Honoring Mothers and Mothers Who Lived Honorably
In the darkness, unformed, unseen
She treasured me, vastly more, than anything
I made her sick and taxed her figure
Nonetheless, her love grew richer
In time I brought her matchless torment
Yet, joy, elation, induced this advent
Through tears and blood and agony
She prevailed with amity
A love like this has no equal
Though every mother lives the sequel
Praise her; rise and call her blessed
Her body, her life, was her bequest
And yet these things are but a peek
Of why we praise and what we speak
A mothers love is seen in birth
But lives eternal on this earth
With cries for her throughout the night
Sleepless she would still the fright
Robbed of rest; it was no more
And still she mustered self to pour
She gave her days, her years, her spirit
So praise her now, all who hear it
I wrote that poem this week as I pondered my own mother and as I considered Miranda with Judah. I titled it, “Why We Praise Them.” There’s a Biblical mandate to praise mothers.
Let me open with four praiseworthy qualities that are generally true of mothers; and I’ll give a Scripture for each. And after I give these qualities, I want to do two things with today’s message: (1) I want to impress on you the divine decree to honor your mother, and I’ll give some ideas of what that means; (2) I’ll end with two Biblical examples of mothers who lived honorably.
(1) A mother’s love is the closest thing on earth to the love God has for his children.
The Old Testament is replete with comparisons between the love of God and the love of mothers. In Isaiah 49:15, God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Which I take to mean, mother’s typically don’t forget their children; they can (otherwise abortion wouldn’t even happen), but it is the rarest kind of love to be abandoned. Father’s forsake children far more often than mothers do. Spouses forsake one another far more often than mothers forsake children.
You spend any time on social media today, you’ll be met with an onslaught of status updates, saying things like, “I want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to my mother—the best mother in the world.”
I see these kinds of statements everywhere. And what I think this means is, mothers, generally speaking, love their children to a degree and intensity that those children will likely never experience from any other person. And I think the degree of this love will be shown in the other four qualities.
(2) Mothers have a matchless mental fortitude concerning their children
This is why, typically, single parent homes are single mothers. Which strikes me, because, according to Peter, women are the weaker vessel in the marital pair.
And by virtue of exegesis and common observation, I think Peter is saying she’s weaker physically, not mentally. There is a mental fortitude often characteristic of mothers that cannot be ascribed to anyone else on earth.
Proverbs 31:25 reads, “25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
(3) A mother cannot rest while a child of hers is hurting
Some time back, I heard my mother say, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” And I witness this kind of thing all the time with Miranda—if Judah’s got a slight sniffle or seemed faintly irritable before bed, she will hardly sleep. She’ll be up all night making sure he’s okay.
I wish I had time to read the whole account, and I encourage you to do so today, but go read about the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:8-37. I read this passage in my study this week and it just gave me chills as I thought about the powerful love in a mother who believes in God. I trust the Lord will bless you by the reading of this Scripture.
(4) Every living person was born by a mother
I know it couldn’t be done without men; but our role is quite insignificant!
Genesis 3:20 says, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”
And Paul says, “in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.”
Honor Your Mother that You May Live
Today, May the 13th, 2018 is a day we’ve chosen as a nation to celebrate mothers for these reasons and for countless other reasons for which you’re personally appreciative; but the deeper reason why we honor mothers is given by Divine decree:
The fifth commandment in Exodus 20 says this: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Most of the ten commandments plainly state the command or qualify further what is meant by the command, but a few of them give reason for the command. Notice the reason here—“that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Honor your mother so that you may live a long life. Which, I think by implication means, “If you do not honor your father and mother, you won’t live long in the land.”
This obviously doesn’t mean that everybody who dishonors their parents would suddenly fall ill, or that people who honored their parents would never fall ill; but it is a grave warning from the sovereign God of creation to emphasize the degree to which he demands we honor parents—of whom one of them is a mother!
This passage doesn’t say anything about how it is that dishonorable children would fail to live long lives, but I think Deuteronomy 21:18-21 answers that question:
18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
God, therefore, means to say, “The decree to honor your mother is so significant that whoever fails to do so shall be put to death!”
Thus, there is a host of spiritual significance for Christians who won’t literally be stoned for dishonoring our parents. It just means, if you dishonor your mother, God is against you, and you’re spiritually dead. Paul said in Ephesians 6:2-3, 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
So, “that it may go well with you” is the Biblical incentive for honoring mothers. The Biblical incentive for honoring mothers is not that they are necessarily worthy of honor—some aren’t! Some mothers have done atrocious things to their children. But we learn that the honor due a mother is not primarily based on her honorability, but it is based on God’s command!
Dishonoring Mothers by Giving to God
Now, Jesus commented on this passage (Exodus 20:12), and he illuminated exactly what it means to dishonor mothers.
In Matthew 15, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”
So what does it look like to dishonor your mother—according to Jesus? Outwardly it looks very much like you honored God!
Here’s what it means to dishonor your mother: Imagine your mother was a very bad mother, and she was harsh and thoughtless all during your juvenile years; and now, in adulthood, she’s coming to you and is in really poor health; and because of the way she lived her life, she doesn’t really have anybody to help her. So she comes and says, “I’m sick; I’m hungry; I need your help.”
And it just so happens that you’ve got a hundred dollars in your pocket, but you were planning to put it in the collection plate during worship. If you look at her in her need, and say, “I don’t have a dime for you! This money belongs to the church!” you’ve dishonored your mother.
To corroborate what is a seemingly impossible challenge, hear what Jesus said: “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:44-47).
Mothers Who Lived Honorably
Now, for the last part of today’s message, by way of two Biblical examples, I want to set mothers, will-be mothers, and those who serve in the capacity of a mother on a trajectory for excellence in motherhood by the standard of God. “An excellent wife, who can find?” said the Proverb writer. Excellence by the world’s standard is not a wise rod by which to measure success.
In Malachi 3 and 4 God made promise to the nation of Israel that he would send to them a prophet like Elijah before the great and awesome day of the Lord—the arrival of Jesus.
Well, his promise was fulfilled in a word spoken by Gabriel in Luke 1:13-17: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Now, Zechariah doubted God’s promise—and as a consequence of his doubt, the Lord shut his mouth for the course of his wife, Elizabeth’s, pregnancy. Not being able to speak, notice what Luke records in 1:57-60: “57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”
He shall be called John! Why? Because God said that will be his name! Forgoing the motherly right to name your own child by virtue of something God said is a great act of faith. Moreover, by virtue of giving him the name “John,” Elizabeth was putting her son under the authority of God! The whole of the being of John would be submitted under the authority of God because that’s the most important task of a mother.
Now look at what the text records in verse 80: And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
What do you find in the wilderness? Celebrities? Big cities? Cultural celebrations? Nothing! You find nothing in the wilderness but harshness whereby you must learn to rest your whole being on God.
John’s mother was content to raise her boy in the wilderness, away from society. The primary concern wasn’t, “But he won’t be cultured!” or “But he won’t know how to talk to girls!” It was, “This boy will be a messenger for the most high God, and we will do all we can to keep him from being perverted by the vices of society!”
John came out of the wilderness looking wild! He had wild clothing and ate wild food! And I suspect he had some wild, unkempt looking hair, too. He didn’t look like anyone else and he didn’t talk like anyone else; but he went to heaven! Praise Elizabeth for her faith to raise a boy who knew God before he knew a girl in the back seat of the chariot.
Jesus said of John, “Among those born of women, there is none greater than John.” Mothers, Grandmothers, will-be mothers, don’t concern yourself with your kid’s success on prom night. I wasn’t even able to go to prom. If your kid is nice looking, and perfectly socially capable, but doesn’t love the Lord, then redirect your course.
In 1 Samuel 1, the story goes that the wife of Elkanah, Hannah, was barren and could not conceive of a child. This went on for years, until one day, on the steps of the temple of God, she said this prayer: “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).
Wow! What faith. Imagine the prospect of a child on which the whole pretense of pregnancy hinged this notion that he would belong to the Lord! “God, if you give me a child, he will be yours!” This was no shallow baby fever. “Let’s make a baby so I can be just like all my friends and post pictures to Instagram!” It was, “God, let me have a child that I might give back to you as a sacrifice for your work!” Beautiful.
The text goes on, “And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord’” (1 Samuel 1:20).
And she spoke no empty words, for she said,
“As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever…24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
When you set out to have children, let it be that the pretense of such a conception is, “God, I will not have this child for my selfish whims; I will have him or her for your good purposes. This child will be yours, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they remain yours.”
Every night Miranda and I sit down with Judah and read him the Bible and pray, “God, let him grow up to be a mighty man for your kingdom; grant us to have wisdom as we lead him down the path you have made for him. Amen.”
To all of those who have mothers, honor them to the degree that you would supply their needs even if they totally lacked worthiness.
Mothers, grandmothers, will-be mothers, raise your children like Elizabeth and Hannah. Don’t let yourself get sucked in because of pride to thinking your kid has to be the best athlete or the ladies man. Work to get them to heaven.
© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30