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Psalm 40:1-5 1
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. 4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

clip_image089Background

In this Psalm a celebration of God’s deliverance is followed by a profession of devotion to His service. It is followed by a prayer for relief from imminent dangers, the overthrow of enemies and the rejoicing of sympathizing friends. The Psalm describes David’s feelings in suffering and joy. Paul quotes this Psalm several times in his writings.

Biblical Truths

Just think of all the tight spots that David had faced in his life. He had battled wild animals when tending sheep as a young boy. He had fought and killed Goliath, the giant of the Philistines, with a slingshot and a river stone. King Saul had tried to kill him, and repeatedly David escaped Saul’s armies. He had led the armies of Israel against larger foes and won. But as David cries out to God in this Psalm, he’s stuck in the filthy mud, unable to free himself, and with no way to get out. There is nothing dramatic, nothing with sharp teeth or sharpened metal, just sticky, plentiful, deep mud.

We don’t know what it was that David metaphorically calls a “slimy pit,” but there are several possibilities that all work well. Most scholars believe his sins had caught up with him, possibly still concerning his ill-gotten wife Bathsheba. Other scholars believe that David was at the end of his rope in frustrations and disappointments — in a phrase, he was “burned out.” Still others read the phrase and speculate about depression. It doesn’t matter, because David wrote this psalm about anything in our life that brings us down, holds us back, and takes away our hope.

Look what God does! When we give up fighting the mud ourselves, and give the problem over to God, God kneels down beside us to help us out. From slippery, sticky, bottomless swamps, God brushes us off and sets us back on solid ground. God doesn’t just fix the problem; God makes us better than new with a new song on our lips, so that we can praise God with enthusiasm for our rescue. And the blessings! David tells us that they multiply, blossom, and defy our ability to count them, when we open ourselves up in obedience and humility to God.

Items for Discussion

  • We are all in some sort of “slimy pits” from time to time, and we so often find a way to slosh our way back to more solid ground and continue trudging on. What are the slimy pits of life that people face today?
  • What are the “slimy pits” that children face?
  • How do people slosh their way back to solid ground without God in their life?
  • What is the role of the Church in this “sloshing” process?
  • Can people be fully restored without God in their life?

 

Luke 1:39-56
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 what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” 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, even as he said to our fathers.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Background 2

When one thinks of the women of the ancient world, our first emotional response is usually pity. This would even be true in the Jewish world of those days when our Lord added humanity to His deity and manifested Himself to men. There was so much that women could not do, or at least were not allowed to do. We might suspect that the limitations of biblical revelation, compounded by those of the culture, would have made womanhood a curse. The men assumed the leadership roles, especially in spiritual matters. The women seemed only fit for fixing meals and bearing children. Perhaps a few women, “blessed” by financial prosperity and social standing, may have been able to enjoy some of the benefits of the male world.

While there is some truth in the rather dismal picture which is portrayed above, it is not utterly so. You need only read the final chapter of the book of Proverbs to see that women, at least biblically, were given great privileges and responsibilities. The degree to which women were degraded was that to which their husbands and their culture accepted and was not based on any Biblical principles.

Luke is well-known for his high regard for women and for the prominence which he gives them in this account. We find the first instance of his highlighting of women in this text in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, where the spotlight is directed toward two godly women. The two women are Elizabeth, the soon-to-be mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother-to-be of Messiah, were truly great and godly women. Both were humble women of no social or economic standing. Elizabeth was the wife of an obscure priest. Both she and Zacharias were country people, who lived in an unnamed village in the hill country of Judah. They bore the added social stigma of having no children. No doubt in the minds of some they were being punished by God for some sin. Mary, too, was a humble peasant girl. She did not have any social standing due to her parentage or class, or even the dignity of Elizabeth and Zacharias’ age. Yet the worship of both of these women is such that they are models for all true disciples of our Lord.

Biblical Truths

There are those who have distorted the truth of God’s word about Mary, and rather than regarding her blessed above all women, have honored her as above mankind, worshipping her and praying to her as though she were on the level of deity, or even above Messiah. This is clearly seen to be contrary to the teaching of our text. We are, however, called to see this woman as a model disciple. Let us consider some of the ways in which Mary provides us with a model of discipleship. The title commonly given to this Latin text (Luke 1:46-55) has been called the Song of Mary (also the “Magnificat”).

  1. Mary is a model disciple in her faith in the word of God, and in her submission to the will of God. Mary is not a model for disciples in being the mother of Messiah. It is true that Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord (1:42), and that future generations will bless her as such also (1:48). While this is true, this must be kept in its proper perspective. Our Lord was careful to show that being obedient to God’s will and His word were more important than being humanly related to Him (Mark 3:31-35; cf. Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 8:19-21; Luke 11:27-28; Luke 1:45).
  2. Mary is a model disciple in the depth of her familiarity with the word of God. One cannot read the “Magnificat” of Mary without realizing that she has drawn deeply from the terminology and the theology of the Old Testament. Not only does she think biblically, she also expresses herself in biblical terms.
  3. Mary is a model disciple in her grasp of the grace of God, and in her gratitude toward God for bestowing grace on her. If there is any one concept which captures the spirit and the essence of God’s dealings with men it is the concept of grace. Mary’s “Magnificat” reveals the depth of her grasp of God’s grace, which is not only shown to her, but to all the people of God, and from generation to generation.
  4. Mary is a model disciple in grasp of the social implications of the gospel. Peter momentarily forgot that the gospel is inseparably linked with certain social obligations, and thus Paul had to rebuke him (cf. Gal. 2:11-21). Mary understood that the good news of Messiah’s coming would result in great social reversals. In His ministry the Lord Jesus would expand on he social themes of Mary’s “Magnificat” (Luke 6:20-21a; 24-25; cf. James 2:1-13).
  5. Mary is a model disciple in her grasp of the purposes and promises of God. Mary’s “Magnificat” focuses on much more than just her own blessing in the bearing of Messiah. Indeed, she does not focus on the child, per se, but on the results of the coming of Messiah. We know now that this includes both His first and His second comings. Mary has a great breadth of understanding. She looks backward, to the covenants which God has made with Abraham and with His people in the Old Testament. She looks forward to the ultimate righteousness which will be established when Messiah reigns on the throne of David. Mary has a good sense of history and a broad grasp of God’s purposes and promises.
  6. Mary is a model disciple in her evident reflection and meditation on the things of God. All that we see in these few phrases of praise points to the fact that Mary meditated on the word and on the works of God.
  7. Mary is a model disciple in that her praise was not only a personal expression of worship, but also was edifying to Elizabeth. We are led to the conclusion that Mary’s praise was spoken in the hearing of Elizabeth, just as Elizabeth’s praise was spoken to God, but for Mary’s benefit. In both cases, the praise of God spoken before others was done in such a way as to edify and encourage those who heard.

Items for Discussion

  • Mary is no doubt the number two person in the New Testament. Why do you think God chose to tell us about Christ’s mother in such detail instead of Christ’s father?
  • What is your favorite Bible story about Jesus and Mary?
  • How does understanding who Christ’s mother is and what she believed in help us understand who Christ is?
  • What characteristic within Christ would we loose sight of if we did not know His mother?
  • How is your faith walk made stronger by knowing Christ’s mother?

Discussion Challenge

  • Mary’s life may exemplify the relationship between faith and patience. How should our church keep Mary’s character alive without placing undue focus on Mary herself?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. “The Worship of Two Women” (Luke 1:39-56), By: Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M., www.bible.org
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