In 2007 William Young published a book called The Shack. It was a fictional novel dealing with the loss and death of a child and the grief and guilt the follows. In the book God is referred to as Papa and takes the form of an African American woman. The Holy Spirit is portrayed by a young Asian woman. Many were offended by the use of women to portray God. In the Bible, there are not many, but there are maybe a dozen passages of scripture that compare God particularly to a mother.
With Mother’s Day approaching it might be interesting to consider some of
those passages. What characteristics of a mother describe God, and how should
those affect our own lives? Consider first Deuteronomy 32:18, “You were
unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
God is here portrayed as the one who gave birth to Israel, yet Israel has
rebelled against her mother. Like a mother, God’s response to Israel involved
First, God was hurt. Deuteronomy 32:21 says, “They have made me jealous with
what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.” When I was
about 12 or 13 years old I recall my mother catching me doing something I knew
was wrong. It was the tears in her eyes that caused me to never do it again. Do
we consider how our actions affect God? If we are believers in Jesus Christ
then we have been redeemed, reborn, transformed, and indwelt by the Spirit of
God. When we live as though we are unchanged, we break God’s heart.
Second, God disciplined Israel because of their rebellion. Deuteronomy 32:21
goes on to say, “I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will
provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” Verse 33 builds on that thought
with these words, “I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on
them.” A mother who loves her child does not allow the child to get away with
bad behavior. She disciplines him. Like a mother God disciplines believers. God
says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev 3:19). My mother’s
grief over my sin caused me to stop bad behavior, but there were many times
when it was not only her grief, but her discipline that set me straight. I will
not forget the impact of a spatula to my backside. Like a mother, God
disciplines in love.
Third, God did not abandon Israel. Deuteronomy 32:36 moves from the metaphor
of a mother, to that of a father, but it is part of the same passage as verse
18. It says, ‘For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his
servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining,
bond or free.” Mothers rarely give up on their children. No matter how far down
the wrong path they run, mothers are almost always waiting there for them to
return. God never gives up on his own. In the previous chapter, Deuteronomy 31:6
says of God, “. . . it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not
leave you or forsake you.” Just a few verses later the text will indicate that
Israel will leave and forsake God, but would never leave or forsake them. That
promise is quoted again in Joshua and in Hebrews. No matter how far we run, God
never gives up on us.
Like a mother, God gave birth to us. Like a mother, our sin grieves God, God
disciplines us faithfully, yet God never abandons us. This coming Sunday we
have set aside a time to honor our mothers. May we honor God with our lives.
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