Years ago, before I ever became a mom, the idea of motherhood held both anticipation and fear for me. I wanted to be a mom, I really did, but the thought of being responsible for raising a new life was pretty intimidating. I didn’t have many strong examples of motherhood in my life, so I learned what I could about being a mom from the Bible.
And I’m glad I did!
Something that I love about scripture is that it doesn’t sugar coat the lives of the people in the stories. We see the good and the bad, the beautiful and the imperfect. And honestly, this is really encouraging to me. I don’t have to be perfect to learn and apply what is taught in the Bible.
The stories apply to me. They apply to you, too!
Motherhood in the Bible
When I look at mothers in the Bible, I’m kind of amazed at the stories that are presented. Digging into the lives of these women is fascinating!
There are stories about rich and poor women, young and old, mothers from many different cultures, women that were well-respected and those who were just trying to scrape by.
There are women who had a strong understanding of and commitment to God, and there are women who had an encounter with Him that changed them forever.
Through all these stories, one thing remained constant: the incredible love of a mother for her children.
One of the stories that stands out to me is the story of Hagar. She was a slave girl, purchased from Egypt. Her job was to serve her mistress, Sarai (later Sarah).
Sarai was the wife of Abram (Abraham), an influential clan leader who became the beloved patriarch of Israel. God called Abram to leave the secure walled city of Ur and travel to a place that would be a land of promise. This sounds like an adventure, but it was probably kind of terrifying!
However, Sarai faithfully followed Abram and served as the matriarch of the clan.
In her culture, motherhood was something that brought status and respect. Unfortunately, Sarai was unable to have children. God promised Abram and Sarai that they would have a child, but they were fairly advanced in years and Sarai just couldn’t see how it could happen.
So, she came up with a solution: Hagar.
In their culture, if a woman was unable to carry or bear children, it was acceptable to have a slave act as a sort of surrogate. Sarai gave Hagar to Abram to act in this capacity, and as part of the deal, any children that Hagar bore would technically belong to Sarai.
Things didn’t really go as planned, though. You can read more about her story here. It’s incredible!
Something that truly sticks out to me though…although Hagar didn’t always handle situations correctly, she loved her son deeply.
While they were wandering in the desert, her concern was for her son. For his welfare, his comfort. When she saw no hope, she didn’t fear for herself…her thoughts were on her son.
And when God directed her to turn back, to humble herself and return to her mistress that cast her out, it came with a promise: He would not forget her son.
Although Hagar’s story has times of hardship, it also carries so much hope. If God will take the time to truly see a foreign slave girl and her son, He will also take the time to see me. To see you. To see our kids, and to truly love each of us.
Jochebed is a mother in scripture who is often overlooked. She was the mother of Moses, the slave woman who hid her son from Egyptian soldiers in order to save his life. When he became too big to hide, she had an impossible choice to make.
Honestly, I don’t know if I could make that choice.
In children’s stories, we see her placing Moses peacefully in a basket and sending Miriam to walk along the bank of the Nile to watch over her baby brother. The basket floats gently into a protected cove to be discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh.
In reality, that’s probably not how it happened. The Hebrew slaves would not have lived near Pharaoh’s palace, and while the Nile wasn’t a rushing river, it also wasn’t a peaceful little creek. Moses, floating in his basket made of rushes and sap, would have had to travel a good distance along a river that was home to hippos and crocodiles. The Nile was also the main source of water transportation for the people who lived and worked along it.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a peaceful journey on a Tuesday morning.
However, Jochebed trusted God with the life of her child, and God protected the infant Moses. But He didn’t stop there! When the daughter of Pharaoh found him, she realized he was a Hebrew child and knew that her father had decreed the boy’s death. She gave him her protection.
And in God’s amazing way of working things out, she also gave him back to his mother to nurse him! Jochebed, having given her baby over to God’s protection, received him back for the next few years to nurse and raise him. Under the protection of Pharaoh’s daughter, she could do so in peace.
Eventually, she gave him to be raised in Pharaoh’s palace, to be educated as royalty. However, she knew that her son would be safe, and she knew from experience that God would not abandon him.
Her love for her son is something that has been an example to me for years. When something happens that is beyond my understanding, when my son is faced with challenges that aren’t easy to navigate, I know that God is far more faithful than I could ever imagine. He’s there, the whole time, and He will come through.
I don’t know that I could write about mothers in scripture without mentioning Mary.
We all know the basics of Mary’s story, but honestly, she becomes a bit…well, “too perfect” in some renderings. Like she never dealt with troubles or stress, but as if God somehow paved a painless road for her.
Reading through her story though, this just isn’t the way it happened.
By Mary’s time, around the turn of the first century, the Israelite people had been waiting for centuries – millennia, even – for their Messiah. He would be the fulfillment of God’s plan and promise for His people. And when He came, it was in a way that none of them expected.
Mary was likely a young teen when Gabriel came to her to tell her that she would carry the son of God, the Messiah. We don’t know exactly how old she was, but judging by the cultural norms of the day and the fact that Luke indicates that she was a betrothed virgin, it is likely that she was anywhere from 12-15 at this point in the story.
Can you imagine being an engaged 8th or 9th grader and being told by an angel that you will soon be pregnant, out of wedlock, with the coming Messiah? I have a feeling most of us would be scared silly by that prospect.
Mary’s response amazes me. Her only question was one of biology: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
When she was given her answer, she responded in obedience. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
She knew some of the troubles that were coming her way, yet she humbly and courageously submitted to the will of God. Let it be done to me.
Mary knew that Joseph could divorce her, which could result in anything from her being stoned as an adulteress to living in poverty for the rest of her life. She knew that her parents could put her out, leaving her to a life on the streets, or worse.
Yet, she trusted. She loved God and she loved her son.
When her baby was born, it was not in a comfortable birthing suite. She was not surrounded by her female relatives and the women of her town. She literally gave birth in a barn, with only her husband (also likely a teen) to attend her. But she still trusted.
When she and Joseph had to take their infant son and flee to Egypt to save his life, they did so. When her husband died at an early age, she kept going. And when she watched her oldest son, the Son of God, perform incredible miracles and be confronted by political and church leaders looking to discredit or kill him, she stood firm.
When she watched her son go through an excruciating, humiliating death for crimes he did not commit, she stood by Him. And when he rose, she was among the first to find out.
Through all of the intense joys and trials of her life, she remained steadfast in two things: her love for God and her love for her son. I’m not going to pretend that she never questioned or stressed (I know I would!), but as far as we can see she never took her eyes from where they belonged.
That, to me, is both amazing and incredibly encouraging. It’s something that has served as an example to me throughout the years, and something that I hope will be encouraging to you as well!