The Christian Mother
Notes of an Address by Norman Anderson at Findochty 1975
God's Mothering Character and Satan's Counterfeit
There is a saying, ‘the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”. I desire to speak tonight to mothers, and in principle to fathers also. I say in support of that that there is a brother in the Scriptures who tells us he was acting as a mother, he says, “My children, of whom I travail in birth again”—that is mother's work but it was a man who said it—“until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Paul also said on another occasion, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thess. 2:7).
The first reference to mothering in Scripture is in the second verse of Genesis, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. The same word is used in another passage where the eagle “ fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings” (Deut. 32:11). It is the mothering instinct that is prominent. So the first reference to mothering activity in the word of God is related to God, we could expect that, and it is related to the activity of the Spirit of God because it is the Spirit of God who works subjectively in regard to the creation, and in regard to those who are related to the new creation. When we get to the end of the word of God the last reference to a mother is in Revelation 17, and what is said of her is this, “mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (v. 5). Genesis is the seed plot of the Bible and we can expect to see in Revelation the seeds full blown. Thank God we do, but there is always that counterfeiting activity of the devil, to oppose and to counterfeit the mothering activity of God. The mother of harlots is the conglomeration of all that which is spurious, that which is foul, that which is defiling, it is all headed up in a system that is called Babylon. That system is shaping today.
The Lord's Love for and Appreciation of His Mother
“There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother.... when Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, 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 19:25-27)
There were appreciative feelings in the heart of our blessed Lord in regard to His mother. I will not say any more about it, I cannot, but it is true. Every human sensibility of our Lord was there in perfection. One of those perfections was His feelings for His mother. There were these feelings of holy sensibilities in our blessed Lord who appreciated His mother, and though there crucified, about to die, He looked upon His mother and He looked upon the disciple whom He loved and He said, “Woman, behold thy son”, and to the disciple, “Behold thy mother”. He cared for her, He made provision for her, and the disciple took her “to his own home”. The Lord valued the home circle. We could have spoken all night about what the home sphere is, of the Lord's entry into the home circle (there is so much to see). The Scriptural phrase “And thy house” was mentioned in the first prayer meeting, it is a principle that runs right through the word of God. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house ” (Acts 16:31). John had a home into which the mother of our Lord was happily welcomed.
The Central Advice of a Godly Mother
“And on the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it .” (John 2:1-5)
This is true motherhood in exercise, urging those who are in the position of servants (and we are all in that position) to obey Christ. I am not concerned about the background to the verses, I am only concerned about the things of true motherly exercise to direct men to the Son of God, to say to them, “Whatsoever he saith unto you do it”. These are simple but very needed words. The principle of obedience is absolutely essential amongst us if we are going to go on together happily. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). We will only go on dwelling in unity as we hear His voice, His commandments, and do them. I do not need to enumerate the commandments of the Lord, Scripture does that. Young brothers and sisters, you would not need the exhortations of Scripture if you were privately going on in communion with your blessed Lord because you will only go on in communion with Him if you love Him, and you will only love Him if you are made conscious of the fact that He loves you, “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Where that is experienced and consciously confessed there is the exercise of the drawing power, you cannot keep away from Him. If anything comes in between you and Him you will feel it quickly and acutely. The great thing for us is, ‘Are we listening for His voice? The advice of a godly mother is “Whatsoever he saith unto you do it”. If you hear and respond in obedience to it you will also hear Him say to you, assembly wise for the moment, “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely” (Song of Solomon 2:14).
Deborah : A Mother in Israel
“Then sang Deborah and Bara, the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying, For that leaders led in Israel, For that the people willingly offered themselves, Bless Jehovah! Hear, ye kings; give ear, ye princes, I, even I, will sing to Jehovah; I will hymn to Jehovah the God of Israel. Jehovah, when thou wentest forth from Seir, When thou marchedst out of the fields of Edom, The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, Yea, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the face of Jehovah, That Sinai, from before Jehovah the God of Israel. In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, The roads were unused, and the travellers on highways went by crooked paths. The villages (or ‘leaders') ceased in Israel, Ceased until that I Deborah arose, That I arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? My heart is toward the governors of Israel, who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless Jehovah! ” (Jud. 5:1-9)
Deborah arose as “a mother in Israel”. Thank God for any who answer to the character of mothers amongst the people of God. What a blessed thing that a mother amongst the people of God could take account with praise on her lips stemming from her heart's affections of leaders that led. What a wonderful thing for a mother in Israel, in a day of awful failure, and despondency to be filled with praise. We need leaders who really lead, and the way that rule is exercised amongst the saints of God in Scripture is not by saying, “Thou shalt do this” and “Thou shalt not do that”, it is by walking along the pathway of obedience to the word of God and saying to the brethren, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21), and Scripture instructs us to “obey them that have the rule over you” (Heb. 13:17). So Deborah praises the Lord that leaders led in Israel.
Deborah continues, “The roads were unused, and the travellers on highways went by crooked paths”. The condition of things existent in Deborah's day were, to use modern language, days of vandalism, violence, delinquency, rebellion and disobedience, where people were afraid to use the highways. We are living in a state of things (in the cities at any rate) when we are afraid to go out at night because robberies and violence are rampant. When you get into the New Testament, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell amongst thieves” (Luke 10:30), this condition of things was rampant even when our Lord was here, and so the world has always been a bad place to live in since the fall of man, and it will always be a bad place to live in until the assertion of the rights of God in the Man of His council. At this time that Deborah is describing in her song, the highways were unoccupied, travellers went by crooked ways, they had to evade the robbers. Conditions were very bad indeed, and you might say, ‘Well, how had such a state arisen amongst the people of God?' She says in verse 7, “leaders ceased in Israel”. She celebrates at first the remembrance of days when the leaders led, then she laments when the leaders ceased to be. Where are the leaders today? Every one of us who has got any experience can say, ‘I remember those who led wisely, holily, in right paths. I remember that they always directed us not to expediency, not to compromise, but rather they led us to the plain statements of the word of God'. Oh for leaders like that to imitate their faith! This was said in prayer this morning, that kind of faith produces right kind of living. We must not idolise our leaders (which we can easily do), it is when we idolise men that we go astray because if the leader goes astray he will lead us astray. Lift your eyes off them and look at Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). The state of things in Deborah's day was at a very low ebb. Thank God that as a mother in Israel she stepped into the breach, bur she had to stir up the brother to go along beside of her. These things, praise and submission to God's divinely given order are to mark all godly Christian mothers in this dark and evil world.
An Elder's Advice to a Godly Christian Mother
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love .” (2 John 1-3)
How delicately, how courteously, how gentlemanly John was in addressing this lady. Young brother, young sister, oh be respectful to your mother. Remember, especially you who have been brought up in Christian households, remember you are indebted to your mother especially for your knowledge of God. The wise man in the book of Proverbs says, “Forsake not the law of thy mother” (1:8, 6:20). The mother has so much to do with the family, more than the father does because he is often at his job all day. If he was like me he would be out of the house by six o'clock in the morning nearly every working day of his life, he would not be back sometimes until half past five, sometimes as late as eight o'clock. You do not see much of your family, they are in bed when you go out, they are in bed when you come in, it is the mother who has so much to do with the children, especially in the formative years of their lives. What a blessed thing for the mothers to be in the way of obedience themselves, to the voice of the Lord so that they can, as this mother (we will consider later in 2 John), bring them up “in the admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
I knew a young man and he was in a certain situation where a so-called preacher of the gospel was being publicly questioned to such an extent that he was in a dilemma, and so this young man said, thinking to help him out, ‘What must I do to be saved?' This parson looked at him in amazement and said, ‘Come to church, say your prayers, change your way of living, you have to be good'. And the young man said, ‘The Bible does not say that '. ‘Oh', said the parson, ‘what do you know about the Bible?' ‘Not much, but I know that much.' ‘What does the Bible say then?' The young man said, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved'. The parson said, ‘That is not the Bible' and he went away and got a Bible and said, ‘There you are, show me that in the Bible and I will believe it'. The man, just at that very moment could not think where it was, and as he put out his hand to take the Bible, wondering what to do. Just then it flashed into mind— Romans 10 and 9 is a favourite verse of mine, confessing Christ as Lord I'm saved by power divine — and so he immediately said, ‘Romans 10 and 9'. To cut a long story short the parson said to him eventually, ‘Where did you learn that?' He replied, ‘I learnt it at my mother's knee'. Oh you are indebted young man, young woman. Take heart, treasure her, listen to her, “forsake not the law of the mother”. Read Proverbs 5 and 6, you will see the wonderful things that ensue in hearkening to a godly mother. So here Paul wrote “to the elect lady and her children ”. I think this woman was a widow, not just because the letter was written to her but further down in verse 10 she is to “receive him not into [ her ] house”. She was in charge of the house. Obviously she had no husband available then, perhaps he was away on a journey or she was widowed. It does not alter the fact that the care of the house was resting on her.
The apostle continues, ‘whom I love in the truth”. This does not mean that ‘I love her truly', it means what it says, “I love her in the truth”, and he describes to us in the body of this letter just what the truth is all about, and he is not the only one who loves her in the truth, but “all they that have known the truth”. It is a blessed thing to know the truth objectively, to have it set before us, paraded before our hearts and our minds and to be able to say, it “dwelleth in us”. That is transferring it from the picture on the wall to writing it upon our affections, the truth brought in and wrought out in our souls in the power of the Spirit of God. Oh, you children of godly mothers, do not be content to listen to the Bible stories, blessed as they are, make them your own. The way to get them into you is to trust Christ as your Saviour, confess Him as your Lord, commit yourself to Him, commit your way unto the Lord and delight yourself in Him. There is something in Christ that surpasses anything and everything in this poor empty world. As a woman hymn writer has written, ‘I have Christ, what want I more?' Oh it is blessedly true. So here the truth was transferred from the Scriptures to be written in the heart.
Scripture says here that if the mother wants to be all that this mother was and wanted to be she needs help. Where would she get it? Paul says, “Grace be with you”. Get the sense into your heart, dear Christian mother, of the favour and blessings of God. Think of God favouring you or me. It is such poor despised people as us that will one day be transferred from earthly glory. The heavens are going to be opened and God is going to set Christ forth in the midst of holy myriads and every eye of every intelligence in the universe is going to be turned heavenward to that blessed emerging scene, and when they look to Him they are going to say of us, ‘How did he or she get there? They should be down here, how did they get up there?' Oh, the exceeding riches of His grace! Oh His loving kindness! Oh His mercy! How great it must be to bring that about for such as you and me. So here the mother needs grace, grace uplifts the heart of the mother from the humdrum of everyday life and gives her a taste of the blessedness of that sphere. But in this sphere where the humdrum does exist he says here, “Mercy”. That meets you just where you are, in every circumstance in the way. Oh, dear Christian sisters with families to bring up, there is mercy to help you along the way. There is not only grace, the sense of favour, there is not only mercy to supply you in your need, there is also a blessed outcome of it enjoyed in the perfect tranquillity of spirit, “Peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father”. He speaks from a place in imperial regal splendour, but he speaks of them in the sweetness of His abounding love and undying relationship with the Father.
May our Lord grant that a Christian mother go on. There is a need for Christian mothers to bring up their children in this blessed fashion so that John, so that Paul, so that brethren at Findochty and elsewhere can say, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father”. What a blessed thing to see families happily united in the bonds of truth and love under the care of true mothers in the assembly of God.