There’s nobody like mom. Mothers have made an indelible impression on their children’s lives since the beginning of time. If you look back through the pages of history, seeking to find those men and women who have left their mark, you will find that there was a mother who first left her mark on that person’s life.
Two of the most influential shapers of our nation’s history, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, attributed their success, not to a great education, intestinal fortitude, or political savvy, but to their mother. Abraham Lincoln said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” George Washington, the Father of our nation, said, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
In every area of life, in every profession that men and women embark upon, you will find the influence of mothers. Stevie Wonder said, “Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, once shared what his mother told him when he was young. Picasso said, “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.” Mike Krzyzewski is one of the greatest college basketball coaches in the history of the game. His mother, Emily, never played basketball; she was a Polish immigrant who scrubbed floors at night at the Chicago Athletic Club to help provide for her family. In 2006, Mike donated, “The Emily Krzyzewski Center” to the community of Durham, North Carolina to help kids stay in school and teach them the important lessons Mike’s mom taught him. Emily never taught Mike how to play or coach basketball, but she is the one who laid the foundation that made Mike the man he is today. Mike says, “Throughout my life, my mom has been the person that I’ve always looked up to.”
God has placed incredible potential in the heart and hands of mothers. As you go through God’s Word you will find all kinds of mothers. There are women, like Hannah and Samson’s mother, who loved the Lord and their love for the Lord translated into a deep commitment to their children. There are other mothers who cause us to shake our heads in disbelief because we see some of the same faults in them that we see in ourselves. Women like Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and how she showed favoritism towards her son Jacob, over her other son, Esau. Then there’s James and John’s mother who tried to work her magic to help her sons gain an inside track in the seating arrangement in the Kingdom of Heaven. She didn’t ask for the seat next to Jesus for herself, but she sure wanted it for her boys. Then there are mothers whose “bio” would lead us to believe that they were unfit and yet their stories humble us. Women like the prostitute found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. There were actually two prostitutes who lived in the same house. Both had babies, but one of the babies died in the middle of the night. The mother whose baby died switched the babies while the other mother was asleep and claimed the living baby as her own. When the one prostitute woke up and thought her son had died, she took a closer look and figured out that her son had been switched with the other baby who was now dead. They took their dispute to Solomon. The women were fighting in front of Solomon so he said, “Bring me a sword.” Let’s pick up the story at this point. Turn to 1 Kings 3:25 with me and let’s read together.
25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” 27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (1 Kings 3:25-28 NIV)
This story is often told to highlight the wisdom of Solomon, but I’m not so sure that it’s not also a great highlight of the deep, deep love of a mother. A wayward mother? No doubt about it. A mother who was making some really bad decisions in life? Absolutely! But, with all that being true, she was a mother who made the best decision in desiring for her son to live, even if it meant he wouldn’t live with her.
As I’ve been reading God’s Word this week, taking a look at mothers, and thinking about the mothers that I’ve known throughout my life, there are two things that have kept coming to mind—hope and heartache. It’s not wise to speak in broad generalities when it comes to mothers because, as we’ve already seen from God’s Word, mothers are a diverse bunch. I can say this, the mothers I’ve known who really love their kids, whether they are Christians or not, know heartache and hope all too well.
Being a pastor opens doors for me that allow me into the most intense, wonderful, intimate, devastating, and glorious experiences that people have in life. Somewhere near the very top of the list of my favorite things is getting to be with new parents. Through the years I’ve had couples come to me and say, “Don’t tell anyone yet because we are waiting to make it public—we’re pregnant!! Please pray for us.” And I do.
I make it a point, when I know about it, to be at the hospital when the young couple arrives to have their baby. We hold hands, give thanks, and ask the Lord to give the doctors wisdom in the delivery. I’ve sat in hospital rooms and watched the smiles and unbridled joy light up the room as a wife becomes a “momma” and a husband becomes a “daddy.” The hopes they have for their son or daughter are limitless.
Being in one church as long as I have has also allowed me to watch kids grow from a baby into childhood, try and navigate the teen years, and become adults. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my own family and the families I’ve known. There are no formulas to follow that will ensure that our kids will avoid the perils and pitfalls of life. There are no books to read, conferences to attend, or discipline to apply that will ensure that our kids will love the Lord and have a desire to follow Him. I’ve watched godly mothers and fathers almost lose their minds because of the devastatingly destructive decisions made by their kids. I’ve known parents who weren’t committed to the Lord at all, parents who had made a mess of their lives, who had some of the most godly kids I’ve known. All parents have hopes and dreams for their kids. Even those who’ve cried until the tears no longer fall continue to pray with hope for the Lord to act in the way in which only He can.
All of these experiences shared by so many parents that I’ve known through the years have led me to a man named Manoah and his wife. We find their story in Judges 13-16. You may have never heard of Manoah and his wife, but most everybody here this morning has heard of their son, Samson. Let’s read the opening of the story found in Judges 13:2-14.
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.'” 8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” 9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!” 11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?” “I am,” he said. 12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?” 13 The angel of the LORD answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.” (Judges 13:2-14 NIV)
Throughout the story of Samson’s life, recorded in Judges 13-16, we never learn the name of Samson’s mother, but boy do we learn about her character and love for the Lord and her child. This is what we do know. Samson’s mother was barren. Like Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah in the Hebrew Bible and Elizabeth in the New Testament, Manoah’s wife, was barren. God’s Word tells us that Hannah prayed to the Lord to give her a son (1 Samuel 1:11), but God’s Word doesn’t record any of Samson’s mother’s prayers. I don’t think this is because she didn’t pray for the Lord to give her a child. I think it is because of when we are introduced to her. As soon as we are introduced to her, we read that the angel of the Lord appeared to her and announced that though she was sterile she was going to have a son. Her son wouldn’t be just any Jewish boy born to a Jewish mother; he would “begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Now, you and I both know that you don’t have to be told such wonderful news as this to be overwhelmed with the thoughts of your child’s future when you hear the good news.
On Thursday, while I was writing this lesson, Connie and I went to the clinic to be with Nate and Ashley as they were scheduled to have a sonogram and find out the sex of their baby. Ashley laid on the table as the nurse explained what she was getting ready to do. Then, all of a sudden, that little rascal appeared on the screen waving at us! She showed us the head, arms, legs, heart, and then she said, “It’s a boy!” Nate, Ashley, Connie, and I all smiled from ear to ear. Truth is, we would have smiled just as big if she would have said, “It’s a girl!” What will the future hold for that little boy? Who knows, but I can tell you that his mom and dad have big dreams for him. That’s the nature of expectant parents isn’t it?
Well, Manoah and his wife not only had dreams for their son who would be born, but they were told that after suffering forty years of oppression under the thumb of the Philistines their son would begin the deliverance of God’s people. Can you imagine the conversations they had at night as Manoah and his wife lay in bed and watched her tummy grow? Can you imagine how their imagination ran wild as they remembered the words the angel of the Lord delivered to them?
Well, the day came when it was time for Manoah’s wife to deliver her son. We read in Judges 13:24-25.
24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. (Judges 13:24-25 NIV)
So far so good. The baby arrived. He had ten fingers, ten toes, and the tears of gratitude wouldn’t stop flowing as Manoah and his wife held each other as they held their son. We’re told, “He grew and the LORD blessed him…” It only gets better when we read, “and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him…” Has there ever been a set a parents who wouldn’t wish the same things for their child?
Then we turn the page and come to Judges 14:1. All of the hopes and dreams of Manoah and his wife were brought to a screeching halt when Samson came home one day and said, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” (Judges 14:2 NIV) It just didn’t make any sense to Manoah and his wife. They asked him, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” (Judges 14:3 NIV) They wondered, “What in the world is going on? Our son was supposed to deliver us from the hands of the Philistines, not become one of them!” Manoah and his wife could have never imagined that what was happening would have ever happened as they were dreaming about their son’s future when he was young. Yet, we read,
4 (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) (Judges 14:4 NIV)
If you would have asked Manoah and his wife how the Lord was working in their son’s life they would have both broken down in tears, but God was at work. There’s a great lesson in that for all of us parents. Have you worn your knees out in prayer for your daughter or your son? Does it appear that God is nowhere to be found when it comes to your kid? Hold on to this truth from Judges—even in Samson’s rebellion God was at work. That’s a tough pill to swallow isn’t it? Yet, I would say that for many of us here this morning, it was in the darkest times of our lives that God opened our eyes to our need for Him.
Things went from bad to worse for Manoah and his wife. Some would say that Samson’s Achilles heel was women. The truth of the matter is that Samson’s Achilles heel was Samson. He craved the company of women more than he craved the fellowship of God. He married that Philistine woman, but it didn’t work out. Then, in Judges 16, he spent the night with a prostitute and the Philistines wanted to kill him. Then, in Judges 16:4, he fell in love with Delilah and was finally captured by the Philistines when his hair was cut and he lost his strength.
The Philistines took him captive, gouged out his eyes, and took him to Gaza where he was hooked up to a millstone and was grinding grain in a prison. Eventually, they brought him out for entertainment on the day they were having a feast to Dagon, one of the Philistine gods. They put him between two pillars that supported the temple and Samson returned to the faith of his youth. We read in Judges 16 that Samson prayed. Read along with me beginning in verse 28.
28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. (Judges 16:28-30 NIV)
And this is how Samson began the deliverance of God’s people. That’s sure not the way that Manoah and his wife had envisioned it, but that’s the way it came about. The very next verse is one of the saddest verses in all of God’s Word. Listen to this.
31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:31 NIV)
Can you imagine the heavy hearts of Samson’s family as they went to get his body? His whole family had visions of Samson leading the children of Israel like Moses had led the children of Israel, but they never dreamed that he would die with his eyes gouged out and buried in a heap under a pagan temple.
Having a child changes things for us doesn’t it? Things that seemed important lose their importance and things that we had never given much thought to suddenly become very important. We want our kids to know Jesus. No, we want our kids to love Jesus, with all of their hearts, minds, and strength. We want them to walk with Him, seek Him, and serve Him all the days of their life. It doesn’t matter if they are a doctor or a ditch digger if they truly love Jesus. We can hope that happens, we can pray that happens, but we are not the script writer for our children’s lives. I read something that really struck me this past week that I want to share with you. The piece is called, ?“Reflection of a Mother” and I think it speaks truth with such power for you and me.
I gave you life, but cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions, but I cannot be there to lead you.
I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot always decide for you.
I can buy you beautiful clothes, but I cannot make you beautiful inside.
I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.
I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor.
I can advise you about friends, but cannot choose them for you.
I can advise you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure.
I can tell you the facts of life, but I can’t build your reputation.
I can tell you about drink, but I can’t say “no” for you.
I can warn you about drugs, but I can’t prevent you from using them.
I can tell you about lofty goals, but I can’t achieve them for you.
I can teach you about kindness, but I can’t force you to be gracious.
I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make you moral.
I can love you as a child, but I cannot place you in God’s family.
I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Jesus your Lord.
I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you eternal life.
I can love you with unconditional love all of my life…and I will!
Mothers, those whose kids are grown, those who are brand new mothers, and those who are full of anticipation waiting for the day that they will get to hold their child in their arms—keep hoping, praying, and loving your kids. Know that heartache is written into the DNA of mothers, but don’t allow the heartache to rob you of the hope that the Lord has planted deep in your heart for your child. Love them with all of your heart and never give up on them. Those of you with young children need to know this: you carried your child for nine months, but the truth of the matter is that you will carry that child for the rest of your life. Most importantly, regardless of the choices your kids make, be the woman God has called you to be in the life of your child. Pray diligently, love unconditionally, and always point them to the Lord through the hope and the heartaches of life.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 12, 2013