Magnified To Be Glorified
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!”
When we value something, we want everybody to see what we see in it. A musician turns up the volume, gets bigger speakers, and blows the doors off at a concert! A gallery owner selects just the right frame for a beautiful painting and then puts it in the perfect setting in the shop, with the right light to show the artist’s creative flair. A jeweler cuts a diamond to maximize the weight and brilliance of the stone and then puts it on a background of black to magnify its luster.
In the same way, we “magnify” people’s perceptions of God when we portray Him as wonderful, beautiful, and awesome. We may carefully orchestrate our words, or we may spontaneously shout our praise for God. Either way, our delight in His magnificent greatness and goodness and our amazement that He loves us so much show others how awesome He is.
But that’s not all that happens. Have you ever watched someone who has shown you something wonderful or beautiful? Something happens in the heart of those who magnify music, art, a diamond, or anything else they treasure. They are transformed by praising it. Their love for the musician, artist, craftsman, or creator grows, and their loyalty soars.
When we magnify God, we give Him the praise for which He is completely worthy, and as we praise Him, our love for Him grows.
I feel it is better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another.
E. M. Bounds
There are two stories that illustrate the principle of magnifying God in the birth of Christ. As a matter of fact, Christmas is all about celebrating the goodness and the greatness of God.
The first story occurs as Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth after Christ has been placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
The unborn child that would become John the Baptist began to leap for joy. What an amazing magnifying of God that a tiny baby not yet developed enough to be born would respond in such a way. And if that baby could be touched with the awe of God, ought not we who have not only been born in the natural but also born again by the Spirit be filled with wonder and magnify God for all His wondrous acts.
The magnifying of God by Elizabeth triggered something in Mary. Scripture doesn’t say but I think we can rightly assume that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was to be away from the gossip and the unbelief and disdain that she really had been visited by God and she was still a pure virgin. I can’t imagine what must have been running through her mind. Did she think about losing Joseph? Did she fear becoming an object of scorn? Did she wonder if anyone would believe her story? What would you feel if you were told such a thing by an angel and no one else was there to confirm that you hadn’t lost it! But as she came into the presence of Elizabeth, another promised child sent from God began to rejoice. Elizabeth, herself began to magnify the wondrous work of God. That must have been some kind of a meeting.
No wonder Mary responds as her spirit cries out in amazing wonder and awe at the majesty and graciousness of God. We have made this utterance something quite different than it was. This was no theological utterance revealing some great truth although it is. This was a soul caught up in the magnificent of all that God is and uttering a response to the incredible greatness of God. This experience and the resulting praise eclipsed any praise that we could imagine. I’ve been blessed in my life to see incredible, beyond description, scenery. I’ve heard some of the greatest musicians and vocalist give an indescribable performance. I’ve marveled as I’ve viewed masterpieces of art, buildings and things created that exceed any thing ordinary people could do. I’ve had those moments in the presence of God that I have no words to describe and have seen God work in ways too wondrous for me to tell. But truthfully, I can’t begin to imagine what that moment when Mary and Elizabeth met. I can only share Mary’s words:
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state 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, just as he promised our ancestors.”
The second story is very familiar to us. Every time we read the Christmas story we hear it again. The shepherds who were gathered on a hillside were visited by an angel who spoke amazing words and then watched in awe as the host of heaven joined in the elaborate magnifying of God. I just give you their story:
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
As you can see the magnifying of God moved those who observed it to respond with their own magnifying of God. Maybe we ought to try an experiment. Maybe this would be a good season to choose to magnify God for all His goodness and greatness. Maybe our praise would become contagious and like the host who heard the angels proclamation of good news of great joy, we too, would become caught up in extravagant praise. It just might change the atmosphere around us!
Dr. John Thompson