Calvary Road Baptist Church

“REFLECTING ON MOTHERHOOD” 

This has been a very challenging run-up to Mother’s Day for me. Most of you who have known me for very long know that I am a confessed Mama’s boy. I am the firstborn son of a Texas farm girl, the youngest of three children born to John and Luella Connor. My mother’s name was Iris, and I miss her very much. She has been gone for almost seventeen years.

She was very unhappily married to my father for more than 25 years before divorcing her in 1972 or 1973. Although she was pretty and he was very handsome, most marriages of unconverted couples end up being very unhappy. Her life following the divorce was filled with misery, disappointment, and significant suffering before her death from lung cancer. That said, she was a devoted grandmother who loved her two granddaughters without reservation.

Though she was living with us at the time of her passing, I have no comfort that my beloved mother trusted Christ before she passed through death’s door to eternity. Memories are a challenge concerning my mother, who I deeply loved. My prominent recollection is the profoundly grateful memory that my mother never criticized my father in hearing their sons. She recognized that it is not the business of any mother to make disparaging remarks in front of their children about their father. What disappointing information children need to learn about their father is best left for them to discover themselves.

I also recollect that my mother, while strongly opinionated, was never snarky. The Cambridge Dictionary defines snarky as unkind, cruel, and unfeeling.[1] My mother’s strong words and feelings were never expressed to hurt the feelings of other people. I’m grateful for that. I cannot imagine the horror of being the child of some nasty woman who is willing to criticize the father of her children in their hearing and hurt other people in their hearing.

Still needing a mother after my mom passed, I asked Charlene Johnston if she would be my mom after my mom died. She consented. Then, after Charlene Johnston passed, I asked Shirley French if she would be my mom. She smiled and said, “Yes.” Both Pastor Johnston’s wife, Char, and Archie French’s wife, Shirley, were incredible comforts to my soul.

I am also glad to have a relationship with the woman who was my first babysitter, from back in 1950-51. She is now widowed and lives in Norman, Oklahoma. I talked to her two days ago and expressed my love for her. I call her Aunt Scotty, and she calls me Steve. Before hanging up, she mentioned one more time how grateful she was I had reached out to her to reestablish contact after so many years.

Mothers are profoundly important. If your mother has passed, I urge you to adopt another one. No matter how old you are, it is always good to have a mom. That is my personal opinion publicly expressed. Although my mother was not a Christian, I made sure the women I later adopted to be my mom were wonderful Christian women.

This Mother’s Day, I want to review some of the notable mothers in the Bible and leave you with personal remarks about them that I hope you will reflect on and apply to your life’s situation. 

First, EVE 

Eve was a woman of firsts. She was the first woman. She was the first wife. She was the first person to suffer spiritual assault. She was the first sinner. She was the first recipient of prophecy. But I want to comment on Eve as the first mother. In Genesis 4.1, we read, 

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” 

From Genesis 3.21, we learn, 

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” 

Although the clothing of Adam and Eve with coats of animal skins is an allusion to salvation, with the death by the bloodshed of an innocent to provide a covering for the guilty, we cannot be sure from this that Eve ever came to faith and the forgiveness of her sins.

Whatever her spiritual condition, Genesis 4.1 shows an astonishing lack of discernment about her firstborn son, Cain, who would become the first murderer. Successful mothers love their children without reservation. They love their children when they are good, and they love their children when they are bad. That said, no woman can be a successful mother who is naïve concerning the inclinations of her child. The Bible provides no information for us regarding Eve’s success as a mother. But if her motherhood continued as poorly as it began, she could not have succeeded as a mother. A successful mother must see her child as sinful, as depraved, and as desperately needing the salvation that comes only by knowing Jesus Christ. No mother is either disloyal or unloving for seeing her child with a clear eye. Quite the contrary. It is a foolish woman who pretends she helps any child by denying reality.

Perhaps there was an improvement with Sarah’s motherhood over time. After all, of the many children she gave birth to in the centuries before her death, we know that her sons Abel and Seth were godly men.[2] Let us hope. 

Next, SARAH 

Sarah is one of the few people in the Word of God whose name was changed from Sarai to Sarah. She was married to Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, the first Hebrew.[3]

We know that Sarah was a believer, her name being mentioned as a person of faith in Hebrews 11.11. However, she did something before she became a mother, and before she exhibited the faith mentioned in the faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews chapter 11, I would like to call your attention to.

You had likely anticipated the episode in Sarah’s life that I am referring to when still barren. She urged upon her husband the siring of a child by a surrogate, an Egyptian, named Hagar.[4]

Never mind that such surrogates were not uncommon in that day. Never mind that Sarah was desperate to be a mother. The looming issue she had little regard for at the time was her advocacy of a sinful deed, the urging of her husband to do wrong. What kind of woman is so foolish that she urges her husband to do wrong?

God’s plan for marriage is spiritual leadership that the husband provides, and the confidence in God by the wife to rest in the assurance that her safety and well-being lies in her willingness to follow the spiritual leadership of her husband and to avoid the temptation to wrest from him the reins of leadership.

Are wives frequently frustrated by the timidity and reluctance of their husbands to lead? Absolutely. Yet what havoc Sarah brought upon her family by pushing her husband into an act of infidelity that not only resulted in heartache for a little boy whose daddy was kept from him by Sarah, but almost 4,000 years of conflict between the descendants of that boy, Ishmael, and the son who would be born to Sarah, Isaac.

The stories that could be told about mothers who cannot control their mouths after becoming frustrated by their husband’s failure to lead. Far better for a mom to seek godly counsel and wisdom and pray to God for relief than open her mouth and hector her man to do something he does not want to do but will do to shut her complaining mouth.

We know that Abraham was far from a perfect husband. We also know that Sarah was far from an ideal wife. That said, wasn’t God both good and gracious to use Sarah as a model for us how a godly wife and mother ought to influence her husband? I read First Peter 3.1–7: 

1  Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

2  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3  Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4  But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5  For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6  Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

7  Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. 

Third, REBEKAH 

You may recall the remarkable typology associated with Rebekah. Abraham sent an unnamed servant to the East in search of a bride for his son, Isaac. That was a type showing God the Father sending the Holy Spirit into the world to call out a bride, the bride of Christ, for His Son, Jesus Christ.

Following the return of Abraham’s servant with Rebekah, who became Isaac’s wife, she comforted her husband over the loss of his mother, Sarah, and bore him twins, Esau and Jacob.[5] My interest in Rebekah is related to the conflict between her two sons, with Isaac favoring Esau and Rebekah favoring Jacob, and her efforts to persuade her son, Jacob, to deceive his father, Isaac.[6]

Sadly, it is not so unusual for mothers to deceive their children’s fathers. I remember learning of such a case in a family in our Church, with what I am about to describe having occurred years before they were in our Church, and me learning of it after they departed from our Church.

The story began when the incorrigible son was in high school. His repeated transgressions and refusal to obey his father resulted in his dad rightly kicking him out of the house. What the father did not know was that every day after he went to work, that son would come home, take a shower and change into clothes his mother had laundered for him, eat a very nice meal she cooked for him, and then take with him food that she had prepared for him to eat later. And his younger siblings were witness to this deception. Thus, a father attempting to visit upon his son the consequences of his rebellion was undermined and betrayed by his disloyal wife in front of his younger children. There are many other things this married couple did that I would have advised against, but this betrayal of her husband takes the cake.

In a similar fashion, did Rebekah betray her husband, Isaac. Isaac’s favoritism toward Esau, and his apparent neglect of the prediction that their son Jacob was to be the recipient of the blessing,[7] provoked Rebekah to “help” God by scheming with her son, Jacob, literally conspiring with him, coaching him, and assisting him in the deception of his father.[8]

The question to ask a mother who does this, who betrays her child’s father, is related to the commandment to honor your father.[9] In what way did Rebekah enable or enhance Jacob’s duty to honor his father by entangling him in a conspiracy of manipulation and deceit? As well, how did cajoling him into that conspiracy help her son honor her? 

Fourth, RAHAB 

The story of Rahab begins in Joshua 2.1. She was a woman who lived in the Canaanite city of Jericho. And she was a prostitute. In five different verses in the Bible, three times in the book of Joshua, once in Hebrews, and once in the letter written by James, she is so identified.[10] A harlot is a prostitute. The Hebrew and Greek words used never refer to anything other than a sex trade worker.[11]

Read Rahab’s testimony to the Jewish spies dispatched by Joshua: 

9  And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.[12] 

Let me read to you the two New Testament verses that address Rahab’s faith, establishing that God worked marvelously in her life and gave her faith: 

Hebrews 11.31:       

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” 

James 2.25: 

“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” 

Long story short, Rahab’s faith resulted in her deliverance when Jericho was taken, along with her family. Her life was preserved. Interestingly, her name appears in Matthew’s account of the Lord Jesus Christ’s genealogy. Matthew 1.5 reads, 

“And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse.” 

Hebrew words coming into English and the spelling of Hebrew words coming into Greek and then into English sometimes vary. However, Rahab became the wife of a man named Salmon and the mother of a man named Boaz, who you may remember as the man who married Ruth.

Rahab comes to our attention in the Bible as a prostitute. She came to be a courageous woman of faith. She came to be the wife of a Jewish man named Salmon. In due time, she became the mother of a son named Boaz. Her son was a man of integrity, discernment, and courage to marry a Moabite woman named Ruth. That is all the proof I need that God worked wonderfully in the life of that woman and gave to her a new life, as a wife, and as the mother of an incredible man who married an incredible woman, not to mention that she, Rahab, became an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Is God great? Or what? 

Fifth, RUTH 

How does it come to be that a Moabite would end up in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ? Remember, from Deuteronomy 23.3–4, God prohibited Moabites from entering into the congregation of the LORD forever. This was because the Moabites hired Balaam to curse the children of Israel.

Yet we have just seen that a Moabite woman named Ruth is an ancestor of Israel’s Messiah, the incarnate Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does that happen? The whole thing is impossible, but God does the impossible.

It begins with a Jewish man and his wife, and their two sons, leaving the Promised Land sometime after the death of Joshua to live in Moab. The two sons end up marrying Moabite women. Then the Jewish man and his two grown Jewish sons die, leaving three women as widows in Moab. The Jewish woman who was widowed was named Naomi. The Moabite woman of interest to us was the widow named Ruth. These two widows, the Jewish mother-in-law and the Moabite daughter-in-law returned to the Promised Land, the village of Bethlehem.

Under the Jewish Mosaic Law, to preserve the family line, provision was made for a kinsman redeemer to marry the widow of a Jewish man who died before siring children.[13] To be a kinsman-redeemer, he had to be a blood relative of the man who had died, able to redeem the dead man’s heritage, and willing to do so. It turns out that Ruth’s dead husband had several near kinsmen, with one of them more than willing to marry her and sire offspring by her to preserve her first husband’s lineage.

Thus, Boaz married Ruth, sired a child named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who in turn had a boy named David. This made Ruth, the Moabite woman, the great-grandmother of King David. Who knows? Rahab, the mother of Boaz and the mother-in-law of Ruth might still have been alive when her son married Ruth. And Ruth might have still been alive when David was born, though not likely. What a delight to see God’s handiwork, traceable back to a Jewish man named Salmon, who might have been one of the two spies sent to Jericho. His marriage to Rahab. Their child Boaz. And that is just on Boaz’s side of the situation. On Ruth’s side, to bring a Moabite woman into the congregation of the LORD. Incredible.

What can be gleaned from the motherhood of Ruth? With faith in God, your life is not over until it is over. Do you imagine there were bleak and dark times in Rahab’s life? Do you suppose there were gloomy and dark times in Ruth’s life? Do you think Ruth was without hope when her Jewish husband widowed her in Moab? Do you think her life was not bleak when she arrived in Bethlehem with Naomi, only to face a village of people who remembered the Moabites with hostility?

My impression is not one of Ruth being a complaining, criticizing, grousing woman. I hardly think she would have favorably impressed Boaz if she displayed such traits when she gathered grain to feed herself and Naomi. We can be thankful that she was wise enough to be quiet and humble enough to listen to the counsel of an old mother-in-law who knew precisely what to do.

Over it all, however, there is the all-wise God. God put it into the mind and heart of Rahab to speak to the spies, scary as that must have been. God gave Rahab the faith to trust Him. God made the spies receptive to what Rahab proposed. God arranged Rahab’s marriage to Salmon, giving to them a son named Boaz. God moved Naomi and her family to Moab, where they would meet Ruth.

God worked in Ruth’s life to trust Him and to commit herself to her mother-in-law Naomi. And God arranged for the son of a woman who had been a Canaanite prostitute to meet and become interested in a Moabite widow. Oh, how God worked in Ruth’s life. God gave her a husband. God gave her a child. God gave her life as a wife and a mother. 

Sixth, HANNAH 

Do you remember Hannah from First Samuel chapters 1 and 2? She was a godly woman but barren. The favored of her husband’s two wives; she fervently prayed that God would give her a child. She was so heartbroken for so long that 

“... she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”[14] 

Modern readers of the Bible find it challenging to understand how a mother like Hannah could deliver her son up for service with the high priest at so young an age, and as a Nazarite, visiting him only once a year for the rest of her life.[15] But God was pleased with her commitment to keeping her vow and blessed her with five more children. Her son came to know the LORD, grew to become a became a prophet of God, and was privileged to anoint Israel’s first two kings.[16] Do you think that would not make a mother happy?

The late John A. Stormer, noted author and Baptist pastor, wrote in his excellent little book Growing Up God’s Way that a great deal of successful parenting is accomplished by the time the child reaches five. Evidence of this is found in the life of Moses and Samuel.

What can be learned about motherhood from Hannah? First, she had the correct view of children. She understood that children are the heritage of the LORD and the fruit of the womb is His reward.[17] Second, she had a correct view of God. Unlike Sarah had done, Hannah sought to remedy her problem of barrenness by pleading with God in prayer. Third, Hannah gave evidence that she knew how to raise a boy. She packed more into that lad for five years than most moms do in 25 years. She instilled a sense of mission and purpose into that boy’s life that God, Himself, later confirmed.

Moms? Raise your children to fulfill a sense of purpose and calling. There can be no doubt that the mother of Moses instilled such convictions in her boy while serving as his nanny in Pharaoh’s household. And the result of Hanna’s rearing of her son, Samuel, in such a way, is obvious. 

Seventh, BATHSHEBA 

Bathsheba comes to our attention in the Old Testament as the beautiful young wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men.[18] David committed adultery with Bathsheba, discovered that she was pregnant with his child, and arranged the murder of her husband, loyal Uriah. David then married Bathsheba to cover her pregnancy, but God took the child shortly after being born.

Was Bathsheba in the right or the wrong in all of this? It is possible that a young woman would be overwhelmed by the attention of so mighty a figure as the warrior king David. That said, the Mosaic Law requires that a woman who is being sexually assaulted in a town or village cry out for help as a demonstration of her innocence. Bathsheba did not cry out. It does not look good for her when attention is first paid to her on the pages of the Bible.

Later, when David’s son Absalom rebelled against his father, seeking to overturn his rule, one of David’s long-time counselors betrayed him by siding with Absalom. It is no great surprise to us that David’s counselor, Ahithophel, would betray him after he had betrayed Uriah. But there is even more reason Ahithophel betrayed his king. 

2 Samuel 11.3:

“And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 

Bathsheba’s father is Eliam. 

2 Samuel 23.34:

“Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite.” 

But Eliam, Bathsheba’s father, is Ahithophel’s son. That means Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather! Do you think Ahithophel ever forgave David for betraying his loyalty by what the king he had faithfully served did with his granddaughter? Hence, his betrayal of David.

What a mess Bathsheba ended up in for not screaming bloody murder when David first approached her. David murdered her husband. God took her newborn baby boy. Her grandfather then betrayed David and ended up committing suicide. David’s reign as king would, from that point onward, be a disaster.

At the end of her husband’s life, however, when King David was as feeble and disoriented as our president, Bathsheba showed us something commendable. In First Kings chapter one, we see that Bathsheba, in consultation with the prophet Nathan, approached her husband with an appeal that assured Solomon’s succession as king of Israel, which David had previously acknowledged being the will of God. Therefore, we can be thankful that Bathsheba did not give herself over to the sins of her youth, but by God’s grace made the best of what she had to work with for the rest of her life. It seems she finished well, and that mother’s son became the king. 

Finally, EUNICE 

We learn the name of young Timothy’s mother in Second Timothy 1.5. The same verse also identifies his grandmother as Lois. From Acts 16.1, we understand that Timothy’s father was a Greek, but his mother was a Jewish believer. His grandmother Lois was also a Jewish believer.

Timothy served as a young traveling companion with Paul and his party, eventually becoming the senior pastor of the Church in Ephesus and being the only person to whom two inspired letters of the New Testament were addressed. Thus, Timothy was an important New Testament figure, prominent in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, and a key figure in the first century Christianity.

But our concern on this Mother’s Day is Timothy’s mother, Eunice. What do we know of this Jewish Christian mother from God’s Word? In the same verse where his mother’s name is found, the apostle compliments Timothy’s faith, as well as his mother’s and grandmother’s faith: 

“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” 

What is “unfeigned faith?” The word translated “unfeigned” is the Greek word ἀnupόkritoV. If you remove the first two letters, that serve to negate the meaning of the word they are attached to, you are left with ὑpόkritoV, from which our English word hypocrite is derived. Paul is complimenting Timothy for having what his mother and grandmother had, faith that was not hypocritical. They had faith that did not pretend to be what it was not. Timothy was shown genuine faith by his mother and also by his grandmother. What a legacy. 

We have looked at eight women in the Bible who were mothers. There was Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Bathsheba, and Eunice.

We see no objective evidence of faith in connection with Eve or Rebekah. Eve demonstrated no discernment in connection with her firstborn son, though she did have two godly sons, Abel and Seth. From Rebekah, we saw only disloyalty to her husband and the development and execution of a conspiracy with her son.

Sarah started out shaky, demonstrating impatience and a lack of faith that led to Hagar’s pregnancy. But she ended up well, with a legacy of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 and First Peter chapter 3.

Hannah seems to have been the most consistently godly woman of the Old Testament mothers we considered. She was a devoted woman of prayer who kept her vow to God as the mother of Israel’s great prophet Samuel.

Most encouraging to me, however, are the accounts of Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. A Canaanite prostitute, a widowed Moabite, and an unfaithful young wife. Yet God worked in each woman’s life in astounding ways to bring them into the household of faith and bless them as godly mothers.

Of course, the most precise picture that we have is of Eunice, Timothy’s mother, because she was a Christian era woman and mother of faith in the New Testament. We know precisely what body of truth she embraced as a platform from which to trust Christ as her Savior. It was the Gospel message.

Consider each of these women in light of the Gospel message, understanding that Jesus saves from sin and that the women who demonstrated no faith led lives that appear to have been miserable. I am not persuaded Eve was a happy or fulfilled mother. I see no evidence that Rebekah was a joyful or fulfilled mother. My mother gave no evidence of being a joyful or fulfilled mother. Why so? No evidence of faith.

On the other hand, consider the lives of the mothers we looked at who had faith. From the deepest depths of depravity and hopelessness, God lifted them up and blessed them profoundly. Why so? Because they were good? Was an idolater named Sarai good? Was a prostitute named Rahab good? Was a Moabite named Ruth good? Was a disloyal wife named Bathsheba good?

No. Only God is good. And regardless how those women started out in life, only God’s grace can explain how their lives ended up. It is grace through faith. It must always be grace because sinners deserve nothing. It must always be by faith because there is none that doeth good, no not one.

The Lord knows I loved my mother. I prayed for her salvation thousands of times. I presented the Gospel to her thousands of times. Why did my mother not turn from her sins to trust Christ? She did not want to. I pray that you will want to trust Christ as your Savior.

__________

[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/snarky

[2] Genesis 4.4, 25; Matthew 23.35; Luke 11.51; Hebrews 11.4; 12.24

[3] Genesis 14.13

[4] Genesis 16.1-16

[5] Genesis 24.67; 25.19-28

[6] Genesis 27.6-29

[7] Genesis 25.23

[8] Genesis 27.5-29

[9] Exodus 20.12

[10] Joshua 2.1; 6.17, 25; Hebrews 11.31; James 2.25

[11] Herbert Lockyer, All The Women Of The Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967), page 131.

[12] Joshua 2.9-11

[13] Deuteronomy 25.5-10

[14] 1 Samuel 1.11

[15] 1 Samuel 2.19

[16] 1 Samuel 3.1-21; 10.1; 16.13

[17] Psalm 127.3

[18] 2 Samuel 11.3; 23.1-39

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