The Moms of God

Heritage Presbyterian Church

6th Sunday of Easter: May 14, 2023

Scripture readings: Genesis 18:9-15; Exodus 2:1-10; 1st Samuel 1:19-18; Luke 1:5-25

Obviously, today is Mother’s Day, a date that is not celebrated or even noted in the Bible.  Yet it is a date that we cannot easily skip over so we can hurry up and get to the message for today.  In fact, today’s message will consist of four brief Scripture readings, each one followed by a brief message highlighting a particular aspect of the Moms of God.

Genesis 18:9-15

They said to Abraham, “Where is your wife, Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Sarah is laughing at the absurdity of life that appeared before her.  The idea of having a child in her advanced age seemed ludicrous, so she laughed to herself at the prospect.  “How could this be?” she chuckled.  “Hasn’t enough time passed with no child to call our own?”  Sarah had clearly given up on having any children.

But Sarah was about to learn a hard lesson: while today’s advanced medical technology has made children a possibility for mothers in all sorts of situations, the question still comes to moms in all sorts of situations: “How can this be?”

When that question is asked by a mom, it doesn’t always have to do with having children:

  • “How can it be that my child is only the back-up quarterback for the Houston Texans?”
  • “How can it be that my child will be singing opera?”
  • “How can it be that my child is going to South America to live among the natives and try to bring the Gospel to them?
  • “How could it possibly be that my child is going to be so different from anyone else in our family?

When these questions occur in the mind of any mom of God, it may linger there; it may be scoffed at briefly; it may be laughed at scornfully.  But at some point, any mom of God – like Sarah – will realize the situation calls for her to stand up and serve.  Her God has made something plain before her eyes, and her child is going to need her.  Her child’s future – and probably her own – will not turn out the way she planned.

Instead, that mom of God will need guts, nerve, and love.

Exodus 2:1-10

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So, the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So, the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”  This is a phrase that I suspect is very well known to many of you.  At times in your life, despite your financial or family circumstances, many of you have known desperate times.  Moms of God seem to understand this better than most.  Instead of giving up, they steel their spines and begin moving forward – no matter how difficult it is, such as in this story:

The mom was left alone with her six children.  Her no-good husband had run off with another woman and had taken all the money they had.  He had deliberately moved them from the relative comfort and security of California to the cold of Denver, Colorado – and he left them just as winter was setting in.

The mom sat alone at her cold kitchen table wondering what she would do.  She had no family or friends.  She had no job skills.  And the year was 1933 – the lowest, deepest part of the Great Depression.

In desperation, she approached the neighborhood Catholic priest – even though she wasn’t Catholic.  She had heard that the Catholics ran good, clean orphanages for children.  They would be better able to care for her children.  

But when asked the priest for help, he asked her, “But would they be loved any better by us than by you?”  

So…she took a job as a maid in a downtown hotel.  Her older three daughters took in washing and ironing.  The younger three children gathered firewood and coal every day to burn in the pot-belly stove that was in the center of their house.  It was tough, really tough, but that family stayed together and loved each other and survived.  Each of those six children went on to have successful lives of their own, and two of them even went to college.

But when this mom of God was confronted by a situation she could not control, she could not manage, she could not improve, it was a man of God who reminded her of her own power of love…just like the mother of Moses who knew she could not keep her son…but arranged for that child to be loved by her anyway.

1st Samuel 1: 9–18

Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore, Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

When God makes a deal with us, it is called a “covenant.”  God tells one of his people what He will do if that person – or group of people – will remain faithful to Him.  

When we make a deal with God, I suppose we might call it a “reverse covenant.”  In this arrangement, we often beg God to help us, and we follow this by making a promise of some action that we will do if God acts.

This is what we find in our third Scripture reading for today: Hannah’s reverse covenant with God.  She prayed at the temple, “God, if you will give me a son, I will give him to You as a servant.”  

And that is exactly what Hannah did.

And that is exactly what God received: a servant named Samuel.

I suspect that throughout human history, the untold Moms of God have made reverse covenants by the millions with God.  I am not discounting the influence of dads in determining the future of their children’s lives, but this message is about moms.  It just seems to me that the Moms of God are the ones to pray consistently, repeatedly, and with tears to God so their children may be helped.

Notice that Hannah didn’t pray for herself exactly…she prayed for her child.

That is what I see when Moms of God make reverse covenants: they pray for their children, not for themselves.

I would think that is an easier prayer for God to hear.

“Don’t help me, God…help my child!”  This reveals a side of parental love that God understands and sympathizes with.  But don’t mistake this type of love for a softer, gentler message.  No, there is more often than not steel behind that reverse covenant.  That mom fully intends to fulfill that reverse covenant to the fullest.  There will be NO changing of her mind.  There will be NO turning aside after everything is safe, sound, and settled.  That’s not how Moms of God operate!  

After all, a covenant is a deal, and you don’t break a deal.

Luke 1:5–25

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.  8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”  21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.  24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.

Finally, we come to our final reading for today; in this one, the mother of John the Baptist is the Mom of God who will be blessed with a son – like Sarah was in the reading from Genesis, and like Hannah was in the reading from 1st Samuel.  In all three cases, a Mom of God had prayed for a child, and that prayer was answered.

In this reading, Elizabeth realizes her blessing means something special, much like all three other Moms of God we heard about today.

In this reading, the father of this child plays a significant role in the overall story of the child, much like Abraham did in the child Sarah would be carrying.

Unlike the other stories, Zechariah is portrayed as a man of faith…up to a point.  When he dared to question the angel’s words, that was it for Zechariah’s power of speech until his son was born.

Those of us who remember this back story are waiting for Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, to come and visit her; we know that this amazing encounter between those two wonderful Moms of God led the infant in the womb of Elizabeth to jump for joy upon hearing Mary’s greeting.

Elizabeth may have only played a minor role in the overall Gospel, but sometimes that one minor role can lead to faith-shaking events occurring  – events that would not have been possible without that one significant Mom of God being in the right place at the right time – and with the right faith! – so that God could act.

Often, Moms of God do not get to know the impact they have on their own children, or on the lives of others around them.  Again, that’s how it goes sometimes with any servant of the Lord God Almighty.

But on this Mother’s Day, we remember and honor:

  • Sarah, the mother of the patriarch, Isaac;
  • Jochebed, the Hebrew mother of Moses, as well as Bithiah, the daughter of Pharoah who rescued him, and even Miriam, his sister who arranged for Jochebed to nurse the child for Pharoah’s daughter;
  • Hannah, who made a reverse covenant with God and received her son, Samuel;
  • Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist;
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth;

And finally all the Moms of God who cared for us, nurtured us, prayed for us, and love us to this day.

Happy Mother’s Day.  We love you all!