Scripture Reference: Nehemiah 4:14, Proverbs 31
The Mystique Of MotherhoodDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | May 8, 2005
Selected highlights from this sermon
A wise woman is rightly related to her husband, to her children, to herself, and to God. Her self-esteem comes from her character and her clear conscience. And her value is not tied up in sexual attractiveness.
Who you are is more important than how you look. In a world where beauty has supplanted character and charm has replaced wisdom, it’s okay to be counter-cultural.
In an age that no longer has biblical standards, mothers need to teach their children that sin is never a good idea—even under grace— because sin always has repercussions.
This is written by a mother and it is entitled, “Things I’ve Learned from my Children.” She says, “I’ve learned that a king size water bed has enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house four inches deep. I’ve learned that a three year olds voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant. I’ve learned that double pained windows are not strong enough to stop a baseball that has been hit by a ceiling fan. Break fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence. Superglue is forever. No matter how much Jell-O you put in the swimming pool, you can’t walk on the water. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.”
A woman said, “I’m two months pregnant now and when will my baby move?” The answer is, “With any luck right after he finishes college.” Somebody says it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you’ve had a baby. That somebody doesn’t know that once you’ve had a baby “normal” is history!
On a more serious note, back in 1928 Reverend Caldwell wrote these words: “Well may we pause to pay honor to her, who after Jesus Christ is God’s best gift to man, a mother. It was she who shared her life with us when as yet our members were unformed. Into the valley of the shadow of death she walked that we might have the light of life. In her arms was the garner of our food and the soft couch for our repose. There we nestled in the hour of pain; there was the playground of our infant glee. Those same arms later became our refuge and stronghold. It was she who taught our baby feet to go and lifted us up over rough places. Her blessed hand plied the needle by day and by night to make our infant clothes. She put the book under our arm and started us off for school. But best of all she taught our baby lips to lisp the name of Jesus and told us the wondrous story of a Savior’s love.”
There are wicked mothers like Jezebel of old, but I am glad to believe that they are comparatively few and that most mothers are loving and caring. In our pragmatic and self-centered age there probably are more mothers who are not good mothers. But we thank God today for all those mothers who with sacrifice, love, and tenderness raised their children for God.
We are talking about reclaiming the family. It is not possible to reclaim the family unless we reclaim motherhood. There are some myths that have come about in society back in the 70’s and we are reaping the impact of those myths.
One myth is that every woman who doesn’t have a career outside the home is being cheated and exploited by our male dominated society. That is a myth. I know that sometimes it is necessary for mothers of young children to work outside the home. Sometimes necessity demands it. But there can be no substitute at all for the tender touch and care of a mother giving attention to a child through all those formative years.
A second myth is that children don’t need the extensive nurturing and involvement of their mothers. There is the myth that you can get others to do for money what you cannot do for whatever reason. That simply is a myth. Mothers, your role in the home and to those children is absolutely critical. It is said that one day a woman came to D.L. Moody holding the hands of a little boy. She said, “Mr. Moody, I believe God is calling me to the mission field.” He said, “Yes, He sure is calling you, and there’s the little heathen - right there.” So mothers, God is calling you to the mission field and there he is right there crying at 2 am. That’s your mission field.
Now I need to tell you that this has been an agonizing week for me in the preparation of this message. Not because of the content because that was easy. It was agonizing for a number of other reasons. First of all, a wonderful couple in this church sent me a letter and a book. They said, “Pastor please remember on Mother’s Day that there are many couples who suffer like we do with infertility.” They had three miscarriages. She said, “The first time I came to Moody Church on Mother’s Day I did not want to come but I forced myself to go.” That was the year that Carrie Mason spoke about her struggle with infertility. Now I am quoting the letter, “As tears streamed down my face I thanked God I made the choice to attend.” Let’s keep in mind that there are couples for whom Mother’s Day is difficult.
Secondly, there are mothers who have lost their children. There are mothers who for whatever reason may have empty arms today even though they are mothers. Perhaps they gave their child up for adoption. For them Mother’s Day is difficult as well.
And then you think of all the mothers who believe that they have failed. This week I was speaking to a mother who said something to me in more candor than she needed to because I wasn’t even asking her about these things. But this is what she said: “You may think of me as a nice person because I can be kind and I can be sociable and care about people. When I am at home I scream and I lose my temper. I am a very, very bad mother.” That dear woman had lost her husband to suicide. She began to share with me what she had been through trying to raise kids as a single mother. So there are mothers out there who think that they have failed.
Speaking of single mothers, just imagine the loneliness and the sense of frustration in not being able to share on deep levels regarding the children that you are trying to raise. You do not have someone to respond to, some benchmark, somebody with whom you can discuss your ideas. Like one single mother said to me, “The one thing I miss is adult conversation.” Imagine having nobody to discuss the maters of life with.
Then there are some of you who are single mothers who do not have your children because it may well be that custody has gone to the father. So I am thinking about all of you today.
Then I am also thinking of all of the mothers who have fulfilled their role in wonderful and encouraging ways. That was part of my struggle this week.
The other part of the struggle was that I had decided to speak on Proverbs chapter thirty-one. That is a difficult passage to speak on first because it is so familiar. I can imagine some saying, “Oh here we are again, the virtuous woman of Proverbs chapter thirty-one.” I haven’t preached that passage for ten or twelve years. Yet it is still so well known that people say, “Oh, her again.” And then I realized that she is the ideal woman. In fact, it says in Proverbs thirty-one, “Many woman do well but you surpass them all.”
There are Proverbs thirty-one women but they are a unique breed, really. Evelyn Johnson was a Proverbs thirty-one woman, for sure. My mother is still a Proverbs thirty-one woman. And speaking of my mother and for those of us who are grandparents, on their 70th wedding anniversary we were all together with all the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. I was sitting beside my mother and I said to her, “Mother, do you actually know the names of your twenty-nine great-grandchildren?” I didn’t know who these kids were or who they belonged to as they were running around.
I will never forget this; this is so clear in my mind it is like a video. She said, “Oh sure. I have a prayer list and I mention every one of them to our heavenly Father every day.” Grandparents are a model to follow. Your children and grandchildren, your great-grandchildren are in such great need. Every Saturday when I speak to my mother she always says, “Now what are you preaching on Sunday?” She wants to know how to pray better for me and for the ministry. I have a Proverbs thirty-one mother and I know other Proverbs thirty-one mothers. I married a Proverbs thirty-one woman and many of you did, too.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to look very briefly at Proverbs chapter thirty-one and we are going to talk about this ideal woman. Then afterwards we are going to talk about God’s grace and God’s help in the midst of our troubled times and in our broken families. That’s the agenda for the next fifteen minutes or so. Keep hanging in there because we are going to end with a lot of hope.
You do have to understand that Proverbs thirty-one is a passage that has to be understood in context. This woman who had it all together had a wonderful husband, she had some money that she could invest and she had lovely clothes. She lived at a time before MTV. Think of the advantage that she had! She lived at a time when young women were not starving themselves to death with various eating disorders because they were obsessed with appearance. She lived in a time when she could make the clothes rather than going to TJ Maxx and trying to buy them.
You’ll notice that she was rightly related to her husband. It says in verse ten, “An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchants; she brings her food from afar.”
Notice it says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” She is trustworthy and he can trust her with the checkbook. He can trust her with the children. He knows that she will make wise decisions when he’s not at home. He knows that she’s not going to be taken in because of some scheme or because of some foolish thing that culture begins to put upon us. He can trust her.
Then notice how much initiative she has. “She seeks wool and flax,” verse fourteen, “and she brings her food from afar.” Why from afar? Well, obviously because it is cheaper. She’s the kind of woman who will take those coupons and actually take the time to cut them out, of all things, and use them at the cash register at Dominick’s. She is one that is rightly related to her husband.
She is also rightly related to her children. It says in verse fifteen, “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” You’ll notice how she takes care of her children. It says that she makes clothes for them. Verse nineteen says, “She puts her hands to the distaff and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all of her household are clothed in scarlet.”
She is a woman who sacrifices for her children. She gets up early. The text says, “She rises while it is still night.” I think again of my dear mother out there on the farm with the wood burning stove. The house would get so hot in the summer when it was being used. She used to get up at 4:00 in the morning and bake bread so that when we got up the fire in the stove could be put out so that it would not be too hot for us in the house during the day.
Mothers are always thinking ahead, always sacrificing, and always thinking of opportunities for her household. When it says in verse eighteen that, “Her lamp never goes out,” it doesn’t mean that she’s up all night, necessarily. What it means is she’s always thinking of the future. She is always planning, whether for winter or for the days ahead for school. They are always on her mind. She is a woman who really sacrifices and lays down her life for her family. Cold weather does not cause her to panic.
When she clothes her children in scarlet it obviously means that she clothed them well. I would think also that she clothed them modestly. And if she did she would instruct her teenage daughter about modesty, what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate. When the teenage daughter says, “Yeah but everybody’s doing it,” she would smile and say, “But we’re not everybody. We are different. We can be counter-cultural in an age that no longer has biblical standards.” She is rightly related to her husband and to her children.
She is also rightly related to herself. I want you to notice that her self esteem comes from her character. It says in verse seventeen, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” Also in verse twenty-five, “Strength and dignity are her clothing; she laughs at the time to come,” because she is so well prepared. If you ask her, “Why do you feel good about yourself?” It is because of what she has been able to accomplish, the kind of character that she has and the clear conscience that God has given her. Because of her integrity and because of this she has a sense of well being. She believes she has accomplished something when she has taken care of her household. She is rightly related to herself.
She also has wisdom to share. It says in verse twenty-six, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” You say, “Where does she get this wisdom to teach?” The whole book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom. If we as parents want to know what to teach our children we should begin in Proverbs chapter one and then work through the book.
There are various themes that are taken up, themes that have to do with conduct and themes that have to do with friendship and who you run around with in school. Sometime I’m going to preach a whole message on the impact of a positive example and the impact of negative examples. The history of many a child who has gone astray can be easily written, “He chose the wrong friends.” You work through the book of Proverbs and you see the wisdom that we can pass on to the next generation. This woman has that kind of wisdom.
I can imagine that she takes the time to discuss with her teenage daughters sexual temptation and what to do when a boy harasses them in school. She tells them how to take care of themselves and what to do in a situation where they are tempted or where they are compromising their values. This mother I would think would work through those kinds of situations and help the child to know how to cope in a world that has lost its way. She is rightly related to herself.
She is also rightly related to God. It says in verse twenty-nine, “Many women have done excellently, but you have surpassed them all.” And this is a verse that should be written on the mirror of every teenage girl who is listening to this message: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
I cannot tell you how devastating it is to our society to have this present emphasis on fitness and beauty. Yesterday I was speaking somewhere else in the country. In the morning after I saw the news and as I was scrolling through the television stations, all of them had to do with how fit you can be or eating the right diet or having a beach body.
What is this all about, anyway? Have we really come to the point where these T.V. shows are absolutely devastating? The idea that you can meet someone and instantly know whether you are meant for each other by the level of attractiveness? We are living in a society where beauty has supplanted character and charm of some sort has taken the place of wisdom.
Parents, teach your children that their value is not tied up with the exercise machine, however important that may be on its own. Even diets which can be good, if done only to enhance sexual attractiveness are wrong. And, there is all this plastic surgery. We are living in a time when all that matters is how you look not who you are. This woman knows that beauty can be deceitful. What good is it to marry a beautiful woman if she’s bitter, if she’s hard to please and impossible to live with? Yet that is where the emphasis is today.
Then it says, “A woman who fears the Lord, she is to be praised.” You say, “Well this is the Old Testament. We don’t have to fear the Lord in the New Testament times because we live under grace.” Someday I am going to preach a series of messages on the fear of the Lord and show you all times in the New Testament that it tells us as believers to walk in the fear of the Lord.
You say, “Well that doesn’t mean that we should actually fear him.” Yeah, I think it actually means that we should fear him. A wise parent teaches the child why sin is not a good idea, even under grace, and that it is never safe to sin. Sin has repercussions. It’s like touching a series of dominos. Pretty soon it goes from one thing to another. A wise parent teaches the children the fear of the Lord. This woman fears God.
I will make one more reference to my mother. She really did try to teach us as children the fear of the Lord. She told us verses about how our sin would find us out, how God was watching when no one else was. I still remember some of those lessons that she taught us as children. The impact of a mother on children is great. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Is it any wonder that in verse twenty-eight, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her.”
Now, she is the ideal woman. You say, “Well Pastor Lutzer my children have not turned out well.” Or maybe you’ve gone through a divorce and the ideal seems to have passed you by. In order for us to understand God’s message of hope I’d like to make a few comments about our first mother, Eve.
Eve, by the way, is a mystery. It’s hard for us to understand why she sinned and why she was anxious to disobey God. Just imagine Eve for a moment with no insecurities. She didn’t have to compete with pictures of super models at the counter when she bought groceries. She never had to put up with the woman on Self magazine. She never had to worry about whether or not her husband was spending too much time with the woman next door. She never had to complain about his laziness. Adam wasn’t lazy.
Was she hungry? She had lots to eat. Did she have a pension for beauty? There was the garden and the flowers.
Yet, she sinned. Why? She sinned because of curiosity. I remember a woman who went with a man in an immoral relationship. She said, “The reason I did it is because I thought, ‘If I don’t I am always going to wonder what it would have been like.’” That’s what she told me. There are bitter consequences, bitter consequences.
Eve sinned but God didn’t leave her there. He supplied grace. She had two children. One turned out very well, Able, and the first born Cain, not so good. Cain killed Able. In the midst of this heart brake of a broken family God shows grace. First of all, by protecting Cain and keeping him when really he could have been killed. That mark of Cain was a mark of grace. But then also God gave her another son, Seth. It says, “After Seth was born people began to call on the name of the Lord.” Her son Seth was a blessing. He became a righteous man with a righteous line.
And then of course Eve was a part of the plan of redemption. She gave birth to children who in turn gave birth to children, and on and on it went until Jesus was born. Jesus is known as “the seed of the woman.” Jesus came to repair the irreparable. What I’d like to challenge you with today is no matter where you are at in the spectrum of the family, whatever your heart need is, whatever brokenness you have brought to this congregation or to this message, there still is hope. God works in and through and in spite of human failure, human difficulty and human regret. God is here for you today to meet you in your need.
Back in the previous century there was a woman who was walking through some mountains in south Whales with a little child in her arms. But she was caught in a snow storm. If you’ve ever been in a snow storm you know that these blizzards can not only be blinding but the wind can be relentless. The woman died and her body was found in the snow. Next to her body was the little child who had been wrapped in the woman’s outer clothes. She had taken off her coat and sweater and had wrapped the little baby in her own clothes. She froze to death but the baby lived.
That little baby was David Lloyd George, who for sixteen years was Prime Minister of Great Britain. According to my sources he was one of the greatest international statesmen that Whales has ever produced. He always knew that his mother had died for him. This is a picture of the love of a mother, yes. But this is also a picture of the love of Jesus for sinners. Jesus dies for us to cover our sins. He is the God of new beginnings, and we offer him today to mothers, to fathers, to children, to all of us who always need a fresh start. He’s the God who forgives, the God who covers us with his righteousness. Give your family and give your children to God.
Let’s pray. “Father we do thank you today for our mothers. Thank you so much for those of us who have godly mothers, and we do not take that for granted. But for those who look back today recognizing that their mother was less than the ideal, we pray that your grace, strength and forgiveness will make that up, both to the mothers who are listening as well as the children. We ask oh God today that the ideal that you have established might be what we strive toward, to always honor what you honor and to love what you love. We ask that many precious children would be born into godly homes, raised for your glory, perpetuating your word in generations to come.”
Now before we sing together, is there something that you need to say to God today? Whatever it is, will you say it please? “Father, bring forgiveness, grace and encouragement to those who need it. Be to us what we need today, in Jesus name, Amen.”