Lord Shaftsbury, a man who did a great deal of noble work in England to improve the working conditions and also who sought to ban child labor, said:
Give me a generation of Christian mothers, and I will undertake to change the whole face of society in twelve months.
Mothers indeed play a very important and influential part in our human society. They do deserve honor and gratitude for all that they have done.
When Mother’s Day comes around, we seek to reflect on our mothers. Some of us still have our mothers, while others’ mothers have passed on before them. Nevertheless, whether our mothers are still living or have passed on we remember them and the influences that they have conveyed to us.
In the Old Testament we have several very revealing accounts of influential mothers. Some were a negative influence while others were a positive influence to their children.
I want to briefly reflect on two O.T. Mothers who were very influential in their families. But these two mothers had contrasting influences or contrasting attitudes. The mothers we want to think about are Rebekah first and then Hannah. As we consider these two mothers, we want to see in both of them what attitude they revealed toward God, toward their family and toward themselves.
I would, therefore, invite you to look up in your Bibles the mother, Rebekah as recorded in Genesis.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord [a]answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Genesis 25:21 Footnote [a] Lit was entreated of him)
Let’s look at Rebekah’s attitude – by attitude we mean frame of mind or disposition.
Rebekah’s Attitude Toward God
When we speak about her attitude toward God we will limit ourselves to her attitude toward God regarding her family. She became pregnant in answer to the prayer of her husband, Isaac. Rebekah, however, became somewhat perplexed concerning her future family. She did a very recommendable thing. She asked the Lord what the meaning of these strange experiences was.
And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.(Genesis 25:22-23 KJV)
It is quite possible that when she received answer from God regarding her unborn children that she was quite amazed and puzzled how these events that God foretold would be worked out.
Rebekah’s attitude toward God before her children were born was noble and admirable. What a difference it would make if future mothers were in harmony with God before their children were born.
Rebekah’s Attitude Toward Her Family
Now Isaac loved Esau, because [a]he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
(Genesis 25:28 Footnote [a] Lit game was in his mouth)
This verse reveals disloyalty by Rebekah in that she loved Jacob.Obviously there is nothing wrong with loving your child. Too many parents nowadays don’t really love their children as they should. What was the real problem then?
Rebekah revealed disloyalty to her husband. Probably her husband was just as much to blame. But the family was divided, that is, husband and wife were neither loyal to each other nor to their family.
Rebekah revealed that she did not really love Esau as much as Jacob. Isaac did not love Jacob as much as he loved Esau. Could it be that Rebekah loved Jacob because he was a quiet and cultured fellow while Esau was the opposite? Could it be that Rebekah loved Jacob because of what God had said about the youngest son? We are not sure. But one thing is quite evident in this account and that is Rebekah revealed disloyalty to her husband and to Esau. Oh, the heartaches that are caused when husband and wife are disloyal to each other and to their children.
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.(Genesis 27:5-8 KJV)
Here we see revealed deceitfulness. Imagine now when the issue of the birthright came up Rebekah deliberately induced her son Jacob to deceive her husband by lying to him. Rebekah actually taught her son how to be deceitful. He did not want to. He was afraid of the consequences. But she showed him step by step how he could effectively deceive his father. Oh, how terrible it is for a mother to teach her children how to be deceitful, dishonest, and lying to their father (or vice versa). This is a terrible sin for a child to see demonstrated and taught by a parent. May God spare our mothers and fathers from such a terrible act.
Rebekah reaped a bitter harvest for her attitude.
And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
(Genesis 27:13 KJV)
I hardly think that Rebekah realized what she was bargaining for. Could it be that she thought the end justifies the means? Could it be that God would overlook this hideous act of deceitfulness because she was trying desperately to help God fulfill His prophecy concerning Jacob? Yes, it is possible that Rebekah was so anxious to help God fulfill His will in Jacob’s life that she stooped to the repugnant act of deceiving her son and husband and even thinking that God would honor such an act.
Do you know what Rebekah’s progressive harvest was?
And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away;Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?(Genesis 27:42-45 KJV)
You know what happened, don’t you?
The time for Jacob’s return home did not come in Rebekah’s lifetime.
Rebekah as far as we know never again saw her son Jacob.
What about the seed of deceitfulness? Look how it multiplied in the family.
Jacob deceived his father.
Jacob then reaped a harvest of deceit from Laban his uncle whodeceived him at marriage and deceived him about his wages.
Rachel, Jacob’s wife deceived her Rebehah.
Jacob’s sons deceived their father about Joseph.
And we could go on to trace how the seed of deceitfulness sown in Jacob’s mind at home multiplied in the family later on.
Mother, what is your attitude toward your family? Rebekah was disloyal to her husband and son. Rebekah taught her son to deceive his father and brother. Rebekah. She reaped a bitter harvest because she took matters in her own hands, thinking that she could help God fulfill His purpose in her family.
Rebekah’s Attitude Toward Herself.
She thought she was in the right. Did she not comprehend that God had revealed to her that the younger son would be the most prominent? She thought she had to help God at the expense of being disloyal to her husband and son in order to see to it that the younger son received the birthright. She thought she could bear the consequences. She did bear them but they were a very bitter harvest. Oh, that she had practiced what she did before the children were born, and inquired of God.
Now that we have briefly looked at Rebekah’s attitude some of you may be thinking that I have been too hard on her. All I’ve sought to do is to draw your attention to what the Scriptures tell us about her attitude toward God, her family and herself. Truly, Rebekah’s attitude, though noble and admirable at first before the children were born, was a negative attitude with a bitter harvest.
Now let’s briefly look at Hannah’s attitude as related in 1 Samuel.
Again, when we speak about attitude we refer to the frame of mind or the disposition.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
(1 Samuel 1:11-13 KJV)
We also read;
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.(1 Samuel 1:20-22KJV)
Hannah’s attitude toward God
Hannah was prayerful.
She prayed to the Lord for a child.
She prayed to the Lord after she had the child.
She praised the Lord after she had given the child back to God.
She was loyal.
She made a vow that if the Lord would grant her a child she would give him back to the Lord which she did.
She kept her vow.
Hannah’s attitude toward her family
There is evidence of a good relationship to her husband.
She and her husband worshipped together.
They manifested harmony in the home.
Hannah’s husband was in agreement with her.
There was evidence of a good relationship with her son, Samuel.
She received Samuel as an answer to her prayer.
She faithfully nourished him and taught him in the ways of the Lord. Personally, I think this is one of the greatest responsibilities of parents to be a godly example for their children and to faithfully teach them.
Although she just had him for a few years she was confident that the Lord could keep him in the temple even in the wickedness that prevailed there.
She faithfully prayed for him and visited him.
Hannah’s attitude toward herself
She realized her continued dependence upon the Lord.
She unburdened herself before the Lord.
She trusted that the Lord would answer her prayer.
She acknowledged and thanked the Lord for answered prayer.
She remained faithful to the Lord.
She realized her indebtedness to the Lord. Her indebtedness showed itself in training her child for the Lord’s service. Her indebtedness showed itself in keeping in contact with her son even when he was away from home.
I believe Hannah was a model mother. She sought to honor the Lord by trusting Him, worshipping Him, and by bringing up her family for Him.
Rebekah, generally speaking, depended too much upon her own ability to bring up her son, Jacob for the Lord. Hannah depended upon God’s enabling to bring up Samuel so that he might serve God.
Some time ago I read the story of a young woman who lay on her bed in the hospital with a fatal illness. She was the only child, and the idol of her parents. Her every whim had been gratified. One day the doctor came to the room and after the examination whispered in the mother’s ear. The sick girl heard the message. Calling her mother to the bedside she said, “Mother, you have taught me how to dance, how to sip my cocktails, how to hold my cigarettes and how to dress. But one thing you have failed to teach me, and that is how to die.” What a painful rebuke to a mother who has failed to put first things first in training her daughter.
In the southern part of Argentina, a soldier, in a little town heard singing. It came from a little mission hall and he entered it. There he heard the Gospel preacher. He stayed after the service and spoke to the missionary who asked him if he were a Christian. “Yes, I’m a Christian,” he replied. “Where did you hear the Gospel?” the missionary asked. “From my mother. She lives a long way off, but will you come and see her? She has never heard a preacher and she will be so glad to see you.”
The missionary visited the aged Christian woman on the distant farm. No missionary had ever been there before. The aged mother told the missionary that many years before a colporteur had passed that way. He had given her a copy of the Bible. She had read it. She came to know Jesus as her Savior and Lord. The Spirit of God was her teacher. She had 14 children and all were Christians through her exemplary life and through her reading and teaching the Word to her children. What kind of attitude and influence are you revealing?
“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture also taken from The King James Version