Upside Down, Backwards People
John D. Telgren

Psalms played a significant role in the life of the Hebrews. Some called it the "Second Torah." It is no accident that the Psalter, like the Torah, is divided into five books. Songs are a powerful way to remember things. Many of us probably can quote more lines of music than we can lines of a book. Maybe this is why so many Old Testament quotations come from the Psalms.

One of the ways the book of Luke opens is with a record of the song of Mary and the song of Zechariah. Many have noted the similarity of Mary's song to Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2. Not only to they bear similar themes, but they both give a preview to the material that will follow.

"Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord... The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes. ... He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; ... He keeps the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; ...(1 Sam 1:1-10)."

"And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord...For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; ... And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him ... He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed (Luke 1:46-54)."

One of the themes in these songs is how God lifts up the humble and brings down the arrogant. There are many examples in both Samuel-Kings and Luke-Acts. We see this in Samuel and Eli (1 Sam 2-7), Saul and David (1 Sam 12-18), and in many of the Kings of Judah and Israel. We see an example of this in the Prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32), the Rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31), the Rich Young Ruler (Lk 18:18-27), the Thief on the Cross (Lk 23:40-43). We see it in Saul (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-19), and Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20-23).

Both Hannah and Mary "exalted" the Lord. They outlined his character in their songs. God is exalted and glorified when the godly poor and the humble are lifted up, and the arrogant are humbled. That is why Jesus stressed the need for humility and servanthood.

"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant...(Lk 22:24-27)."

When we humbly serve, then God is honored and exalted. We need to be upside down and backwards compared to the world, which is right side up and forward in God's eyes. We must humble ourselves and lift up others. In so doing, we exalt God.