And so because the spring was important to them they set up a position for a person to protect the spring, to care for the spring. And the town grew and prospered. But the people wanted their town to grow even faster and so they began to look for ways to focus the money that the town was spending to accelerate its growth. And in examining their finances, they decided to get rid of the position for the person who cared for the spring. As I remember the telling of the story, he was making around $4,000 a year. It gives you an idea of how old the story is. And they re-directed that money to other areas, to building industry, to sprucing up the image of the town. But after a while they began to notice that people started to get sick, and the water which before had always tasted sweet and pure had an oily taste. And the plants in their gardens did not grow as well. The difference was that now because no one was there to protect and guard the spring, on which the town depended, and it had become contaminated.
Today is Mother’s Day. Today is a day to celebrate and honor mothers. And this is important because you see in our society, in our culture, in our ecclesias, mothers are the keepers of the spring. On the outside, Moms may appear to have a very ordinary position. A position that is often overlooked, and undervalued.
But if you want to destroy a culture, if you want to destroy an ecclesia, then you will put the keeper of the spring in your cross hairs. You will destroy the value of a mother, and the value of children.
The philosopher Plato once said that what is honored in a country will be cultivated there.
What does our country honor?
And I would say not usually mothers, except on Mother’s Day. If you look at the magazines in a newsstand, it is clear woman are valued most for their beauty, their body, the guy they are with or the role they play in the company they work for. As to being an incredible mother? Not so much.
At this time of year, students are getting ready to graduate from high school and university. With this comes graduations and speeches meant to inspire the young graduates. When is the last time you heard of the commencement address being given by a Mom or a grandmother, because they were a Mom or a grandmother? Or an address that emphasized the importance and value of being a Mother?
People often overlook the role of Mothers
We recently attended a band concert for my daughter. And they gave out an award to one of the graduating students, as voted by the other students in the band. And he gave a brief impromptu speech where he thanked his music teacher for helping him becomes so skilled, he thanked the director of the band for encouraging him, he thanked the other students. He did not think to mention his parents, for paying for the lessons and likely his Mom for driving him all over the place for lessons and concerts, or encouraging him to keep practicing when things were hard. Must have just slipped his mind.
Moms play a vital role in nurturing and developing kids, and the importance of this can be easily overlooked. Men are often asked “What does your wife do?” And if their wife has a job — they probably say how she is employed. Do they bother to say that actually she is a fabulous Mom?
In our family, we have made the choice, and have had the privilege to have my wife stay home and care for our kids. People sometimes ask me what my wife does. Often, I simply say she stays home and takes care of our kids. What I probably should tell people who ask that question is that after creating life she is working to mold and shape it in the image of God… what does your wife do?
We also live in a culture that in some ways, sometimes does not value kids. There is a whole industry focused on ensuring that if a child is conceived and if it is not the perfect time, that child will never be born. We have a large section of our economy focused on ensuring that somebody else other than the parents will raise the child. Our culture sometimes emphasizes that kids are an obstacle, they get in the way for a woman, they get in the way of her beauty and her body, and inhibit her career opportunities. Children are sometimes represented as a restraint on the lives of women, preventing her from being all that she can be. Our culture sometimes emphasizes to women that kids are nice, but as a priority in their lives, they should be pretty far down on the list.
God has a very different point of view
Are kids as an obstacle in life, or an opportunity to create and shape life? If Christ remains away, our kids are going to get married and have kids, who will have kids, who will have kids and the values, principles, ways of life that are instilled in them will touch generation after generation. Remember what Jesus said about kids:
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:3-6).
To paraphrase: Jesus said Look, if you are going to do something to hurt a child, before you do, go tie a huge rock around your neck and jump in the ocean. Do you think God values kids?
This is very much the viewpoint of a mother. How do you get a Mom really angry? Do something that hurts or upsets her kid. Moms are tough, they can endure a lot, so if a Mom is offended or a target of ridicule, she will probably get upset. But if you target her kids, if you make fun of her child, if you hurt her child, that is when you will get a Mom really angry. That is when you will see the Momma bear come out.
God sees kids as being really important, because children reproduce us. Children are our voices to another generation. Children are the best way to ensure that the values, characteristics, and faith continue to another generation. That is one of the reasons God likes to work with families, with parents, with mothers. And nobody has a bigger opportunity to influence kids than Moms.
It is interesting that one of the things God often does when He wants to develop a particularly great individual, or when He has a particularly important task, is that He gives that child to a woman who at first cannot have kids. You see this with Isaac, with John the Baptist, with Samuel, with Samson, and with Joseph. Because you see, that woman is going to love her kid and pour herself into that kid. That woman, that mom, is going to particularly realize that children are a gift from God. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psa 127:3).
Abraham and Sarah
Look into the life of Abraham. As God selected a family to work with, why did He pick Abraham? Why did God pick his family? And we are told one of the reasons in Genesis:
“And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen 18:17-19).
And you might think that God was particularly picking Abraham. But He was not. If you look into the story, it becomes very clear that God did not simply pick Abraham. He picked Abraham and Sarah.
The Bible is very clear that the promised seed was not going to simply be the child of Abraham, but the child of Abraham and Sarah. This was something that Abraham did not at first understand. Sarah was picked by God to be the mother of the promised seed. Why? Why couldn’t the mother be Hagar? Because God knows how important Moms are. God knows how much influence they have on kids. And God knows how important Moms are for developing Godly descendants: how important Moms are for protecting, and caring, and nurturing young minds, and developing character and habits that will last a lifetime. God picked Sarah to be the Mom for Isaac. God picked Sarah to nurture and develop the promised seed. Because He knew what an important role she would play in the life of Isaac.
In the New Testament both Jesus and Paul pick up on God’s selection of Sarah. Israel prided itself as being the children of Abraham. Paul in Galatians 4, points out that what they really needed to focus, on was not that they were children of Abraham, but whether Sarah was their mother.
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar — for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children — but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal 4:21-27 NKJ).
Paul is pointing out that the question the Jews should be asking wasn’t who is your father, are you a child of Abraham? The key question was who was your mother and are you a child of Sarah? Sarah represents the covenant; Sarah represents the Jerusalem of the future and the mother of the children of promise. God knows how important mothers are for kids. How the attitudes, the habits, the interests, that Moms help to develop in the early years of a child’s life, and that this foundation carries throughout their life. That is why He chose Sarah to be the mother for Isaac.
Joseph and Rachel
Here is another example. When you look into the life of Joseph, his mother Rachel sometimes is given a bad name. She took the household gods of her father Laban, because she was desperate to have a child and was willing to try anything.
And yet when you look at Joseph, I think you see her hand at work in his life. I think she poured herself out into her son, and the differences we see in Joseph when compared to his brothers is a testimony to her effort, her love, and her faith. Joseph had a spiritual sensitivity that none of his brothers had. Some argue that Joseph got this from his father. But if you look into the early life of Joseph, you find that Jacob probably was not around much. He was off caring for Laban’s flocks and herds. He describes this time like this.
“I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times” (Gen 31:38-41).
Notice who cared for Joseph, who brought up Joseph. And that would most likely be Rachel. If you look at all the other sons of Jacob, they are all a bit of a mess. But Joseph, Joseph was different. I think this difference is a testimony to the work of Rachel in his life.
And there is another detail we are given that I think supports this. Did you know that we are specifically told that Rachel will be in the kingdom? We have this in the prophetic dreams that Joseph had as recorded for us:
“And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying” Gen 37:5-11).
The first dream was of 11 sheaves of grain which bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. And this represented Joseph’s 11 brothers bowing down to him. A dream that his brothers didn’t particularly appreciate being told. I mean this was their hated kid brother, there was no way at that time that any of them would have bowed down to Joseph. The second dream his father interprets, that the sun represented Jacob, the moon represented Joseph’s mother. And the 11 stars Joseph’s brothers. And who was Joseph’s mother? — Rachel. But how would she bow down to him? She was already dead. The only way for this dream to be fulfilled would be for Rachel to be raised. Rachel is going to be in the kingdom.
And did you notice what happens when the first dream is finally fulfilled. It was many years later. There were a few occasions before where this first dream was almost fulfilled, but first Benjamin was missing, and then Simeon was still in prison. But finally, in Gen 43:26 the moment occurs. Finally, all 11 brothers were together: notice Gen 43:23 — Simeon was there — Joseph had brought him out of prison to join the others. Benjamin was there. “And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves” (Gen 43:28).
The first dream was fulfilled before his eyes. And you can imagine Joseph’s mind suddenly shooting ahead to the second dream, a dream that included his mother and his father. And we do not have to imagine. “Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son” (v. 29).
That is where his mind was. That second dream. I think he saw in his brother’s face a resemblance of his mother, a face that he probably struggled at times to remember. And he was going to see his mother again. That second dream was going to be fulfilled. And he would see the woman that had loved him dearly, that had built into him the strength and the resiliency, the compassion and the love that had kept him strong through the challenges of Egypt. He would see her in the kingdom, along with his father, and his brothers. That is what Moms can do for their kids.
Mary, mother of Jesus.
In the New Testament — you know the book of James, who was it written by? It was written by James the son of Mary. You know the book of Jude, and who was that written by? Jude the son of Mary. If you ask Mary how she did as a Mom: she had two kids that helped write the New Testament, and one that saved the world. Not bad! God had picked Mary to be the Mother for His son Jesus.
Well if you look at her song in Luke 1:46-55 you begin to get an idea. It is filled with quotations from the Old Testament. This was a woman who knew her Bible and who was spiritually adept. But this morning I want to focus on a slightly different aspect. Rather than look at the credentials of Mary, I want to focus on an aspect of her life that I think is a characteristic of Moms.
When you have a Mom with a new baby, that baby is totally dependent on the mother. And Moms pour their hearts out into their kids. But one day that baby is going to, as it were, sprout wings and fly away. One of the jobs of being a Mom, is to work yourself out of the job. To get the kid to a point where they do not really need their Mom anymore, at least not in the same way. A Mom will be always be a Mom, but children do not stay the same.
And this was something that Mary would learn maybe more so than any other mother. Mary knew from the very beginning that Jesus was special. But I do not think she understood exactly what that meant and would mean for her. We are told in Luke 2:19 that as Mary heard the shepherds glorifying God and praising him at the birth of Jesus, and that she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And we are told in Luke: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).
And they went down to Jerusalem, for the Passover, and Jesus got lost and Mary and Joseph were worried sick, and when they found him
“… his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart” (Luke 2:48-51).
Mary knew that God was working in the life of Jesus, but I do not think she knew exactly what God was doing, and how He was working.
Jesus grew up, and suddenly his ministry had started and he had left the family. But I do not think his ministry made sense to Mary and to the rest of the family. He was not eating very well, or sleeping, or taking time for himself, and people were reporting that he was offending the important Jews and criticizing the Law of Moses.
And you can read about a situation in Matt 12:46-50, where Mary and Jesus’ brothers came to get him, to take him home, but they were pushed away.
But it takes a lot more than that to push a Mom away. We find Mary once again at the crucifixion: “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27). We find Mary with the believing disciples at the beginning of Acts. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). What you find is that Mary may not be with Jesus, but she is never far away.
And that is so characteristic of Moms. Moms are always keeping an eye out for their children, whether they are little or grown. Moms are concerned about their kids, and Moms keep wanting the best for their kids. But sometimes all they can do, the best thing they can do, is turn things over to God. I think this is the point that Mary got to quite quickly once Jesus started his ministry.
There is a story of someone who was commenting at his mother’s funeral, that what he most remembered about his mom was that, every morning, she knelt down and prayed. And he said: that woman is dead, but my greatest loss is not her person, but the memory that someone is praying for me.
There was a brother that I knew, who had had a somewhat difficult and wild youth. He told a story of how as a teenager his parents had sent him to a Bible school up in Canada, which from his perspective, and from the Bible school’s perspective, did not go very well. He was wild, and the committee was not happy with him. He was constantly getting in trouble, primarily because he was a bad influence on the other kids. But what he remembered most from the experience was when he got home, and his Mom told him how that she had been praying for him every day, praying that he would be safe, that this would be a good experience for him. The Bible school had not made an impact on him, but this did. In this difficult period of life, his Mom really cared about him. And kept praying for him. Today is Mother’s Day. Let us make sure we remember and honor the role of the Mothers in this ecclesia and in our lives.
As we approach the emblems now, we remember particularly the role of Jesus in the Father’s plan of salvation. Let us not forget that God partnered with a Mom. Jesus was the seed of the woman, as promised in the early Chapters of Genesis. And God continues to work with Moms and their children to prepare people for His kingdom.
~ Stephen Robinson (Pittsburgh PA)