One of the passages of scripture that I knew long before I was a Christian was ‘the Magnificat’. Mary’s song of praise to the Lord, which she spoke out after Elizabeth had prophetically confirmed the Angel ‘s message to her, that she would have a baby and that He would be the long awaited Messiah. Luke 1:32 and 43. The song is called the Magnificat because, as the Authorised Version translates it, Mary starts by saying ‘My soul doth Magnify the Lord’. Luke 1:46.
As a child singing that Sunday by Sunday in church, I always wondered why we needed to magnify God. I thought magnification was about making something bigger, but of course we can never add to God or make Him any bigger than He really is, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to make Him any bigger just by singing a song written a couple of thousand years ago.
Magnification, however, is in fact not about making anything literally bigger, but it is about enlarging the appearance of something, in order to be able to see it more clearly than we can with the naked eye. David, celebrating his escape from Abimelech, calls on others to ‘magnify the Lord’ with him. He wants others to be able to see more clearly how good God has been to him, in order that they might put their trust in Him too. He sings “My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.’ Psalm 34 2,3. NASB.
When the Holy Spirit fell on the gentiles in Cornelius’ household, Peter and his friends were ‘astonished……for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify the Lord.’ Acts 10:46, AV. They were by praising God in tongues and their own languages and thereby speaking out, for all to hear, what a mighty God He is. Other translations instead of magnify speak of ‘extolling’, ‘glorifying’, or ‘exalting’ the Lord. Whatever word we use, it is clearly about lifting Him up with our praise for all to see more clearly what a wonderful God He is.
It is, however, not just God who we can magnify. We can also magnify the work of the enemy, or our problems, or someone else’s faults and failings. It’s not difficult to do. Magnifying something involves putting a lens in front of the thing and focusing on it to the exclusion of other things. Sometimes we can be aware of the fact that the more we focus on a thing the bigger it seems to be in our minds eye.
Sometimes when I am out for a walk, for example, inspite of the stunning views that we have here in Dordon, I can find myself focusing, not on the wonderful vista before me, but on the new housing estate that has been built down the hill, which now covers up a smallish field and catches the corner of my eye. It’s so easy for things which annoy or trouble us to ‘fill our gaze’ and preoccupy our minds. They become ever more magnified as we dwell and ruminate on them. In such situations the antidote for me is to intentionally thank the Lord for the ‘good’ things, and thereby turn my attention away from the irritations to magnify the blessings.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, to ‘think on’ things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, and gratitude for such things certainly helps to focus our attention on them and thereby to magnify what is good and right in any situation in life. As we speak out with thankfulness about the goodness of God in our lives, we magnify Him to those around us. Our testimony can draw others into God’s Kingdom, especially those who are struggling to live life without Him.
Another of David’s psalms spells this out for us. ‘I am afflicted and in pain; may your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. I will praise the Lord, the name of God with a song and magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the Lord better than an ox…… The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His prisoners.’ Psalm 69:29-32. NASB.
Let us daily by our thankfulness, Magnify the Lord, and make His name great in our family, our workplace and our neighbourhood, so that the ‘humble (or afflicted) will hear and be glad.’ Psalm 34:2.