Mother’s Day Take-Aways

A Mother’s day message – May 8, 2022 [Listen online to recording HERE or Spotify player at end of post.]

Today is the national holiday of Mother’s day. Mothers are an amazing gift from God. The first mother, Eve set the stage for the natural activities of mothers. It is unfortunate that it typically takes us until we are adults to truly appreciate their importance in our lives. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I want to recognize that holidays such as Mother’s Day can be particularly painful. Maybe you are missing your mom, perhaps she’s passed away. Perhaps you are lamenting the relationship you have with her. Perhaps you’d really like to be a mom, but can’t. And this holiday is a reminder to you of that. 

Whether you are a mom or have a mom, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what moms do:

They…

Care for us

  • Took care of our basic needs (being born!)
  • Nourishment
  • Affection 
  • Warmth, shelter (mother hen gathers her chicks)

And in some interesting role reversal, we in turn care for mom. Beyond flowers and cards. 

  • Stay connected so they aren’t lonely (sit and chat, call)
  • Help do things around their homes that need done
  • Go with them to appointments
  • If need be at some point in life, some families move mom in with them. 
  • I’m sure there are many other things one can do to care for their mother. Praying with and for mom is probably too on the list. 

The Bible gives a couple of examples. 

Jesus on the cross, makes sure his mom is taken care of, looked after by giving that responsibility over to one of his disciples. 

Another new testament mom story was when Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus.

38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

Luke 4:38-39 NIV

For this unnamed mother-in-law of Peter, she starts the cycle all over again. Out of her wellness and gratefulness of restored health, she begins to care for others, and begins meeting their needs.

If that example isn’t a reason to celebrate and appreciate moms, I don’t know what is!

While the original intent was not consumerism: pumping up the sales of flowers, cards and candy as gifts for moms, it did turn into that over time. (History.com)

At the heart of Mother’s day here in the US was a day to recognize as a nation the contribution that mothers make and for people to show their appreciation for their mom in some way. 

Being appreciated is nice. However, the day in and day out of parenthood can really wear on a mom. (some of what I have to say today doesn’t just apply to moms, but for the sake of the day – we will focus on them.) The worries, stressors and concerns can make one wonder about this calling of motherhood.

Concerns like: “What if he doesn’t turn out the way I raised him?” “Will my husband love me more if I have more kids?” or one of the hardest questions: “What if I can never have children? What is my worth?”

Today I want to look at 3 women whose stories address these questions. 

Let’s begin with a story you and I may be very familiar with, but perhaps not looked at it from the angle of the mom. It comes from Judges 13

Mrs. Manoah

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Judges 13:1-5 NIV

I took a quick glance backward in Judges and I discovered…unless I missed one, this story has a unique opening. The rest of the judges are all adults at the time scripture begins recording their stories, their time as judge. This boy yet to be born was foretold by an angel and then his parents were given specific instruction on how to raise him. 

Well most directly, mom a.k.a. “Manoah’s wife” or Mrs. Manoah was the one who received the instructions. Manoah even went so far as to pray God would send his messenger back so he could hear the directions first hand. 

13 The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”

Judges 13:13-14 NIV

So we are going to look at this story and the next two from the mother’s perspective. I want to put us in the sandals of these ladies and this first one, Mrs. Manoah begins barren.

  • She’s probably considered cursed or at the mildest, “Not blessed” for blessing was directly associated with being able to have children. I’m not saying it should have been that way, but that was the common understanding.
  • Then she is given some incredible news:
    • She’ll give birth to a son
    • She raise him a certain way
    • He’ll always be that way before God
    • He will deliver her people
  • Not only will she get to be blessed by giving birth to a child, (a son, nonetheless!) But, her son will be a rescuer of the Israelites. A savior.

This is a big task. But as far as we know, she and her husband followed through with the directions. Little Samson was born and he was a Nazarite from birth.

And he lived happily ever after, doing just what God planned for him to do…right? Let’s take a quick walk at his career as a judge.

  • He starts by marrying a Philistine woman , (Surprisingly, this actually was from God…in order to set up a confrontation.)
  • Later he ate honey from a dead lion carcass
  • Samson later made a wager, lost the bet and then paid for it by killing 30 men and looting the bodies
  • He tied 300 foxes together in pairs by the tail and attached a torch to the tails, letting them run around and burn up standing grain, vineyards and olive groves.
  • He was turned in by his own people and then he used a donkey jaw bone to slay 1,000 men he was handed over to.
  • Slept with a prostitute in Gaza and then in the middle of the night, went and picked up the doors of the city gate of Gaza, set them on a hill. (they were going to try and kill him that night, though.)
  • Fell in love with Delilah. She was bought off by Philistine rulers to discover the root of Samson’s strength. She nagged him and finally he let her know. 
  • He was captured and rendered sightless.
  • His last act, after reconnecting with God, was to push out the supports of the grand building he was in, killing many many philistines.

How proud his mom must have been!

I’m not sure I would have been.

Can you imagine raising your kid devoted to God and thinking “Wow I hope my child delivers oppressed people by killing the oppressors.”  “ I hope he grows to be a pompous egotistical brat, that toys with people for fun! I’m fairly sure that is what God had planned for him.”

Sorry. As a kid, I grew up being taught a few portions of Samson’s story. His victorious destruction of the enemies painted in the light of a biblical “Hercules.” A superhero like Superman or Shazam! But as I read more of the story, I saw how flawed he was, even though he was devoted to God before his birth. I didn’t look to him as a good example or role model.

And what do you think Mrs. Manoah thought? Did Samson have an attitude “only a mother can love?” Was she a failure because Samson turned out the way he did? We assume she raised him according to the word of God. 

And this is our first take away from Mrs. Manoah: 

1. You can do your best raising your children, but they have to choose their own path.

Samson wasn’t given a choice to be a Nazarite dedicated to God. This was a vow a person made willingly. Until Delilah, his hair was never cut, so we can assume the other directions were followed as far as his parents were concerned. 

There is a pesky thing we in the Nazarene church believe in wholeheartedly. It’s called “FREE-WILL,” perhaps you’ve heard of it? In the context of Samson, his mom and dad can raise him the way God commanded, but Samson still has a choice to devote his will to God or to himself. The story of his life, beginning to end is a good example of Free Will in action as anything else. God still used him in his brokenness to accomplish God’s tasks, but it wasn’t until Samson gave all of himself to God – at the very end of his life – that he devoted his will to God. The end result was the destruction of a temple of worship to a false God and all the people in it.

You can do your best raising your children, but they have to choose their own path.

Leah

Our next mother is again, not one we really don’t focus much on in bible studies and sermons. Jacob wanted to marry Leah’s sister, Rachel, but the father of the bride pulled a switcheroo on the wedding day and Jacob ended up marrying Leah instead of Rachel. He eventually gets to marry Rachel as well, but Leah’s like the equivalent to getting picked last for kickball. As you can imagine, it doesn’t feel good to be picked last OR not picked at all. Worse than that, Scripture states that Jacob and Leah were just fulfilling their marriage vows. There was no love from Jacob to her. Genesis 29:31-35

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Genesis 29:31-35 NIV

I love Jacki and I know she loves me. I hope you have or have had a relationship where love between you and another person was clear.

I believe Leah’s situation is extremely relatable. There are times in our life, and perhaps our whole life where we can feel unloved. When we feel unloved, we look for things in which to find our self worth. 

Some look to a career, money, power, fame, praise from others, influence, and the accumulation of things. When we feel unloved, being loved is all that matters. Leah tried to get her husband to love her by having children with him, producing heirs. It wasn’t until her last son, Judah did she finally recognize her self worth doesn’t lie in her relationship with her husband, the care he can give her, or the children she can bring into the world. She found her self worth in the one who enabled her to have children in the first place. In God. And she named her final son, Judah. The footnote in my bible and of course the context of the verse give it away. “Judah sounds like the Hebrew word for praise.”

2. So Leah teaches us to find our worth in God and not other people or things. Children and a spouse can give you great joy, but look to the Lord unconditional affirmation.

Hannah

Hannah is such a nice name. It was ranked #44 on the top 1,000 baby girl names for 2021. Our family has known several Hannahs. Shout outs to Hannah Pierce and Hannah Young! (Their parents listen or read these messages online after the fact.) Hannah was the wife of Elkanah and we find their story in 1 Samuel. In fact, if it wasn’t for Hannah we wouldn’t even have a 1st or 2nd Samuel!

She had a story similar to Mrs. Menoah. She was barren and had no children. In a similar fashion to Leah, she had competition to deal with. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah had another wife, Penninah (puh-NINE-nuh). She had children. The two ladies did not have a good relationship and her barrenness affected her relationship with her husband. 1Sam 1:8

8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:8 NIV

She wasn’t satisfied. But in this case, she pursued the Lord and humbly requested deliverance from her misery. 

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant

’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 

1 Samuel 1:10-11 NIV

I’ve heard the expression “Pray through.” I’ve never understood this expression too well, but Hannah is probably the best example I can point to of someone who “prayed through”. She left all of herself on that altar of prayer. She prayed so passionately that she was mistaken for being drunk.  She desired the Lord’s blessing and was willing and did follow through on giving her son back to the service of God. 

And God gave Hannah her request. She conceived and had a son and his name was Samuel. 

—-

I want to take a pause to ask you, have you ever heard of P.D. Eastman?

No? How about Dr. Seuss? Eastman was a protégé and colleague of Seuss. When Eastman  wrote and illustrated his own books, it was in a similar style to Seuss. Short, easy sentences and memorable images. Eastman wrote a book entitled “Are You My Mother?”

If not, enjoy story time!

—-

Let’s look again at Hannah. Because of her heart and sacrifice, she had a kind of “open adoption” so to speak where they visited Samuel each year during sacrifice time and gave him clothes and such. Not every mom who gives up her rights and responsibility to someone else gets to keep that kind of relationship.

Though she promised to give her very first baby boy up to the Lord, she in turn still got to be a part of his life.

What’s the take away from Hannah? There are so many, but we can zero in on one:

Praying through, then follow-through is the only way to Break through.

Hannah was downcast. She cried out in her anguish. Eli spoke a word of blessing upon her and the Lord did as she had asked. So she did as she promised. And the result was young Samuel, ministering before the Lord…Young Samuel who didn’t need to be like the baby bird, asking “Are you my mother?” to random people and objects. He got to see and know his mother. He also received the blessing of inheriting the roles of Priest and God later used him as a prophet. 

All because Hannah prayed through, then followed through to break through. Her whole life was changed because of it.

I’d like to conclude today’s message by asking you the following question?

What are you praying for?

Hannah prayed and when the Eli the priest was convinced she was actually praying and not hitting the alcohol too hard, he said this to her.

“Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.””

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you desire the things that God desires for you? Are you praying for:

  • Miraculous recoveries?
  • Healing from addiction?
  • Companionship?
  • Appreciation?
  • Resources?
  • Freedom?
  • Your Future?
  • Peace in your heart and in the world around you?

Leah and Mrs. Manoah shared this in common, God outright intervened in their stories. We don’t have a record of them reaching out to him to solve their life problems. We do have Hannah earnestly seeking God with her whole heart. Hannah making a fool of herself through tear-filled prayer. Hannah kept humble, even while asking the God of the Universe to look on her with favor…to not forget her. To give her a miracle, a son.

How far are you willing to God, how desperately would you pray to hear an answer from the Lord? Hannah showed us the way. The way is praying through. 

  • Mom? How’s your prayer life? Are you going to God, whole heartedly?
  • Son, Daughter, husband, How’s your prayer life? Are you going to God, whole heartedly?

May we do so in keeping in line with the Lord’s will and desires for our life so it may be said to us:

“…Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him…”

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