The God Who Reverses

by Jacob Hudgins

man kneels in prayerMy soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant”(Luke 1:46-48).

Change is a constant in life, yet it often seems to surprise us. Despite years of experience, we still tend to think that things will basically stay the same—powerful people will remain powerful, rich will remain rich, respected people will remain respected. Even when we see evil people humbled, we sometimes find ways to attribute that to impersonal forces like karma or “what goes around comes around.”

Mary is different. She knows that God is behind the tremendous blessing she has received. As an ordinary, overlooked Jewish girl, an angel has informed her that she will be the mother of the Messiah. She praises God “for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name”(Luke 1:48-49). This is not about Mary being exalted based on merit. God, and only God, is responsible.

But then Mary broadens her prayer of praise. “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty”(Luke 1:51-53). Mary stresses that this is what God does. He is the God who reverses. In this she echoes Hannah: “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust”(1 Sam 2:7-8). We can add to these Jesus’ oft-repeated warning, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”(Matt 23:12). He is the God who reverses.

Knowing this fact about God means that the present state is only temporary. If we are wealthy, respected, and powerful, that is no guarantee that we will always be. If we are among those who do not occupy lofty places in this world, that is no guarantee that we will always be overlooked. We need trust that God will exalt those who submit in humility to his will for them—perhaps in this age but definitely in the age to come—and that he will judge those who live in evil.

Knowing this about God also means that we cannot exalt ourselves. It just won’t work. All the accolades, influence, popularity, and money we stack up can be taken from us in an instant. The only way we can be exalted is if God does it—and he has promised only to exalt the humble. If we try to make a name for ourselves, advancing ourselves and relishing our greatness, we are daring God to bring us down. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”(Prov 16:18).

Change is a constant and God often uses it to remind us that he remains in control. He is the God who reverses.

Last modification: Wed 9 Jan 2019