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Mindful, Mighty, Merciful

Mindful, Mighty, Merciful

From Series: Songs for a Savior

In response to the news that she would give birth to the Messiah, Mary burst into a song of praise. Recorded in Luke’s gospel, her words reveal her devotion to God and her willingness to trust and obey Him. In this message on the “Magnificat,” Alistair Begg leads us through Mary’s praise of God’s intimate care for His people, His authority over Creation, and His overflowing mercy. Mary’s humble example provides a pattern for our own personal and corporate worship.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn to Luke 1—Luke 1:46, the song of Mary: “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Amen.

Let’s pray for God to help us: Gracious God, help us now we pray as we turn to the Bible that the Spirit of God will be our teacher and that in our obvious weakness we might discover your strength; that in our lostness, we might discover that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life; and that, in our rebellion, that we might find that it is crushed by your might and your mercy. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, one of the first signals that we have moved into the Christmas season—and of course, this is already very clear to us—is the fact that the music in public places changes. Nobody really announces it, just all of a sudden, you realize that you’re walking through the mall to the tune of “Jingle Bells” or some other deeply theological piece of work—“It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”—or as I was singing coming this morning, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Glasgow.” And if you wonder what it’d be like to live in Glasgow, imagine this now continuing for the next three months, and you realize why Cleveland is such a wonderful place to stay, and you don’t have to go away to Florida like many of you do.

But anyway, the change in the music gives us an indication of what’s going on. And so it’s not a particular surprise to discover that in the narrative here in Luke’s gospel, that Luke himself punctuates the story of the birth of Jesus with a series of songs. The first of these is the song of Mary, the Magnificat, as it’s referred to. The second is the song of Zachariah. The third is the song of the angels, and the fourth is the song of Simeon. So I’ve determined that what we’ll do between now and the final Sunday of the year—including our Christmas Eve service—is look at each of these songs in turn, in order that we might benefit from them, because they are here purposefully.

Our focus in the past in looking at the Magnificat—and incidentally, Magnificat is just the first word in the Vulgate, in the Latin translation of the New Testament; that’s what gives to us the word, the Magnificat, if you’ve come across it, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the opening phrase of it—when we’ve looked at that, in the last couple of occasions, we have focused, I think, a little bit on Mary herself and the place of Mary in the purposes of God.

This morning I want us actually to focus entirely on the one of whom Mary sings, namely, God himself. Now, the background to the song I must leave for you to fill in on your own. You can read around it when you go home this afternoon, and when you do, you will discover that, for example, from about 26 and following—that’s verse 26—the background to the song is a combination of the natural and the supernatural. It is the interweaving of things that are ordinary and things that are clearly extraordinary. So, for example, the news of the lady going to have a baby is ordinary news. The way in which this baby is going to be conceived, or has been conceived, is extraordinary news.

And so when you look at the text, you discover that Mary, in response to the arrival of the angel, is greatly troubled, verse 29. She’s fearful and she wonders. When she is given the explanation for the conception of this child—because after all, Mary is engaged or betrothed to Joseph; they’re not a twenty-first-century couple, engaging in the privileges of marriage outside the bonds of marriage—and so there is no indication that she would ever have that this would be true of her. How could she possibly have conceived a child when she’s had no physical relationship with the one who’s going to be her husband?

Well, the answer comes: “that which is conceived in you is by the Holy Spirit.” This is entirely supernatural. And then her response to that is entirely natural: How is this going to work out? And then the Holy Spirit, through the angel, speaks again, and then eventually in a spirit of submission in verse 38, she says, “I am the Lord’s servant, … May it be to me as you have said.”

And with that, the sort of supernatural extraordinary element of it concludes, and then a fairly routine and ordinary element begins. Namely, like any lady, she would say, “I need to go and find somebody to talk to about this.” And so, Luke tells us that Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea where she entered Zachariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. Elizabeth was her cousin, and what you would have taking place there is a kind of girl’s night in. And in contemporary terms, they would have watched a kind of chick movie and had popcorn and felt each other’s tummies and talked about it and said, “Boy, girl, the green, the yellow, the pink, whatever are you going to do about the crib?” and all that kind of stuff. This is routine.

You see, what you have here is what you would expect here. You have humanity, and you have deity. You have the supernatural intervention of God, and you have the natural responses of these girls to the privilege of childbirth.

You see, what you have here is what you would expect here. You have humanity, and you have deity. You have the supernatural intervention of God, and you have the natural responses of these girls to the privilege of childbirth. And as Mary reasons and as she responds, her lips declare her devotion, and she launches into song and she sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Or, if you like, she sings, “Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord.”[1]

What we have in this song is a song of overflowing thankfulness that emerges from the overflowing generosity of God himself.

You might say in light of our past two studies that what we have in this song is a song of overflowing thankfulness that emerges from the overflowing generosity of God himself. And as you consider the song at your leisure later in the day, you will realize along with me that she’s not singing about herself, which is jolly good. She’s singing about who God is and what God has done.

There’s a tremendous amount in this short song and our time is constrained, and so we’re going to look at the song with three words in mind. I’ll tell you what they are so you know where we’re going. The words are mindful, mighty, and merciful. God is mindful. God is mighty. God is merciful.

If your Bible is open before you, you should be able to look into the Bible and understand why it is that we would have these words. You don’t want them to be an invention, something that I’ve come up with as a scheme to be pressed down upon the Bible. But rather, it should become apparent to you that it is legitimate for us to say these three things from this particular passage.

God is Mindful

First of all then, God is mindful. You will notice that Mary speaks initially in terms which are personal, verse 48: “for he”—that is, God—“has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” In other words, “God has been mindful of me,” Mary says. God could have found a rich, noble, powerful queen who lived in a palace. But he has chosen not to do so. He’s come instead to a lowly maiden who has no apparent significance whatsoever. Oh, she means something to the immediate family and friends that she knows, but beyond that, she’s an unknown quantity. Just a slip of a girl.

And the inevitability of Mary’s response is the response of everyone to God’s mindfulness. What does it means that he has been mindful of her? Well, the Oxford English Dictionary defines mindful as “taking thought or taking care or keeping remembrance of.” Okay? Taking thought, taking care, keeping remembrance of. So Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior because he has taken thought of me. He has taken care of me. I am in his remembrance.”[2]

 But she doesn’t sing simply in personal terms. You will notice that she sings also in corporate terms. And you need to go forward to verse 54–55 to see this: “He has helped his servant, Israel”—not only his servant, Mary—“and he’s remembered”—that’s the same word for mindful; he’s mindful to be merciful to—“Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

God is mindful of Mary as an individual because he is mindful of his people as a company.

Now the significance in this is as follows: that God is mindful of Mary as an individual because he is mindful of his people as a company. Her significance in the scheme of God’s plan of redemption is entirely related to the purpose of God to choose out for himself a people that are his very own. And that people is the focus of his love and of his concern. They are, if you like, the very apple of his eye. And the wonder of what it means to be in the remembrance of God is directly tied to being part of the people of God.

Now this is where a little history helps. And many of you who’ve been here for a long time know that your Bible, like mine, can go very, very easily to Genesis 12:3 because we turn to it so many, many times. And there in Genesis 12, the Lord is speaking to Abraham. He calls him out from his people and from his country and his household, and he calls him to go to a place that he’s going to show him. And the promise of God to Abraham is, Genesis 12:2: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. What a strange, strange statement! How odd of God. To call this man from a pagan background out of the Ur of the Chaldees and to make this amazing covenant with him. And how Abraham marveled at it, and how as time went by when he and Sarah were still childless, they wondered how would it possibly be that God could fulfill a promise through his seed when he didn’t have any. How would this promise be fulfilled if he did not have a child?

And then, of course, you have the wonder of God’s intervention in that. And all the way through the Old Testament, God is saying again and again to his people, “I am mindful of you, and I will fulfill the promise that I have made.” And the people listened to the prophets as they came. They listened to the judges as they spoke. They knew that the prophet Isaiah meant something when he said, “for unto you a child is born and unto you a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulders and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. And of the influence of his reign, there will be no end, and he will reign on the throne of his father, David, forever and ever.”[3] His kingdom will never come to an end.

And the bright people of the time would sit around and have Bible studies and say, “Well this must be all part and parcel of the fulfilling of God’s promise to Abraham.” And they must have concluded that is absolutely right. And perhaps they pondered the mystery that was contained in the very words “for unto you a child will be born.” That’s pretty natural, isn’t it? “And unto you a son will be given.”

“A child will be born.” Humanity. “A son will be given.” Deity.

“A child will be born.” Humanity. “A son will be given.” Deity. Because you see, Jesus, the Son, revealed in Bethlehem, is the eternal Son with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The second person of the Trinity did not begin to exist in Bethlehem. God, the Son, was in eternity with God the Father and God the Spirit. And so you have this amazing interface between that which is divine and that which is human, revealed ultimately in the person of Jesus himself.

But coming back to this notion of history, in the days that were dark and difficult, when the promise of God seemed to have dimmed and seemed so unlikely, the people of God may even have said to one another just in a phrase like this, “Well don’t forget, God is mindful. God is mindful.” A generation would rise and a generation would go, and people would come, and grandparents would pass on, and the little ones would now rise to positions of influence, and still the people of God are holding on to this covenant promise that God had made to their forefather, Abraham: “through your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”[4]

You see, the greatness of God is not revealed in his isolation from us, but the greatness of God is revealed in his intimacy with us.

Because God is mindful. When the psalmist speaks of this, he says in Psalm 8, doesn’t he, “what is man that you are mindful of him?”[5] That you’re mindful of him—that you’ll remember him. You see, the greatness of God is not revealed in his isolation from us, but the greatness of God is revealed in his intimacy with us. We tend to think of greatness in terms of isolation. And the more money you get, the longer you can make your driveway. The more money you get, the further you can remove yourself from the general hoi polloi. The more status you acquire, the more you can remove yourself from humanity—people will have to come and approach you through various channels, and so on. You might end up in Buckingham Palace. You might be able to have security all around you; and everyone will look as they drive down the mall, and they will say, “Wow, that’s the Queen in there. She’s so remote from us. She’s so great.” She’s isolated. I haven’t had a phone call from her in the last twenty-six years. In fact, I haven’t had a phone call from her in my whole fifty-seven years, and I don’t expect she even knows my name. Her greatness is revealed in how isolated I am from her. But God’s greatness is revealed in his intimacy with us. That in the person of Jesus. “God,” says C. S. Lewis, “has landed on this enemy-occupied planet and he’s landed in human form.”[6] Why? Because he is mindful. Because he’s mindful.

“For the Lord, their God,” says Zephaniah, “will be mindful of his people and restore their fortunes.”[7] So the people who lived in between the Testaments, if you like, in that one sheet in your Bible—which you should really tear out ’cause it makes you think that you’ve almost got two Bibles—but in the blank page in between Malachi and Matthew—you really should take it out—but the people who lived in that section, then they found themselves rehearsing God’s promises, but it must have seemed for so long in the darkness that God had forgotten them. “Where was all this stuff about the people walking in darkness have seen a great light? ‘On those living in the land of the shadow [of death], a light has dawned’[8]—where is all this stuff going to be?” And then suddenly, the maiden in the routine ordinariness of her anticipated marriage to this boy, Joseph—who must have loved her with a passion because of the way in which he responds to the news that comes his way in the routine of her life—the angel, Gabriel, comes and says, “Hey Mary, you’re highly favored.”[9] “What?” She must have pulled the covers up under her chin when the angel left and said, “Maybe this is this mindful thing. Maybe this is this promise. Because we know a child is to be born and a son is given. What—to me?” I mean, she’s not about to try and get her agent to get her a slot on Oprah so that she can talk about herself. She closes her bedroom door and she buries her face and she says, “My soul magnifies God. My spirit rejoices in God—Yeshua, my Savior—for he has been mindful of me.” She doesn’t say, “He finally found out how significant I am.” “He has been mindful of the lowly estate of his handmaiden.”[10]

God is Mighty

Secondly, God is mighty. God is mighty. The picture in verse 51 of his arm being bared is obviously an anthropomorphism—which is a good word if you are having a real run at Scrabble. Actually if you can ever come up with the word “anthropomorphism,” then you’ve had a really, really bad run at Scrabble, and you’ve got almost all of the tablets at your place—but anyway, you know that that is just the ascribing to God of a human form, ascribing a human form to God, who is spirit, so that it is an accommodation to us as human beings so that we can get some kind of an indication of what this means. God, who is spirit, obviously has no arm to bare. Therefore when it says that he has bared his holy arm as in Exodus 6 in bringing his people out of Israel, it is a picture to help us understand that this mighty God has stepped forward. And you find that again and again: “for I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”[11] And God himself extends his arm.

And so in her song, she mentions this as she reflects on what God has done throughout history. She realizes that he is mindful of his promises and he is mighty in his deeds. He is a merciful Savior, but he is also a mighty warrior. And as a mighty warrior, he turns human attitudes upside down. Notice this: “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm.” What has he done? Well he has taken what society, what culture, what men and women, lay greatest store by, and he has demolished it. Look carefully.

One: he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. One day, when the records are opened up, in the same way that records get opened up—the things that are held by the CIA or MI5 in London, you know, where you can’t see them for 50 years until it doesn’t really matter, and then you find out, “Oh wow! That’s why that happened. That’s why we invaded there. That’s why we did that.” One day, when God’s records are opened up, some of the things that we have lived through in our lives which we try to explain socially or economically or politically, will be explained to us in terms of his mighty deeds. Luke 1:51: “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” Oh, that’s what happened to that financial institution. Oh, that’s the explanation for what happened to that guy who thought he had the ball at his feet and ruled the world. Oh, that’s what’s happened. He has scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts. He has reduced them to nothing right in the core of their being.

There is only one kingdom that will last forever and ever. There is only one King, one majesty before whom we ought to bow.

Secondly, he has brought down the rulers from their thrones. You can go through the whole of the Old Testament, and you can see that happening again and again. You can go through social history, and you can see it happening again and again. The proud empires of the world have eventually crumbled to nothing. All of them eventually will. There is only one kingdom that will last forever and ever. There is only one King, one majesty before whom we ought to bow.

And thirdly, he sends the rich away empty; fills up the hungry with good things—says, “Here, have some more of this.” But the rich? Sends them away empty. Do you see the paradox in this? Rich, empty; empty, rich. Who are the people who shouldn’t be empty? Rich people. You can buy what you want. Eat where you like. Go where you choose.

He sends the rich away empty. Is it possible to be rich and empty? I think so. Because the more the rich have of the wealth we may prize, the emptier and more hollow things will be seen to be. Unless we are to discover true riches: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for [our] sakes, he became poor so that [we], through his poverty, might become rich.”[12] You see, no man or woman can ever really handle material wealth until they have discovered that their genuine and truest riches are found in Jesus. When that matter is settled, then all the benefits that he may give to you, all the privileges that you may enjoy may then be used in a way that recognizes the fact that God is mighty. “And he sets down the proud and the arrogant.”[13]

He doesn’t do it vindictively. He does it purposefully. He sets people down. He scatters the proud. He removes people so that once they have been brought down, they might be delivered from their vain schemes and from their proud assertions. That’s why. That’s the story of Saul of Tarsus, isn’t it, going with the papers to Damascus? “I’m going to deal with this Jesus thing once and for all.” He’s a fairly arrogant person, proud of what he knows, proud of his place in the great scheme of things, and able to have the acquiescence of the religious authorities and civil authorities of his day. He obviously had some significant influence and he was on his way to deal with Jesus once and for all.

And then he met Jesus—the Jesus that he denied; the Jesus that he said wasn’t alive—and he ends up groveling on the ground as a result of a light shining brighter than the noonday sun that blinds him. And suddenly in his blindness on the dust of the road, he hears a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul. Why do you persecute me? Why do you kick against me?”[14] And eventually when his sight is restored and his life is transformed, he writes his letters. And in one of the letters, he writes, “You know all the things that I really prize, all the things that made me, me, all the things that gave me significance, I regard them as”—he actually uses a pretty bad word—“I regard them as dung,” he says, “for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.”[15] In other words, he says, “I’ve experienced a revolution. I once could have explained my life in terms of being powerful, being intellectual, and being significant with the money that went with it. And now I’m here to tell you that none of those things make sense to me anymore apart from the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. All I once held dear and built my life upon,[16] all the things I yearned for and all the things I long to own, all these things,” he says, “I now count them as absolute nothing in comparison to knowing Jesus.”

We need the invasion of God in our lives to show us that all of the things that we regard as making significance for us are actually totally insignificant.

This, loved ones, is conversion. You see, that’s not the story of somebody who says, “Oh I think I might try a little religion in 2010. I think I might try and turn over a new leaf or whatever it might be. I might go along and try and read the Bible.” All of those things you may do. And you can do all of these things, but the one thing you can’t do is the one thing that both of us need. And that is that we need the invasion of God in our lives to show us that all of the things that we regard as making significance for us are actually totally insignificant. And that is why in his might, he scatters the proud, he reduces the rulers to nothing, and he sends the rich away empty.

But why is it that the rich young ruler goes away sad, especially when he comes to Jesus with all those wonderful questions? “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” It actually says that he fell on his knees and he asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”[17] And you go and read that story for yourself. You’ll find that at the end of it, “he went away sad.” And he went away sad. Why? “Because he had great wealth.”[18] Ah, there you go. “Well, I don’t have great wealth. Therefore I don’t have to go away sad.” No, in his case, it was money. In your case, it might be sex. In your case, it might be a relationship. In your case, it might be your Ph.D. In your case, it could be a whole ton of things. Or, you’re prepared to tolerate a Jesus as long as it fits in with all of your persona. But you don’t want to know a Jesus who humbles you, casts you down on the ground, who shows you you’re a blind man or woman before he opens your eyes.

He is mighty.

God is Merciful

Finally, he is merciful. He’s merciful. Because not only has he done these things in the display of his mighty arm, but you will notice, verse 52, “he has lifted up the humble and he has filled the hungry with good things.” Here are two prerequisites for becoming a Christian: you need to be humble and you need to be hungry. Humble and hungry. That’s it. I go home now for my lunch. I could eat my lunch right now I’m so hungry, but if I eat Snickers bars all through the three morning services—which is a pretty good idea, but I don’t do that—but if I eat Snickers all the way through the morning service and go home, Sue can have my most favorite Sunday lunch for me, and I won’t give it any thought ’cause I’m not hungry. But when I’m hungry, she may give me a boiled egg and an English muffin, I’d scarf it down—’cause I’m hungry.

So, if you can come and listen to the sermons at Parkside and say, “Well, that’s very interesting, I suppose. Yes, yes…” and go away—you’re not hungry enough to become a Christian yet. Or if you can go away and say, “Well, I don’t like that stuff about having to accept Jesus as the only sacrifice for my sin, about somehow or another, him coming to invade my life and make me a new person. I mean, I want to have a more sort of, intellectual approach to things whereby we meet one another as you know, sort of, on a par—” then you’re not humble enough to become a Christian yet.

No, humility and hunger are prerequisites, and God, in his mercy, is the one who makes that possible. You will notice that he, in verse 50, extends his mercy to those who fear him from generation to generation. To fear God is to trust God, to love God, to obey God. And this verse 50 here is fantastic. It’s the story of God’s people, the account of his absolute commitment, his persistent refusal to wash his hands of his wayward people, that the remnant of his people has continued all the way through until eventually Jew and Gentile and bond and slave and male and female are standing together around the throne of God and are declaring the same thing of one another. Standing with Abraham and saying, “Abraham, why are you here?” Because his mercy was extended to me. “And why are you here as an Arab Christian from the West Bank?” Because his mercy was extended to me. “And I see that you are here from Romania.” Yes, his mercy was extended to me. “And some Scots here, one or two Scots. Why?” Mercy extended to me. The same story. We will stand before the throne of God, and we will say, “Our God is mighty to save, and his mercy has been extended to us, his humble servants, and from one generation to another.” That’s why, in the midst of all of the darkness in Lamentations 3, with all of the bad things happening, Jeremiah says—all of a sudden, he bursts into the middle of it—and he says, “It is because of his mercies that we’re not consumed.” Because of his mercies that we’re not consumed. “They’re new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.”[19]

I got up this morning, I found myself—just because these things are on my mind; they’re not on your minds so I can’t hold this to you—but I had that old song, we used to sing it here years ago: “I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever …” We haven’t sung that in a hundred years. You know? Do you know that song? “I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever …” I thought you said you knew it. “I will sing …” Come on, let’s sing it! We might as well.

… I will sing.

I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

Here we go:

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness through all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.[20]

That’s it. That is Mary’s song. (Oh, you’re applauding yourselves now?) But that’s the song. That’s the song we want our children to sing. That’s the song we want our grandchildren to sing. Not songs of arrogant little children, focused on themselves with no awareness of their need, no awareness of the majesty and might of God, the fact that it is on account of his mindfulness that he has restored and kept a remnant of his people throughout all the generations.

And Mary fits in the middle of all of this. And because he is mighty, we need to bow down before him. And because he is merciful, we ought to trust him. And if you’re getting confused about all this Abraham stuff, just remember the last time you had your grandchildren or children home from a Sunday school spectacle, and they were singing, “Father Abraham had many sons, and…” and so on, and right there, you’re on track. You say, “Well, I don’t know why you’re doing these songs. Have you no notes left or whatever it is?” No, I just feel like singing. It’s Christmas.

And, Galatians, chapter 3—we have to stop now—but if you go to Galatians chapter 3, we just figure this out. Because somebody reads this and says, “Well, I’m tracking so far—might, mindful, merciful—but, where do Abraham and his descendants fit in?” Well you see, this is how we must speak to all of our Jewish friends, and say to them, “Look, this is your story. If it’s anyone’s story, it’s your story.” This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

And every Gentile that is converted is converted because God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham.

This is why Joseph was in Egypt. Because God was mindful and God was mighty and God was merciful because he didn’t want his people to be cut off and extinguished in the famine, and so Joseph was put in place. This is why out of the tragedy of Naomi’s triple bereavement—the loss of her husband, Elimelech, the loss of her husband and the loss of her two sons—we have the bloodline through which we get from not only to David, but also eventually to Jesus. Why? Because God is mindful and God is mighty. What’s he doing? He’s fulfilling his promise to Abraham. And every Gentile that is converted is converted because God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham.

It’s not two separate deals. It’s one deal. And so Paul, when the people in Galatia got this all confused, he tells them straightforwardly, Galatians 3:6, “Consider Abraham. He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Understand, then—” notice, here we go—“that those who believe are children of Abraham.” The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham. Announced the gospel to Abraham? Did you know that Abraham knew the gospel? What was the gospel that was announced? Answer: Genesis 12. “All nations will be blessed through you.” So, says Paul, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.[21] Go to verse 26: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There[’s] neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…”[22] Does that mean there are no boys or girls left? There are no people from a Jewish background or a Gentile background? There are no people that are employers and employees? No. It means that the gospel transforms all of those relationships. That those who were near on account of the promises, who are the true children of Abraham in terms of their faith, have the privilege of seeing Gentiles who were far away and removed from the promises being commingled with them, intermingled with them in that great company that will eventually be there that no one can count. Verse 29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” What promise? The promise to Abraham.

Well, that’s Mary’s song, song number one. We need to stop. For those of you who have been tempted to this point, say, “Well nice little song, you know, little feminine song, ladies off playing, playing their music on their own …” No. You can’t—we can’t—do that. This, this is revolutionary, this song. If we miss this, we’ve missed it all.

Some years ago I remember way back early on, I went down with some friends to the King Kennedy project here in Cleveland. And we were down there doing something—I can’t remember the details of it all—I only remember one thing and I wrote it down. And that was some graffiti on the side of a house and the graffiti read as follows: “Revolution is the only hope of the hopeless.” Revolution is the only hope of the hopeless. You know, I think they’re right. The question is what kind of revolution?

Marxist revolution was frankly a disaster. Lenin is long gone. We toppled him. Mao and his little red book has not been selling very well lately. Saddam Hussein, boom. And all the way down the line. There is no external, political, economic revolution that can bring about the change that is necessary. The only revolution that is hope for the hopeless is the revolution brought about in the hearts of those who, in our riches, in our self-assuredness, and in our authority are brought down, humbled, made hungry, and made to eat of he who is the bread of life.

This is then an invitation to those who do not believe to bow down before the mindfulness, the might, and the mercy of God as revealed in Jesus.

This is then an invitation to those who do not believe to bow down before the mindfulness, the might, and the mercy of God as revealed in Jesus. And it is a reminder to those of us who do believe that our God is mighty, that He is mindful, and that He is merciful. In the words of one of my old songs from Glasgow,

God is still on the throne,

and he will remember his own.

Though trials may press us

and burdens distress us,

he never will leave us alone.

God is still on the throne,

and he will remember his own,

and his promise is true,

he will not forget you,

for God is still on the throne.[23]

How do you remember people’s birthdays? You have a book, right? I have a book. I keep losing it all the time. It’s a nice little leather book and it has a thing like this so you can put it in for the day, you know. And all of you whose birthday I have missed have occasion to say to yourselves, “He doesn’t remember me. His book is worthless.” But none of us, none of us can say that of God. Because he is mindful of us. He’s mighty enough to subdue our rebellions, and he’s merciful in all his dealings.


[1] Timothy Dudley-Smith, “Tell Out, My Soul,” (Hope Publishing Company, 1962).

[2] Luke 1:46–49 (paraphrased).

[3] Isaiah 9:6–7 (paraphrased).

[4] Genesis 22:18 (paraphrased).

[5] Psalm 8:4 (NIV 1984).

[6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 53.

[7] Zephaniah 2:7 (NIV 1984).

[8] Isaiah 9:2 (NIV 1984).

[9] Luke 1:30 (paraphrased).

[10] Luke 1:47–48 (paraphrased).

[11] Isaiah 41:13 (NIV 1984).

[12] 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV 1984).

[13] Luke 1:51 (paraphrased).

[14] Acts 9:4 (paraphrased).

[15] Philipians 3:8 (paraphrased).

[16] Graham Kendrick, “Knowing You (All I Once Held Dear),” (Make Way Music, 1991).

[17] Mark 10:17 (NIV 1984).

[18] Mark 10:22 (paraphrased).

[19] Lamentations 3:22–23 (paraphrased).

[20] James H. Fillmore and Marie J. Post, “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever,” (CRC Publications, 1987).

[21] Galatians 3:12 (paraphrased).

[22] Galatians 3:26–28 (NIV 1984).

[23] Kittie L. Suffield, “God is Still on the Throne,” 1929.

Thankfulness: A Mark of Grace
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