What does it mean to magnify the Lord?

During the brief four years we home-schooled, one of the biggest helps was a great support group, and one of their activities was a monthly meeting where we sometimes had guest speakers (my favorite was Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter — she gave quite a fascinating talk), sometimes had the kids doing activities, like an annual talent show, and sometimes members of the group would speak about their work or hobbies. One time my husband, whose job title for many years was Research Microscopist and who collects, buys, and sells microscopes, spoke about microscopes and brought a few for kids to look at whatever they wanted to under the microscope. He also spoke about Psalm 34:3: “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” He pointed out that we don’t make God bigger than He is: He’s already so big we can’t comprehend it. But we focus on Him, bringing out thoughts of His greatness.

I’m rereading Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie, and the selection for today comes from Mary’s song after learning that she will be the mother of the Messiah. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47). Guthrie explores the concept of what it means to magnify God and says:

The truth is, we can never fully take in or understand God’s greatness. But we can magnify Him. We magnify God not by making Him bigger than He truly is, but by making Him greater in our thoughts, in our affections, in our memories, and in our expectations. We magnify Him by having higher, larger, and truer thoughts of Him. We magnify Him by praising Him and telling others about His greatness so they can have bigger thoughts about Him, too.

I looked up the meaning of “magnify” in Dictionary.com, and part of the definition is: “to cause to seem greater or more important; attribute … importance to; to intensify; dramatize; heighten; to extol; praise.”

Mary magnified Him out of joy and gladness. The psalmist (Psalm 64 and 69) magnified Him out of deep need and affliction. They both speak of deliverance and answered prayer and expectation. The KJV speaks once of God magnifying Himself: “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23).

I don’t think God “needs” us to magnify Him: He doesn’t have an ego that needs stroking. Even when He magnified Himself, the purpose was that others would know who He was. But we need to magnify Him. It’s so easy to magnify the cares of this world, our needs, our weaknesses, our duties. That gets discouraging, distracting, defeating. But when we magnify Him, we see Him as He truly is, we remember how great and good He is, how He has strength He will provide us in our weakness, how He can easily take care of whatever need we have. The more we praise Him, the more rightly we relate to Him, then the more we praise Him and testify of Him to others, so they can focus on Him and see for themselves how great He is and how He can meet their needs as well. The more we magnify Him, the more we worship Him.

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.
Psalm 69:30-32.