Today is the day we celebrate as Mother's Day. On May 8, 1914, President Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, "For displaying the American flag and for the public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of the country." Honoring moms is not just a holiday, it is a biblical mandate:
Ephesians 6:2-3 (NKJV) "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."
This command is repeated nine times in the Bible, it is stated twice in the Old Testament and seven times in the New. The Scriptures are clear, we are to "honor" our mothers. But what exactly does that mean? As a noun, "honor" approximates our ideas of esteem, respect, (high) regard, or (good) reputation. To honor is to recognize the value of someone, or thing, and to act accordingly.
If God commands us to give honor to mothers, then mothering must be an honorable occupation. One should hardly have to make such a statement, but in today's world it is necessary to do so. The fact that women line up at abortion clinics around the country and in various parts of the world, suggests that bearing and raising children is viewed as something far less than a blessing. This rejects the clear teaching of the Bible, such as is found in Psalm 127. Those who would leave the home and seek fulfillment in the working world in order to gain dignity and respect have also turned from the truth of God's Word. Let those who would seek to avoid parenting be reminded that in God's Word, being a mother is a most honorable occupation.
God's unchanging standard is spelled out for us in:
1 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) "Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control."
This passage in 1 Timothy is saying this: The leaders in the church are to be men. Paul says:
1 Timothy 2:12-14 (NKJV) "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."
Because of her sin, the woman is given a role of submission to the man. But, "She shall be saved in her childbearing." What does he mean by saved? He is not talking about spiritual salvation but the saving of her dignity, the salvation of her personhood, the significance of her existence; and the ultimate happiness of her existence is found not from leading the church, not from preaching in the assembly but from bearing and raising children. God's intention for most women is to have children. There are exceptions as we see in 1 Corinthians 7. God has designed some women to be single and God has shut the womb of other women for His own purposes. But for the majority, God would have them be mothers. A woman's real happiness does not come from leading, it does not come from dominating or ruling men, a woman's real happiness comes from raising children. That is how she contributes to the godliness of society. A man influences society from the top down, but a woman influences society from the bottom up. And when the two come together, we create a godly society that God has designed. Childbearing is the way in which a woman is delivered from a role of inferiority. This is a divine priority for her, to raise a godly seed. The word childbearing is the Greek word teknogonia, which does not simply mean having babies but "parentage, the performance of maternal duties."
The Scripture exalts motherhood. It begins with Sarah who is the model of faith to God and obedience to her husband. Then there was Jochabed, the mother of Moses. In the first chapter of 1 Samuel we are introduced to a godly mother named Hannah. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, I am sure that you have heard of Hannah and Elkanah and their child Samuel. The study of her character teaches us much about a godly mother.
As the book of Samuel opens up it is the period of the judges in Israel. It is a time of turmoil and confusion, a time of spiritual degeneracy. It is a time of corrupted priesthood, it is a sad hour in the history of Israel. The one great hero that they had is dead. His name was Sampson. The country is divided and leaderless. The Philistines are gaining greater strength. The nation is weak, there was no prophetic voice being heard. It was at this time that God would bring along a man who could lead the people back to himself, and that man was to be Samuel. In order to bear Samuel, God chose a very special lady whose name was Hannah.
1 Samuel 1:1 (NKJV) "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
Here we are introduced to Elkanah, he was a Levite. Verse two tells us something about him.
1 Samuel 1:2 (NKJV) And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
This is an interesting family, one husband and two wives. In those days polygamy was a part of the culture, it was a custom of certain societies. It is never promoted in the Scripture, it is never approved in the Scripture, and every time it appears in the Bible, it brings about heartache and pain and judgement. In this case it caused Hannah great heartache. Polygamy breeds jealousy and strife.
Verse 2 ends with, "...but Hannah had no children". The wife's chief role in those days was to provide children. A barren womb was considered a curse, and Hannah would have been looked down upon. She joins a long line of other women of faith who battled barrenness: Sarah (Abraham's wife), Rebekah (Isaac's wife), Rachel (Jacob's wife), Ruth (Boaz's wife), and Elizabeth (John the Baptist's mother). In Scripture most of the childless women are righteous women, matriarchs of the faith, and many of those who easily conceived children were often wicked women.
As we look at Hannah, I want to share three things that I feel make her a model for motherhood:
1. She had a right relationship with her husband.
You might ask, "How, when she was one of two wives?" Let me answer by saying that your circumstances don't prevent you from doing what is right, your heart does. Ladies, you can't be a godly mother if you do not have a proper relationship with your husband. The husband/wife relationship is priority. Gary Ezzo puts it this way, "The greatest overall influence you will have on your children will not come in your role as a dad or mom but as a husband or wife."
Elkanah and Hannah's relationship was right because they shared two very important things:
A. They shared worship:
1 Samuel 1:3 (NKJV) This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
Elkanah and his two wives made a yearly visit to Shiloh, about a twenty-mile journey, to worship the Lord. This shows us something about his devout spirituality. When the whole culture was headed south spiritually, Elkanah swam against the tide of apathy and took his family to worship. The last part of verse 3 indicates that Hophni and Phineas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. These two boys were hypocrites at best and evil at worst. But nothing kept Elkanah from going to worship. He could have said, "No one else is going, it's too far to travel, the service is too early, and I don't like the ministers anyway." Even if no one else worshiped, he would.
So we see that Hannah was married to a man that worshiped God. He wasn't perfect, we know that, he had two wives. But a woman can flourish with an imperfect husband if the husband is a worshiper of God - a committed believer. There are no perfect husbands. But if the husband is a godly man, he will aid his wife in her spiritual growth.
Do you want to be a godly mom? I believe that it starts with marrying a godly man. The Bible is clear that we are not to marry unbelievers:
2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NKJV) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
That is a basic principle of God's plan for marriage, believing people marry believing people. To marry an unbeliever is to sin against God:
1 Corinthians 7:39 (NKJV) A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
Paul tells the widows two things, first they are free to remarry, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes. But Paul also gives one restriction, only in the Lord. A Christian is only to marry another believer; marry a committed Christian. This principle applies to us today. Believers are to only marry believers; which implies they should only date believers.
Hannah was married to a believing husband, and they shared the most important thing a husband and wife can share, their worship.
1 Samuel 1:7 (NKJV) So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD...
When he went to worship, she went. Men, if you want your wife to be a godly woman, then you had better be committed to being a godly man, you are the spiritual leader of the home. Without a spiritual leader, it will be difficult for her to be a godly mother.
Secondly, they not only shared worship, but they shared love; a love which the husband initiated and cultivated:
1 Samuel 1:4-5 (NKJV) And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.
This sacrifice was a thank offering, which allowed the worshipers to eat the part that was not offered to God. This "double" portion literally means: "to show the face." He showed his face to her, indicating that she was worthy, and that he cared deeply for her. In that culture, honored guests were given a "super-sized" meal. In Genesis 43 when Joseph feeds his brothers, he gives Benjamin, who was his full brother, five time as much as he gives the rest. Elkanah honored Hannah, he especially loved her. In spite of the absence of children, they loved each other. His love is not simply an emotion, but an act of goodness or kindness. He shows his love to her by his actions. Is this true of you men? Do you demonstrate your love to your wife? In what ways? How do you honor her?
You women may think you have it rough with the husband you have; well, how would you do if your husband had another wife? Think about it. In spite of the other woman, Hannah shared worship and love with her husband.
The end of verse 5 says, ".... the LORD had closed her womb." To the Israelites, childlessness or childbearing was an action of the Lord ( 1:19). The problem that she was having came from the Lord. God is in charge, and as such, we should echo Job's attitude:
Job 2:10 (NKJV) But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NKJV) In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
This is one of the hardest lessons we will ever learn. Our problems are given to us by the Lord Himself. It is God who is behind the circumstances of life. We don't really want to believe this. We'd rather blame it all on Satan, or on someone else. But it is God who causes good things and bad things to come into our lives.
1 Samuel 1:6 (NKJV) And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.
It's likely that Elkanah had married Hannah first and then, because she was not able to have children, he decided to marry Penninah. Peninnah recognized that Elkanah married Hannah for love, while she was valued for sons, and she reacts to Hannah out of a deep-seated jealousy, despite the fact that she was the one with children. This situation is reminiscent of Hagar's contempt for Sarah when she became pregnant, but her mistress remained barren (Gen. 16:4-6).
The word "provoke" literally means: "to cause her thunder." She's trying to get Hannah to blow her top! The word "miserable" refers to being stirred up inwardly. Hannah surely didn't have it easy. Not only was there another woman, but the other woman did all she could to make Hannah miserable. She had no children, and her husband's other wife had many. In the midst of this, she is a worshiper of God:
1 Samuel 1:7 (NKJV) So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
This verse reveals that Penninah did this every year when they went to Shiloh. It bothered Hannah so much that she would weep and not be able to eat. This word means that she mourned deeply with so much grief that she lost her appetite.
Her husband comes to lovingly try to encourage her:
1 Samuel 1:8 (NKJV) Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
He loved her as she was, even though she gave him no children. Men, note that he is sensitive to her feelings, and instead of asking her if she has PMS, he lovingly encourages her. They had a loving relationship. She was loved by her husband. This is the soil of which godly wives are made.
2. The second element in the profile of a model for motherhood is a right relationship with God.
Ladies, may I add here that if you do not have a right relationship with your husband, you will not have a right relationship with God. She knew where to go with her problems, she turned to the Lord in prayer. In verses 9-20 we see many virtues that manifest Hannah's godliness. First of all she had: A desire for God's best. In her mind, God's best for a woman was to have children. And generally speaking, this is God's best. God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy, "When you are obedient to me, I will fulfill you in motherhood, or fatherhood." Do you realize that the Bible teaches that children are a blessing from God? Hannah believed that. Do you?
Psalms 127 (NKJV) 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate."
A godly mother views her children as her God ordained calling in life.
Her godliness can be seen by her prayer:
1 Samuel 1:9 (NKJV) So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.
Hannah determines to do something about her anguish.. She knew that it was God, and God alone, who could alter sterility. So she went to him in prayer:
1 Samuel 1:12 (NKJV) And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth.
She was declaring that she was completely dependent upon God for her needs. A godly mother is a woman of prayer.
Her godliness is also seen in her Selflessness:
James 4:3 (NKJV) "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."
Notice her prayer in verse 11, she was selfless in her request:
1 Samuel 1:11 (NKJV) Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head."
She is very specific in her prayer, she wanted a male child. She said that he would take a Nazerite Vow, which means he would be consecrated to the Lord. When a Jew wanted to be totally dedicated to God, he would take a Nazerite Vow. This shows the desire of her heart; she didn't want a child just to compete with her husband's other wife. She wanted a child to give to God. Parents, when you have a child, that child is as much God's as Samuel was. You have been given a stewardship.
Her godliness is also seen in her Purity:
1 Samuel 1:12-17 (NKJV) And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; 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 be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" 15 And Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 "Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now." 17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him."
It's significant that verse 12 says, "...she kept on praying to the Lord." This wasn't just a quickie prayer. This was a repeated request, bathed in tears.
The suspicion of the old priest indicates that drunkenness in the sanctuary was neither uncommon nor limited to one sex in this period (cf. Judg. 9:27; 21:20, 21; Isa. 28:7). That says a lot about the culture at that time - there were probably drunken people around the temple, and Eli thought she was one of them.
From the record we have of Hannah, she appears to have been a woman with an unblemished character. Proverbs 15:8 says, "The prayer of the upright is His delight."
Proverbs 15:29 (KJV) "The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous."
She was so intense in her prayer that he thought she was drunk. Have you ever prayed with desire and passion like that? Not for yourself but for God's glory? The godly mother is a pure woman, she is righteous, virtuous.
Her godliness is seen in her faith:
1 Samuel 1:18 (NKJV) And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
Why did her countenance change? Did she get pregnant? No! It changed because she believed God. Hannah seems to have regarded Eli's blessing as a kind of prophecy pointing to the granting of her heart's desire. She took the Priest at his word and counted it to be true as did Abraham. She had faith, she lived by faith in God. And this is the woman that God chose to bear Samuel, one of the greatest men that ever lived.
1 Samuel 1:19 (NKJV) Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her."
The day after her prayer, she became pregnant:
1 Samuel 1:20 (NKJV) "So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the LORD."
The name Samuel means: "heard of God," Samuel was God's answer to her prayer.
1 Samuel 1:28 (NKJV) "Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD." So they worshiped the LORD there.
This verse ends with a glimpse into young Samuel's heart: "So they worshiped the LORD there." Even at three-years-old, he was able to worship. How do you think he learned how to do this? Hannah, no doubt, took the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 seriously:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NKJV) "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
There is a seventh mark of a godly woman in Chapter 2:1, it is Praise:
1 Samuel 2:1-3 (NKJV) "And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2 "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. 3 "Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed."
She goes on through verse 10 in praise and adoration to God. This beautiful song was Hannah's tribute of thanks for God's goodness in answering her prayer (cf. 1:11). I want to point out that there is no element of sadness here at all. She has just dropped off Samuel at the temple, and now she breaks out into praise. She was thrilled to be able to parent a prophet! Hannah's song has often been seen as the model of the Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). This is a godly woman, a model of motherhood. She had a right relationship with her husband, and she had a right relationship with her God.
3. And she had a right relationship in her home:
1 Samuel 2:21-22 (NKJV) Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, "Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the LORD and remain there forever."
Only men were obliged to attend the solemn feasts (Exod. 23:17). Hannah, like other pious women, was in the habit of going, but she deemed it prudent to defer her next journey until her son had grown to an age when he could be turned over to the priests for upbringing, thereby fulfilling her vow. She was dedicated to her child and would not leave him until he was weaned. In those days they nursed their children for two to three years. Psychologist tell us that in the first three years 90% of the child's personality is formed. She was committed to being with her child even though it probably would have been a nice break to go off to worship. She was committed to stay home and train her child. We need more moms today who are willing to stay home and raise their children. It's easier to have a job, but someone needs to raise, influence, and teach the children.
She dedicated her child to the Lord:
1 Samuel 1:23-28 (NKJV) And Elkanah her husband said to her, "Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word." So the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, "O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. 27 "For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 "Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD." So they worshiped the LORD there."
She kept her word and gave her son to the Lord. She says that she lent him to the Lord, she always held him close in her heart. Every year she visited him:
1 Samuel 2:19 (NKJV) "Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and bring it to him year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice."
Hannah's devotion to the Lord and her love for her son are seen in her annual pilgrimage to Shiloh and in bringing Samuel a cloak. The result of this woman's influence and prayer and love was a godly child:
1 Samuel 2:11 (NKJV) "Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest."
He must have been assigned some simple tasks, and undoubtedly Eli enjoyed having the company of an unsophisticated, teachable apprentice.
1 Samuel 2:26 (NKJV) "And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men."
From the time he was three, he ministered to the Lord throughout his life. What made the difference in his life was a godly mother. She had an influence on him from the time of his birth. Since the mother spends more time with the children than the father, she exercises a powerful influence over their lives for good or bad. Have you ever noticed how often the mother's name is given in the books of Kings and Chronicles in connection with the various kings of Israel? 27 times you find the phrase, "and his mother's name was," in the Kings and Chronicles. I believe that the reason for this is that the Spirit of God is pointing out to us the most important factor in the molding of the character of the men who ruled God's people - the mother. Moms, you have a high calling! Phil Whisenhunt put it this way, "The most important occupation on earth for a woman is to be a real mother to her children. It does not have much glory to it; there is a lot of grit and grime. But there is no greater place of ministry, position, or power than that of a mother."
If you were to continue reading through the book of 1 Samuel, you'd discover that Eli's sons, Hophni and Phineas, were very evil and did some perversely detestable things. It's very interesting that their mother is never mentioned anywhere. We don't know if she died or if she was just not engaged as a parent. Samuel, on the other hand, was greatly impacted by his mother, and went on to become one of the most significant individuals in God's redemptive history.
Women, are you a godly mother? Those of you who are younger or have not had children, are you preparing to be a godly mother? Those of you who have already raised your children, are you training other women to be godly mothers? Abraham Lincoln said, "No man is poor who has had a godly mother."
How about you, men, are you creating an environment for your wife to spiritually grow to be a godly mother? Are you raising sons to be godly husbands to their wives? Young people, are you honoring your mother?
Honoring parents is particularly important to God. But what does it mean to "honor" parents? Partly, it means speaking well of them and politely to them. It also means acting in a way that shows them courtesy and respect. It means following their teaching and example of putting God first. Parents have a special place in God's sight, especially moms. Even those who find it difficult to get along with their parents are still commanded to honor them.
May we walk in obedience to God and honor our mothers, not only on Mother's Day, but each and every day of the year.