Monday, December 31, 2018

Watch Out, Oppressors! Oh yeah, and the rest of us too...

Last time we looked at the first half of Mary's prophetic words, celebrating that she was bearing the Messiah in her womb, in Luke 1:46-50. That God is mighty and holy, and merciful, and that he took a humble village girl, still a teenager, into his magnificent plan for humanity, is the general theme of the first half. She could have stopped there and we'd all have been
much more comfortable. But look what she says about: the proud (v. 51), mighty (v. 52), and rich (v. 53)! Normally, those have all the advantages in society.  Instead, those who are humble (v. 52) and hungry (v. 53), and of the nation of Israel (v. 54-55) are blessed by being "exalted" and "filled" and "remembered."  What's up with that?

Mary's speech carries on a theme from the Psalms. In 18:27, David is explaining the attention the LORD pays to those who obey him, and says "For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down." And in 147:6, the author says "The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground." So the concept seems to be that those who want to make their own way in the world, and become mighty and rich, and proud of their own accomplishments, have a few surprises coming, because the Ruler of the Universe doesn't agree with their perspective. (This 'reversal' idea is one of the prominent themes in Luke and Acts. You might want to make a study of it sometime.)

But what's wrong with being rich and powerful? Can't a humble person have riches and authority? One might suppose so; but the Bible contains many examples of the principle that "power corrupts." In Mary's day, the Temple cult, Herod's dynasty and the Roman government were each subject to their own version of corruption. And all you need to become corrupt yourself, is to have an illusion of power over some other human, and decide to take advantage of them because of it. True godly humility, on the other hand, sees the other as better than yourself and looks out for another (Phil. 2:3-4).

As many have said, Mary's prophecy is encouraging for everyone except the powerful. We should add, and those who take advantage of position to deny others, and let's be really frank here, that can be any of us, for lots of reasons. "Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it' when you have it with you" (Prov. 3:28).  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." (Mat. 5:7). Let's be aware of the opportunity for either direction in our thoughts and actions, this Christmas season. It could become important, which side we are on.

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