Maybe it’s because I am a grandmother that I view these biblical portraits more personally. Watching my daughter-in-law with my new grandson brings back so many memories of my son as an infant.
The Holy Scripture attributes motherly qualities to God in many passages. The ancient prophets often used metaphors of mothers to portray God’s fidelity and love. Isaiah describes God as a loving mother who had carried Israel from their infancy. Isaiah 66:13 states, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” As Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, claiming that the prophets were killed for exposing evil, He exclaimed, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Our Lord displayed moments of great emotion and tenderness, which were often compared to a devoted mother’s love.
So what does Biblical motherhood look like? Here are 3 things we can learn from Scripture:
1. God is the one who defined motherhood
Genesis chapters 3 and 4 introduce us to Eve, the first mother. Adam called her name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. She conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Cain worked in the fields and tilled the earth which yielded crops of which he presented his sacrifice to the Lord God. She then bore Abel, the son who was loving and responsible, tending the flocks in the meadows. After Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage over what appeared to him to be God’s favoritism, Cain was banished by God for shedding his brother’s blood, never to return to his family.
Adam and Eve then conceived Seth, whose lineage began to “call on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 5). We can only imagine how Eve must have heard the Lord God’s words ringing in her ears, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children.” That sorrow and pain were evidenced in the heartbreak Eve experienced as the first mother on earth, mourning one son who was dead, and the other who was never to be seen again. But, in God’s great mercy, their third son, Seth, would provide the path to mankind’s salvation over generations which culminated in the Lord Jesus Himself (Luke 3).
In Exodus 2 we are introduced to Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, born to him in Egypt. She was the wife of Amram and was the mother of Aaron, Miriam and Moses. Her courage and ingenuity saved her son Moses from the wicked mandate of the Pharaoh to kill every male Israelite child. She cleverly hid him for three months, before placing him among the reeds in a water-tight basket along the Nile River. As she watched Miriam approach Pharaoh’s daughter, she must have been relieved to hear that she would be nursing and weaning the child herself before handing him over permanently. Those few early years were no doubt full of Godly instruction and loving example to that little Hebrew child. Can you imagine the pain and sacrifice she endured as she watched her young son disappear into Pharaoh’s palace?
3. God is the one who revered motherhood
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke we see details of young Mary’s introduction to the angel Gabriel and his startling revelation about her heaven ordained pregnancy. The angel had come vested with a divine commission – “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.” As Mary questioned the angel about the particulars of conception, the angel answered that the body of Jesus would be created by an act of Divine power, and that the Holy One who would be born would be called the Son of God. She displayed complete resignation and surrender of her heart to God.
After Jesus was born, we can imagine many nights nursing the baby and pondering all that lay ahead for the special Child. When she and Joseph journeyed to Jerusalem, obeying Jewish law for her purification, they offered two turtle doves and later presented Jesus to the priest for his blessing. Mary and Joseph marveled as Simeon proclaimed the baby “the salvation of Israel”, and Anna, the prophetess confirmed his prophetic words. But Mary also heard Simeon proclaim, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against, (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
In the years to come, Mary would indeed suffer the pangs of sorrow as her heart was pierced, even at the Lord’s excruciating death. But what comfort she heard coming from her Son, even at death’s door, giving instruction to John regarding her care! What love and devotion to her in that moment! (John 19:25-27)
There are times we wonder if what we are doing is really having any impact on our children.
Sometimes we imagine that we fall woefully short of the mandate we have to nurture and train up our sons and daughters in the ways of the Lord. Do not despair - you have a greater sphere of influence than you might think. Here is a past post on this very subject:
We will certainly experience joy, sorrow, pride, grief, and all other range of emotions during our God ordained roles as mothers and caregivers of our children. Thank God for motherhood. We are the better for it!