Monday, May 4, 2020

Reflections on Mother's Day (Pt 5)

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 three things.

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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