I begin this journey through the Psalms in a rather odd place. Not in the Old Testament, but in the New. Not with “Blessed is the man” (Psalm 1:1) but “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45).
It was here, in Mary’s story, in Mary’s song, the great Magnificat, that I recently caught fresh wind of the Psalms.
The gospel writer Luke does not give us much information about Mary. Even Elizabeth gets a grander introduction. She is noted as being righteous and blameless, of the daughters of Aaron the priest. She has merit, and God rewards that merit with the giving of a son in her barrenness.
But Mary – nothing is made of her at all, not until Gabriel shows up and calls her “favoured.” Was she favoured because of who she was? Some “ideal woman?” Or was she favoured because of who God made her in that moment? Her list of accomplishments, her pedigree, is conspicuously absent.
And yet, the Lord must have looked upon her heart. In the end, she was willing. She was willing to be utterly defined by His Word.
What a blessing, and what a burden.
After the angel left, she was silent until she had hurried to the hill country. She was silent, until she saw the evidence of the angel’s testimony in the shapeliness of an old woman. She was silent, until the Spirit spoke through her cousin Elizabeth and sang blessing in her ears.
Blessed are you among women!
Blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Blessed is she who believed!
A trifold blessing, to wrap her completely. An affirmation of the unseen. The Word of the Lord, the shout of the Holy Spirit.
And then, she speaks. Out of the overflow of her heart, her mouth speaks.
What pours out is praise. What pours out is humble wonder. What pours out is an understanding of the swelling reach of this blessing. And what pours out is Scripture.
This we do know – Mary knew the Psalms. Hidden in her heart, the songs of the man with a heart after God’s heart. It’s right there. Psalm 103. Psalm 107. Hidden in her heart, the prayer-psalm of exalted Hannah – I Samuel 2:1-11, themes taken up by David in Psalm 18.
Out of her mouth, the echoes of her ancestors. Out of her mouth, the Spirit-breathed song continues.
It is not that Luke attributes Mary’s knowledge of Scripture as the reason for such divine favour. It is all grace, for no daughter of Eve could ever be blameless enough to deserve the miracle of miracles. But it is, I think, a clue to Mary’s character.
God chose to send His son to the womb of a woman rich in His Word.
The first time we are told Jesus heard the audible voice of His Father is at his baptism – then, a man of thirty years. “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But he must have recognized the Father’s voice, and as more than a thundering from heaven. I am almost certain his own mother whispered holy writ to him all through his growing years.
To her were given the years of the lullaby, the years of training, the years of the Shema spoken over and over, the years of sitting in the house and walking by the way and laying down and rising up. Hers were the doorposts he passed each day.
The Father prepared a place where the mother would know and speak His words. Mary’s heart was a treasure chest filled with good things – seed for sower, bread for the eater, golden drippings of the honeycomb, and a great reward indeed.
Let me be like your servant-mother Mary,
who hid your word in her heart,
who treasured and pondered the divine revelation,
whose greatest qualification for raising her son was to know his Father’s voice.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
And may the songs that spill over my lips be music that magnifies your Name.
Fill this hungry mother’s heart with good things,
that I would have bread for the children’s asking.
And let your mercy roll from Mary’s generation to mine,
as I pray with her,
Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to Thy Word.