************ Sermon on Luke 1:49 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 30, 1997
"Holy is His Name"
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. For the four Sundays of Advent and on Christmas Day we will be looking at the Advent/ Christmas songs in the Bible: the Song of Mary, the Song of Zechariah, the Song of Simeon, and the Song of the Angels.
We start off with the Song of Mary. Musicians know it as the "Magnificat." Magnificat is the first word of the Latin translation. It means "magnifies." Mary says, "My soul magnifies (or glorifies) the Lord ..."
Our text, "Holy is his name" tells us why she magnifies or glorifies God.
I The Name of God
A Mary says the name of God is holy. What name does she have in mind? In our passage she calls Him "LORD," "God my Savior," and "Mighty One."
Mary, of course, was speaking Aramaic, a kind of modern Hebrew. She was also a Jew. She was raised as a Jew, instructed as a Jew, and knew the Old Testament Scriptures. So she is thinking of God with some of her favorite Hebrew names. She thinks of Him as El-Shaddai — this is "God of the Mountains" or "The Almighty God" with all power and all might and all strength. She thinks of Him as El-Elyon — this is "The Most High God" or "The Exalted One." She thinks of Him as El-Olam — this is "God of Eternity," the God above and beyond time and space, the God Who is forever sovereign. She thinks of Him as El-Berith — this is the "God of the covenant," the God Who remains faithful from generation to generation. She thinks of Him as Adonai — this is "Lord," a title of authority, rule and honor. She thinks of Him as Ancient of Days, Rock, Refuge, Fortress, Shield, Sun, Refiner. She thinks of Him as Judge, Shepherd, and Father. You may wonder why the Lord is described by so many names.
Topic: ChristTo that we can only say "Amen." Mary has so many different names for God because He is so much and does so much.
Subtopic: Incarnation of
So did the African people of Zaire. After a missionary referred to the LORD by his various names and titles, the people asked, "Why does God have so many names?" The missionary replied, "The beauty, the fullness, and the magnificence of His matchless person cannot be expressed by just one name."
B Mary is not only thinking of the Father, but also of the Son. A glance through the Bible shows us there are as many different names for Jesus as there are for God. I came across a poem that speaks to this; see if you can figure out the titles:
Topic: ChristYou may wonder why the Jesus is described by so many names. Again, the answer of the missionary is more than sufficient: "The beauty, the fullness, and the magnificence of His matchless person cannot be expressed by just one name." Mary has all of the beauty, fullness, and magnificence of the Son's matchless person in mind when she thinks of His names.
To the artist He is the One Altogether Lovely.
To the architect He is the Chief Cornerstone.
To the astronomer He is the Sun of Righteousness.
To the baker He is the Living Bread.
To the banker He is the Hidden Treasure.
To the biologist He is the Life.
To the carpenter He is the Sure Foundation.
To the doctor He is the Great Physician.
To the educator He is the Great Teacher.
To the farmer He is the Sower and Lord of the Harvest.
To the florist He is the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon.
To the geologist He is the Rock of Ages.
To the horticulturist He is the True Vine.
To the judge He is the Righteous Judge.
To the juror He is the True Witness.
To the jeweler He is the Pearl of Great Price.
To the editor He is the Good Tidings of Great Joy.
To the oculist He is the Light of the Eyes.
To the philosopher He is the Wisdom of God.
To the printer He is the True Type.
To the servant He is the Good Master.
To the student He is the Incarnate Truth.
To the toiler He is the Giver of Rest.
To the sinner He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
To the Christian, He is the Son of the Living God, the Savior, the Redeemer and Lord!
C What prompts Mary to praise the name of God? What brings about her praise? Don't forget the setting of our passage. An angel appeared to Mary, pronounced her blessed, and announced that hers is the privilege of giving birth to the Messiah though she will remain a virgin. The angel also announced that a barren Elizabeth is going to have a child too. And then the angel adds this: "For nothing is impossible with God."
"Nothing is impossible with God." This is one of the great statements of the Bible. And Mary feels its truth within her own womb. And Mary sees its truth as she looks at a pregnant Elizabeth.
"Nothing is impossible with God." Or, to put it another way, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" As a Jew Mary knows all the stories: the plagues and escape from Egypt; the crossing of the Red Sea; the water, manna, and quail in the wilderness; the stopping of the River Jordan; the walls of Jericho; the defeat of Goliath ... (cf Deut 10:21; Ps 24:8; 126:2). She knows them all. She has heard them all. She has learned them all. And now she learns again, "Nothing is impossible with God."
No wonder Mary praises the name of the Lord. The Mighty One has done great things to save His people. He will continue to do great things to save His people. As Mary puts it, God
(Luke 1:48-55) ... has been mindful of the humble state of his servant ...(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."
II The Holiness of God
A Mary talks not only of the names of God but also of the holiness of those names. "Holy is his name" she says.
What does this mean? What is holiness?
"Holy" has three distinct meanings. First it means "to be set apart." This applies to places where God is present, like the Temple and the tabernacle, and to things and persons related to those holy places or to God Himself.
Second, it means to be "perfect, righteous, just, spiritually pure." This applies primarily to God, but secondarily to saints or godly people.
Third, it means something or someone who evokes "worship, veneration, awe, because their presence is so frightening." This is the meaning Mary is especially thinking of in our text. When Mary first sees the angel she is scared, she is frightened, she is "greatly troubled" — so much so that the angel has to say to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary ..."
God is holy. This makes Him frightening.
In the Bible the holiness of God is usually symbolized by fire. The holy presence of God is like a brilliant consuming flame. No one can be in the presence of God's holiness without being scorch ed by its flame. God's holiness represents His jealousy, wrath, remoteness, cleanliness, glory, and majesty. God's holiness is a reminder that God is unsearchable, incomprehensible, incomparable, great, wonderful, and exalted.
"Holy is his name."
B If God is so holy how, then, could He come to us in the flesh? How could He be born in a stable? How could He walk and live on this earth? If God is so holy, why do we have Christmas? Mary tells us in the next verse. She says, "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." She is speaking here of God as a fellowshipping, loving, God.
The holiness of God always needs to be offset by the relational person-hood of God. God is not only holy; He also is covenantal. Holiness tends toward separation and uniqueness. Covenant tends to relations and close communion. Holiness inspires awe and fear. Covenant inspires love and the wish to be near. Both are in the Bible as necessary ways to think of and experience God. Both are necessary if one is to avoid shallow, one-sided thinking about God. Neither holiness nor covenant alone can do justice to the biblical portrayal of God. But both together help capture Who and What God is.
The Holy God:
Is beyond rational comprehension.
Is sensed and protected against.
Is avoided in contact and sight.
Is beyond time — yet claims sacred times.
Is beyond space — yet claims sacred space.
Is life-threatening — yet strangely necessary to life.
Repels — yet fascinates and draws.
Is always awesome, mysterious, unnerving.
Before Him one worships and submits.
The Covenantal God:
Is understood in terms of relationships.
Is received, accepted, and loved.
Forgives our sins and restores our fellowship.
He is the Creator — we are the creature.
He is the Father — we are His child.
He is the Savior — we are the sinner.
He is the Lord — we are His servant.
Before Him one believes, loves, and serves.
III The Believing Response
A "Holy is his name." The Mighty God Who acted so powerfully the first Christmas is a consuming fire. El-Shaddai, El- Elyon, Yahweh-Sabaoth is able to do anything, anything at all.
"Holy is his name."
From Mary we learn how to respond to this God. First, we respond in praise and worship. That's what Mary does when confronted with the holiness of the Mighty One. She says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ..." (Lk 1:46-47).
Mary praises God. Did you know that the word "praise" comes from a Latin word that means "value" or "price." Thus, to give praise to God is to proclaim His value or worth.
When we meet God, when we realize "Holy is his name," we should want to praise Him. There are, of course, many different ways to praise God: the offering of sacrifices, physical movement, silence and meditation, testimony, prayer; especially, though, praise is linked to music — both instrumental and vocal. That's why there is so much singing in the church and in heaven too. In our music God is glorified.
B Second, we respond in obedience — dare I use the word holiness?! When Mary meets the Holy Mighty One she says, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (Lk 1:38). She doesn't argue, she doesn't complain, she doesn't whine. She submits.
"Holy is his name." When we meet Him we are to be like Mary. When we meet the Mighty Holy One Whose presence is a consuming fire, we want to respond in holiness and obedience.
I came across something in my files that speaks to this. How to act when you meet Jesus:
Topic: LoveThink about it. Does your home need a bit of spiritual cleaning?
Subtopic: For Christ, Examples of
If Jesus came to your own home to spend a day or two —
if He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do?
I know you'd give your nicest room to such an honored Guest,
and all the food you'd serve to Him would be the very best.
And you would keep assuring Him you're glad to have Him there —
that serving Him in your own home is joy beyond compare;
but when you saw Him standing there, could you go to the door,
with arms outstretched to welcome Him your Heavenly Visitor?
Or would you have to change some things before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been?
Would family conversation be continued at its pace?
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends
Or would you hope they'd stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever, on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might cause some embarrassment the things that you would do,
if Jesus came to your own house to spend some time with you.
"Holy is his name." The Mighty God Who acted so powerfully the first Christmas is a consuming fire. El-Shaddai, El- Elyon, Yahweh-Sabaoth is able to do anything, anything at all.
Before this God we want to bring praise. Before this God we want to be obedient.
"Holy is his name."
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