God made two thousand years ago. We have them in this Book. His promise to be faithful is given to you and to me.

As He spoke to Abraham and fulfilled His promise in the birth of Christ, so He will continue to be faithful toward Abraham's offspring of faith forever, not just two thousand years past, but should the Lord tarry, for the next two thousand years. It's just a day in God's economy.

He will be faithful. That's why we need to remind each other often of God's promises and His faithfulness. We need to tell others what God has done for us and remind each other that:

  • He is holy.
  • He is merciful.
  • He is unchanging.
  • He is all-powerful.
  • He is sovereign.
  • He is compassionate.
  • He is just.
  • He is always, always, always faithful.

So as we celebrate the incarnation, the coming of Christ to this earth, the birth of the baby in Bethlehem, the Son of God being born into the world, we’re celebrating the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God, a saving God, a merciful God. Who is a merciful God like Him?

As we focus on who He is and what He has done, we join Mary and we say: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Leslie Basham: I hope that you can slow down from the busy holiday pace and spend some time rejoicing in our Savior.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how Mary of Nazareth chose to have joy, even in the middle of a very trying time.

A listener named Cheryl knows what it is to go through tough times. And she also knows what it means to stand on the rock of God’s Truth. Here’s Cheryl.

Cheryl: Revive Our Hearts has changed my life. The last nine years I've been going through some really big trials. One that started nine years ago that put me in a depression that was so hard that I really didn't function at all.

Jump start to now, nine years later, I still have that same trial. It's harder than it was was nine years ago. On top of that, I have two more trials that are just as difficult. This past year God has healed me of that depression. I am totally free. I've learned how to have true joy in the middle of these trials, and it just makes me want to shout to everyone and share my story.

A lot of this teaching has come from Revive Our Hearts. It is just overflowing. It's like I can't quit talking about it.

Leslie: Nancy, I’m so encouraged to hear how the Lord is helping Cheryl thrive in Christ.

Nancy: Me, too, Leslie. Life has a way of battering all of us. We need that daily reminder of truth that we can count on from God's Word. If you appreciate the teaching you hear on Revive Our Hearts, if it is helping you thrive in Christ, you can help this ministry continue.

As we've been sharing with you over the past few weeks, financial support for this ministry has been down over the past several months. We need the support of friends like you in order to continue this program. We're asking the Lord to make up this deficit here in the month of December.

To help meet this significant need, some friends of the ministry are doubling the gift of each listener, up to $650,000. In order to avoid some difficult, painful cuts to our outreaches, we need to not only meet this challenge, but far exceed it.

If you see God at work in this ministry and you love what He is doing through the truth of His word, to change lives, would you ask Him how He would have you to be a part in helping to meet these needs?

Then give us a call and let us know that you'd like to make a donation. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today we heard the song of Mary. She's one of my great heroines of the faith. We'll take a look at how she surrendered her life to the Lord tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 G. Campbell Morgan. The God Who Cares, p. 29.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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