It is a good thing to be reminded of the blessings of godly motherhood. The United States Congress designated May 8, 1914 as a special day to honor mothers, and ever since, the second Sunday of May has been observed in honor of our mothers. People in every country, even if a special day is not set aside, can make use of opportunities to honor their mothers.
We want to look at several mothers mentioned in the Bible and notice the qualities that characterized their lives.
1. Mary: Undying Love
In the account describing the crucifixion of Jesus we have a beautiful picture of a mother’s undying love. The Bible says that when Jesus was taken out to Calvary, and was crucified, even in the midst of the taunting Jews and tough Roman soldiers, Mary stood by Him to the very last. The love and devotion of a true mother never fails.
From the Bible account of King David, there comes a moving story of a mother’s undying love. It is the story of Rizpah, wife of King Saul. The account in 2 Samuel is blotted with cruelty and revenge, but in the middle of this record, there is a beautiful moving story of a mother’s love and concern. Seven sons of Saul were tortured and killed by the Gibeonites because Saul had molested their land many years before. David permitted the Gibeonites to seize these boys (the offspring of Saul), and put them to death. 2 Samuel 21:9 says, “They hanged them in the hill before the Lord; and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the . . . beginning of barley harvest.” Can you imagine the sorrow and consternation that came to the mother of the seven boys, when the officers came to their home and took them off to be crucified? The sons of Saul were taken out to a hillside and hanged. But as the darkness fell on the evening of their crucifixion, Rizpah (the mother of two of the boys) journeyed to the barren hillside, spread a blanket over the ground, and stayed there for several months—to drive off the birds and to stay by her sons (2 Samuel 21:10). This is a moving account of a mother’s devotion and undying love for her children. Only a mother would have done it. One of the characteristics of real motherhood is undying love.
Norman Macleod (a preacher from Scotland) tells of a highland widow who was evicted from her home because she couldn’t pay her rent. She started out with her only child—on a walk of ten miles—to her nearest relative on the other side of the mountain, to see if she could make her home with them. It was the month of May, but by the time she reached the mountain, a spring snowstorm set in, and as the night wore on, it increased in intensity. The Scottish preacher says that the next morning they found the mother cold in death—but beside her (wrapped in the mother’s outer garments) they found the little child, cosy and warm. Not every mother has been so loyal, but a true mother’s love is steadfast even to the point of death.
This is one of the reasons why the word “mother” touches a tender cord in the heart of every thoughtful person. The very thought of our mothers carries us back to childhood days. We think of love, and tenderness, and watchful concern—and all this makes us feel like bowing our heads in honor to our mothers.
2. Hannah: Untiring Sacrifice
“Untiring sacrifice” speaks of a mother’s work and toil for the welfare of the family. One of the most expressive pictures of a mother’s care to be found in the Bible, centers around Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
After dedicating the child Samuel to the Lord and to the work of the temple, Hannah left him to Eli the priest. But her care and concern for him did not end there, for we read, “His mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (1 Samuel 2:19). Each year she visited Samuel and presented him with a little garment that was woven by her own hands. The little coats that Hannah made for Samuel have long since crumbled into the dust, but they were a small token of a mother’s untiring sacrifice for her son.
Devoted mothers make many, many personal sacrifices. In fact, when a mother in the first place goes down into the valley of the shadow to give birth to her child, she does it at great personal sacrifice. She endures travail in order to bring new life into the world. And then when the children are growing, there is always an endless amount of work. An old proverb says, “Men may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” It is never fair to say to a mother, “Are you just a housewife, or do you have a job?” The poet says: “Nobody knows the work it makes, to keep the home together; nobody knows the steps it takes, nobody knows but mother.”
Even with the convenience of some of the newer gadgets and household appliances, motherhood is far from easy. Most mothers must serve as a cook, housekeeper, seamstress, nurse, doctor, lawyer, counselor, peacemaker, purchasing agent, and teacher. Our mothers generally cook and serve an average of one thousand meals for each member of the family each year. And then there are dishes to be washed and windows to be cleaned and rugs to be vacuumed—and it seems like there is no end. Surely mothers deserve our respect.
For most of us, our mothers guided our steps when we were just little tots. They read stories to us as soon as we were old enough to look at pictures. Mother kissed our hands when they were injured and hurt. The little poem says: “Who ran to help me when I fell, and would some pretty story tell, or kiss the place to make it well? My mother.” We need to honor our mothers because of their untiring sacrifice.
3. Jochebed: Untold Influence
Moses was adopted into a pagan Egyptian household, but the Bible says that when “he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season.” That was Moses’ own personal decision. He decided to go with the people of God. But Moses learned the issues at stake at his mother’s knee. The influence of Jochebed on the life of Moses during his early years was so great that all his training in the king’s court could never erase it.
There are many factors that influence our lives. Heredity, associations, environment—all these contribute to the sum total of our personalities. But of all the factors that influence our growth and development, the influence of a mother is the most unique and outstanding. In fact, the influence of a mother is so great that it is often said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
The influence of a mother on her children can never be overstated. The influence and prayers of godly mothers have been a blessing and inspiration in countless lives. When Grover Cleveland was elected governor of the state of New York, he wrote a letter to his brother in which he said, “You know, if mother were still alive, I’d feel much safer. I’ve always thought her prayers had much to do with my success.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Men are what their mother’s make them.” Abraham Lincoln once declared, “All that I am and all that I ever will be I owe to my mother.”
Every mother has a tremendous opportunity to influence her children for God, or against Him. No one else is as close to a little child during the tender and formative years of life, as the mother. From her lips we learn to speak; from her footsteps we learn to walk; from her attitudes we develop our character. Henry Ward Beecher used to say, “The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” The simple prayers that our childish lips first uttered were actually echoes from our mother’s heart. A mother’s task in molding lives and shaping character is a tremendous responsibility. There is no task under the sun that is greater than rearing boys and girls for God, and sending them out into the world to lead good Christian lives. For this reason, the mother of growing children should be a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:5), and not working at some job outside the home. We honor our mothers for their untold influence.
4. Eunice: Unfailing Faith
When the Apostle Paul was preaching in Lystra he met a wonderful family—a young man named Timothy, his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. A number of years later, Paul reminded Timothy that his faith dwelled first in his grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). This does not mean that a child “inherits” faith. Every individual must make the decision to serve Jesus Christ for himself—but there is a very definite advantage in having a Christian heritage.
It is tragic that many mothers give their children a warm bed and nourishing meals and adequate clothing—but little spiritual nurture. A true Christian mother always provides for the spiritual needs of her children, as well as for their physical needs. Eunice taught Timothy the Holy Scriptures. He had known the Scriptures from childhood, and Paul says it was this that made him wise unto salvation. The concerned mother begins early to impart religious faith. She tries not to let an evening slip by without reading a Bible story at bedtime. She plants the law of God into their young minds every night, just before they move out into dreamland. Many of the words may be forgotten, but impressions will be left that time can never erase.
A young girl lay on her bed with what proved to be a fatal illness. She was the only child and the idol of her parents. She got everything she wanted. The doctor was called, and after examining the sick girl, he whispered into the mother’s ear. The girl sensed what he told her. She said, “Mother, you’ve taught me how to dance, to dress well, how to conduct myself in the world—but one thing you failed to teach me—and that is how to die.” A good mother will teach her child how to die. Talk with your children about God’s plan of salvation—read to them, pray with them, and teach them wholesome things.
A Christian mother is the fairest flower that grows in the garden of happiness. If your mother is still living, visit her often. Show kindness to her while you can. The day will soon come when her eyesight and her hearing will become less keen, and her heart will be stopped in death. If your mother is gone, remember the advice she gave and the lessons she taught. And keep the place where she is buried neatly trimmed. A neglected mother’s grave is always a disgrace to any family of children. If you have wandered far from your mother’s precepts, won’t you turn to Jesus Christ and find forgiveness and make sure of meeting your redeemed loved ones in Heaven?
Truly, we can say “amen” to the following bit of verse: “Of all the earthly things God gives, there’s one above all others; it is the precious, priceless gift, of loving, Christian mothers.”