In a word…
There is likely a long list of words that come to mind when you think of a mother. Your list will be heavily dependent on your experience with, and view of, your own mother or other mother’s you know well. My list includes words like tender, compassionate, listener, comfort, protector, defender, champion, genuine and loving. To be honest, some of you might have words that are not so glowing. That’s regrettable, but it’s also the nature of our brokenness (both her’s and yours).
We would like to suggest and consider a single word this week; consider a word that may not appear on many people’s list (or at least the top of it), but one that I am also guessing will get a general nod of agreement and acceptance. That word is “strong.” It would be easy to start and end with the literal strength it takes to bear children, but the strength a mother possesses goes far beyond the physical. There’s strength of purpose, of perseverance and also character. A mother labors. sacrifices and cares for others first … at least I pray that is your experience. A good mother is a strong mother, and God asks that of each and every one.
Cowards and tent pegs
The book of Judges contains a dramatic story of two mothers who had and showed incredible strength. The first was a female prophet (an oxymoron in the ancient world). The prophet Deborah was chosen by God and placed in the role of judge or leader over Israel. This was a thousand years and a million miles from women’s liberation. This was unheard of, but God chose it anyway. Deborah was a strong woman and a good judge. At the beginning of our story, we see her son presented with an opportunity for a great victory in battle. God would deliver the oppressor Sisera into the hands of the Israelite’s, and it could be under the leadership of Barak. Let’s read…
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
Sisera was incredibly powerful, but God was getting ready to answer the cries of His people.
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
Now, listen carefully to Barak’s response…
Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
Barak’s moment had arrived, but he would not seize it. Indeed there was seizing, but it was the moment seizing him. Deborah would be strong in the face of an opportunity to criticize her son. She chose to go and be strong enough for both of them. There were consequences, however. God would defeat Sisera, but it would not be Barak for whom the credit would be given. That was resolved for another tough mother. As the story goes, Sisera is routed and he fled the battle to save himself. Read on…
Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”
Here we meet Jael. Sisera was on the run, and he chooses to seek refuge in the home of an ally. Jael welcomes Sisera into their tent, and Sisera accepts her invitation to rest. The hiddent intention in her welcome would soon become obvious as she siezes the moment God has authored for her because of Barak’s weakness. As Sisera lies resting, Jael acts…
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.
Happy Mother’s Day, right?!?! Jael rises in strength to meet the moment, and God brings Barak by to see first hand the strength in which he failed. God answered the cries of his people, and He did so using the might of two tough mothers.
Be one tough mother
God teaches us all through the example of these two women. He asked strength of them, and He asks it also of each of us. So how do we rise up in strength to meet our God-authored moments?
- Don’t be critical; lead by example
- Be brave
Let’s go forward in the example of these two godly women. Let’s, as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, adults and children, go out into the world and meet the moments God authors for us. Father God, give us the courage and go with us as we answer your call to be strong and show the love of Jesus to everyone you bring into our lives.
Happy Mother’s Day!