“He has filled the hungry with good things.”
The Gospel turns things upside down – or right side up, depending on your vantage point.
God chooses a humble young woman on the margins of Israel to be the mother of the Saviour. While Augustus Caesar is reigning in Rome, Jesus is born on the outskirts of empire, in Bethlehem of Judea, laid in a manger, attended by shepherds from the surrounding hill country.
Jesus comes proclaiming release to captives and redemption for those who are downtrodden. Through Jesus, God turns the world upside down, but since it was already upside down he is really turning it right-side up.
This is what Mary celebrates in her song. The Lord has paid attention to the humble bond-slave, and has done great things for her. He has intervened in history on behalf of His lowly people Israel, to fulfil His promises. He is casting down rulers from their thrones and exalting the humble.
One sign of this reversal has to do with food. Mary praises God because He has filled the humble with good things, and has sent the rich away without anything. God has given food to His people, the bread of life that came down from heaven, and those who were already satisfied with their own bread get nothing.
But Mary knew that this was nothing new. Mary is quoting from a Psalm, Psalm 107, which describes Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. When Israel wandered in the wilderness, “hungry and thirsty, their soul faint within them,” the Lord delivered them: “He satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”
What God does in Jesus is what God has always done: When there was famine in Canaan, God provided food for Abraham in Egypt; when there was famine in Canaan again, God provided food for Jacobs family through Joseph; when there was famine in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Ahab was sent away empty-handed, the Lord provided food for Elijah in the wilderness.
And now in these last days, He has done it again: He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.