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A Mother In Israel

The role of a mother has lately come under attack in secular society, and I suppose it makes sense. If we don’t see the role of a mother as a unique manifestation of God’s character, we probably don’t appreciate the role as we should.
Read Time: 7 minutes

The world has billions of moms. Our first experience of love is often our mother’s gentle embrace and encouragement. Mothers sense what we need even before we know how to express it. They attend to our needs at all hours. There is an intense bond between a mother and her infant. As a son, father and grandfather, I have been blessed to witness this incredible human relationship. We dads have a crucial role too, but no one replaces mom. 

But what makes a woman “a mother in Israel”? Do you even need to be a mom to be a mother in Israel? What are the characteristics of being a mother in Israel?

Let’s begin by examining the character of our God. You won’t be surprised to know that our LORD has characteristics we think of for both males and females. He is strong, a leader. A mighty warrior. Yet, He can be approached intimately as “Abba, Father.” Yet we see multiple references in Scripture to characteristics that we often see manifested in mothers.

In Isaiah 42:13-14, a striking balance is seen in God as a “mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war” who roars and prevails. Yet in the next verse, God describes Himself as crying over His people “like a travailing woman.” God describes His love for the house of Jacob “as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” (Deuteronomy 32:11). In Isaiah 66:13, God states His love to Israel:

As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

When we read about the unique loving, nurturing care of mothers, we are reminded that they manifest to us the character of our God. Jesus also, looking with compassion on Jerusalem, offered that he would have often “gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” (Matthew 23:37).

The phrase “a mother in Israel” only occurs twice in Scripture. The first is part of the wonderful song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:7. The second is of a “wise woman” of Abel of Beth-maachah, (2 Samuel 20:15-22) who courageously stood before Joab and delivered the city from destruction by convincing the city to throw the rebel Shebna’s head over the wall. We also know that at the time of Deborah, Jael was the one who acted faithfully by killing Sisera. She is called, “Blessed shall she be above all women in the tent.” (Judges 5:24)1

Bro. Harry Tennant wrote poignantly of Deborah as “a mother in Israel.”

Barak travelled south to his spiritual mother. She filled him with steel by a word of prophecy and a challenge of faith. She had no army and no personal prowess in the wielding of weapons of war. But Deborah had a quality which has moved many mothers in Israel, implicit trust in God and the urge to impart it to others. Many a great man has been made strong by the word of his mother; many a woman who has had no children of her own has sent out valiant sons of faith by her wise instruction in Sunday School and Youth Circle and by her shining confidence in God.

In the days of Barak God chose a woman to judge Israel and God had not made a mistake. Faith has no sex. Spiritual strength does not depend upon a powerful physical frame. Faith is infectious. Every woman called by God has the opportunity and ability, on these terms, to be a mother in Israel.2

My own mother was certainly one of the many mothers in Israel that I have experienced. I was deeply blessed to have her as my mother. She was the first one in her family to find the truth and embrace it at the early age of twelve. Her love of God and enthusiasm for the Kingdom was always on display. No human has had a more noteworthy influence on my spiritual life, except my dear wife.

My mom demonstrated what a life of faith looked like.

My mother was quick to teach and correct but always did so in a nurturing way that gave comfort and assurance. I never wondered if my mother loved me. Never. Even when she was pretty upset with me! She was fully committed to always looking for the best in me and others. She took the time to write notes and send cards to encourage others. I learned the first principles and Bible stories from her. Sunday School and other ecclesial meetings were only helpful supplements.

My mom demonstrated what a life of faith looked like. She revealed the joy of Bible study as she enthusiastically shared her views on passages. I never doubted that I wanted to be part of her faith family as I grew up.

As I look back at my childhood, I now see that my mother was attempting to demonstrate Divine characteristics. She wasn’t trying to teach me to think like her but rather to appreciate how God thinks. This has stayed largely with me over the years. When in weakness, I rationalize classifying or labeling someone badly, I am reminded that it was my mom who first took me to the Apostle Paul’s counsel in Ephesians 4:29:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

The role of a mother has lately come under attack in secular society, and I suppose it makes sense. If we don’t see the role of a mother as a unique manifestation of God’s character, we probably don’t appreciate the role as we should. God’s wisdom and design of men and women was to provide a theatre for demonstrating God’s character. Together, both roles teach us about our Creator.

My experience is that women are absolutely as capable as men in most tasks. In the ecclesia, I have no doubt that sisters are among our top scholars. The roles assigned by God to husband and wife have nothing to do with qualifications or capabilities. Rather, they are all about submitting one to the other. Submitting teaches us love. It teaches us the very character of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was the Son of God, “took upon him the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:7). Submission to one another is the glue that holds marriages and families together.

We are so blessed to have many “mothers in Israel” in our community. Whether young or old, raising children or not, we are greatly enriched by their critical contributions to our children and community overall. 

Senior Mothers in Israel 

When the years of child-rearing have ended, can one still be a mother in Israel? Absolutely! Studies have shown that grandchildren are deeply influenced by their grandparents. We can uniquely model a life-long commitment to Christ. They are often open to our teaching.

My grandmother saw that I had been deeply moved by a class on Elijah at a Bible School in 1964. She recommended that I write a talk on Elijah and present it to her. There, on a hot, humid rural Arkansas evening, I gave my first exhortation at the age of nine! She was so encouraging to me. 

However the role of being a mother in Israel also has a broader application. It helps our community understand gentleness, care, nurture, and love. These characteristics are demonstrated by the fruit of the lips, by the support of the weak and needy. The role of a mother in Israel is to be a committed Bible student. Such contributions are essential to the health of the ecclesia. Supporting young moms, who are often isolated and faced with questions about parenting and marriage, is a clear admonition of the Apostle Paul. 

Moms Survey

Earlier this year, over 200 mothers responded to a Moms’ Survey. In the following articles, we will share some of what we learned from the data collected and include a few thoughts by the two sisters who led this project on some of the needs that should be addressed.

The survey found that approximately forty percent of moms in our ecclesia work outside the home. This fact may be the reality of the day, as the cost of living in much of North America can often demand more than one income. But working outside the home is not new.

The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is quite active in society, willingly working, buying and selling. She also displays leadership, generosity and wisdom. However, what strikes me as I read Proverbs 31 is that much of what she does is in service of her household. Because of this, her children and husband praised her. Her mouth is filled “with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26). How did her children benefit from her example? Surely, clothing and physical resources were important, but what Solomon identified as unique was her character.

It would be well for our community to give particular care to the moms in our ecclesias. In the early days of child-rearing, moms can be overwhelmed with childcare. They often can go for years and not hear an exhortation or are distracted by their children during meeting. We can learn much about our God from their care. They are self-sacrificial, choosing willingly to care for their children while often missing the spiritual food of the day for which they are starving. There is little doubt that moms need our support. It is dangerous to go for years without the ability to engage in spiritual thinking in the ecclesia.

So, what is a modern “mother in Israel”? They are the wonderful women who demonstrate the character of our God in the family and across the community. It is a role that teaches us the intense need for care and nurturing in the ecclesia. They are committed to encouraging and leading others to trust in God. We are reminded that it was mothers in Israel who encouraged the military leaders, influenced their city to act and destroyed an enemy of Israel. Moms are faith warriors. They are beacons of faithfulness. 

Dave Jennings 

  1. It might be noted that in both of these incidents, where a victory over an enemy of Israel occurred by a woman, it was through either the crushing or decapitating of the head of the enemy. Could this be reminding us of the great victory of the Woman’s seed, who would crush the ultimate enemy, sin?
  2. Tennant, Harry, His Strength and Our Weakness, The Christadelphian Magazine, Vol. 104, 1967.
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