Motherhood. Not a perfect science, for sure. But a what privilege it is to pour into a human life as only a mother can. Billy Graham said, “The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry.” We are encouraged to read about mothers in the Scriptures who were, by no means perfect. In fact, we are blessed to observe their lives, as they teetered between triumph and dismay, joy and sorrow, patience and fear, faith and doubt. In other words, so many of the emotions mothers today experience. Here are four women from which we can all learn. (Excerpted in part from Liz Kanoy, crosswalk.com.)
1. Sarah: No “Plan B”
We see from Genesis 11:30 that Sarai (as she was first called) was barren. However, God promised that Abraham would be a father of as many offspring as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Abraham simply believed God, even though he and his wife were way beyond childbirth years. However, it would take many years for God to make good on His promise for the son He had in mind for them. In fact, after 10 years of waiting, Sarai came up with a “Plan B,” named Hagar. Thankfully, despite Sarai taking matters into her own hands, God was indeed faithful to His promise, and Isaac was born (Genesis 17:18). Sarai, now called Sarah was one happy mom: “And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age” (Genesis 21:7). Moms: Our Lord’s timing may not be ours (it usually isn’t) but it is perfect.
2. Hagar: More than a “Plan B”
It would not be inaccurate to state that Hagar was in a “no-win” situation. Since Sarai believed she could not conceive, Hagar was simply a means to an end. I would say, if she did not conceive, she would be cast out as useless. If she did conceive, which was the case, there would be bad blood between the two women, with Hagar being cast out anyway (Genesis 16:6). But God had other plans for Hagar, the angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness, and told her to return to her mistress and assured her that she would also be the recipient of many offspring (16: 10-12). This woman was also blessed by recognizing the angel as God (the reincarnate Christ) and obeyed—thereby being strengthened in her faith as she called the name of the Lord and exclaimed, “Truly I have Him who looks after me” (16:13). Moms: Be humble before God, He will lift you up.
3. Jochebed: The Mother with a Plan
A new King in Egypt came to power who was under no obligation to honor Joseph’s deeds in Egypt and keep the special arrangement with the Israelites. He was worried about the Hebrews outnumbering and overtaking the Egyptians, so he made them slaves. (Exodus 1:8-12). He also commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill Hebrew baby boys when they were born, but they did not listen. Then Pharaoh gave another decree, “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live” (1:16).
It was under these circumstances that Moses was born. His mother, Jochebed, after giving birth, hid him for 3 months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. (Jochebed’s daughter, Miriam, watched to see what would happen as Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe. When Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket, her servant’s retrieved it for her and inside she found the baby crying and knowing he was a Hebrew child she felt sorry for him.)
Miriam then spoke up and asked her if she would like her to fetch a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby; she agreed and Jochebed returned with her daughter to nurse her own baby. Pharaoh’s daughter paid Jochebed to nurse and raise the baby until he was old enough to come live with her. She then adopted him as her son and named him Moses (2:7-10).
You see, Jochebed was determined to find a way to save her son, even if it meant having to give him up—and God blessed her plan. Not only was her son saved from death, but she was also able to nurse and raise him until he was old enough to go live with Pharaoh’s daughter. This son of hers, went on to free the Hebrew people from Egypt, leading them in the desert toward the Promised Land according to God’s plan. Moms: Your sacrifice is not in vain.
4. Mary: Trusting God’s Plan
Most know of the account of the angel Gabriel visiting a young teenage girl with some startling news: “And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary wondered at how this would be possible. “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (1:35). Mary embraced these words in faith. When she visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth proclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (1:42). Mary believed God would fulfill His promise, but it would not be an easy road. Even while pregnant, she and Joseph had to endure tremendous hardship in traveling to Bethlehem under the Emperor’s decree for all to go to their home towns to be registered (2: 2-4). Once there, they would not be able to find a suitable place for the Child to be born (2: 7). It may have been around this time that Mary recalled Gabriel’s words in his initial greeting to her: “O favored one…” But, we see that Mary did not consider that description to mean that she would have an easy life. On the contrary. But her joy was based on being used of God to deliver the Savior to the world! In fact, it would be that very night that another announcement by the angel was made: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
As Jesus grew and began His earthly ministry, Mary realized that she would have to endure the greatest sacrifice of all time—as her son was the Son of God, He had come to give Himself up as a sacrifice, the one and only sacrifice that could deliver people from the penalty of sin. She had to watch Him suffer, be tortured and mocked, and die a cruel death on a cross by crucifixion. Yet, even while He was dying, Jesus cared for His mother and gave her a new son— the apostle John, to love her (John 19:27). Mary was indeed blessed among women, for she was chosen by God to bear His Son and raise Him. Though she had to witness the horrific death and suffering of her Son, she would later rejoice that her Son did not stay dead. He rose again from the grave, securing eternity for her and all who would believe. Moms: Trust God even when you don’t know the outcome.
So from these four women (and several more that I could have included, like Hannah, Rachel, Leah, Elizabeth, to name a few), we see time and time again the ultimate reward for those who trust God and His plan. As you are devoted to your family, all the more, be fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). Happy Mother’s Day!
Pastor Joe Garofalo