Dear radio friends,
The portion of the holy Scriptures that we consider together today is found in Psalm 113:9, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Perhaps, when you hear the word “joyful mother of children,” you react today with a tinge of cynicism or, perhaps, a pang of guilt. Joyful mothers? Maybe after looking at the harsh reality of so much that goes on behind closed doors in your home, you would not refer to yourself as a joyful mother. Oh, yes, with the firstborn child in your arms. But what about the lifelong tasks of motherhood? And what about our sins and difficulties, the yelling and resentments, the discouragements? Joyful mothers? Would your children recognize you? Is not motherhood, as the world would have it, nothing but drudgery, chained to meals, laundry, cleaning, thankless tasks, so much taken for granted by others?
And what about the Word of God? Does not God say in Genesis 3:16 to the woman, “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth thy children”? Is there not such a thing as post-partum depression? Has not sin really ruined motherhood?
And what about out own experience as Christian mothers? Sometimes the Lord sends us a child born with disease — some diseases very severe — a learning-disabled child, or an impenitent child. Long nights sitting up with them or praying for them.
Does this Word of God that we read in Psalm 113:9 make light of all of those things? How can God refer to mothers as being joyful? And if it is joyful, then maybe we should just have guilt about our own shortcomings when we are not joyful.
People of God, daughters of the living God, the Word of God is speaking. And the Word of God says, “Yes, motherhood is filled with joy — a joy in Jesus Christ — a joy which, at bottom, is nothing less than the joy of salvation, a joy in God, a joy that God faithfully imparts to your own heart. It is the joy of which Jesus spoke in John 15 when He said, “My joy, which no man can take from you, I give to you” — a joy found in the knowledge that you, as a woman, a wife, a mother, are God’s servant and are being used of Him in the building of His kingdom; a joy which God gives to every believing mother, to every woman of God; a joy which is this: that God is your faithful God who has given to you a beautiful and crucial task called motherhood.
This is the approach, also, of Psalm 113. Open your Bible to that Psalm. The psalmist there is thinking of God in all of His glory and majesty. See verses 5 and 6, “Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” God is so exalted, says the psalmist, that, as it were, He has to stoop, He has to bend over, to view the heavens. You look up to the stars and you wonder? God has to bend over to see them. He must bend, He must humble Himself to see it.
But this God is not detached. He is not majesty in indifference. No, for although He cannot be added to and is filled with majesty, He is the one who, according to verse 7, “raiseth up the poor out of the dust.” He delights in blessing the lowly. He delights in bestowing His love and grace upon the insignificant, the downcast, the despised. He delights in making the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children — praise ye the Lord!
Unmistakably, then, and unashamedly, the Bible identifies motherhood with joy. “He maketh … a joyful mother of children.” The word “joyful,” as I said, refers to the joy of salvation at bottom. It is a great inward happiness that the Holy Spirit works. It is not necessarily what we would call a bubbly, happy temperament. But it refers to the possession of a great good which floods your heart and grants an inward satisfaction to your soul, an inward joy. This is something that God promises to His mothers, to those women in His church who are made mothers.
Think of Sarah. She said, “God has made me to laugh, and all that hear will laugh with me.” Think of Mary, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” Think of Hannah, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.”
God speaks then of a joyful mother. Now let us just get that into our head and heart, by the grace of God.
The Word of God is saying, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” And if there is any area in which the world’s system is trying to do so, it is exactly in motherhood. There is a demonic, concerted attack on the dignity and glory of motherhood as defined by God in the Bible. There are books, TV talk-shows, politics — all telling us that motherhood, after all, is depressing, and careers are more important; that motherhood can be chosen outside of marriage (you may be impregnated by your friend — why should the unmarried woman be denied that privilege?). And we are told that motherhood really stands in the way of self-fulfillment. So we live in a day of day-care. And, if motherhood interrupts your plans, we are told that you may kill — you may “abort” in a sterile operating room where a million and a half are slaughtered each year, an entire generation.
Motherhood? The world says it is confining, degrading. You should not be restricted by children. You have the right to kill your own child. That is what the world says.
But now listen. Do not follow the world. If you follow the world, you will miss the truth by a thousand miles. It is the Scriptures that transform us, the living and abiding Word of God. God says motherhood is a joy, a joyful mother.
You ask me, what is the source of this joy? Three considerations:
First of all, motherhood is the gift of God in bearing and delivering a child of the covenant. A believing woman is given the joy of witnessing a wonderwork of God, a work that must produce awe and wonder and rejoicing in the heart. The text is emphasizing to us that pregnancy and birth is the work of God. He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Life is the work of God. It reminds us that pregnancy and birth are exclusively the work of God. God, in His power, is able to withhold and make us childless. And He is the One who brings forth, conceives and gives birth to, each child. Oh, I know all of the medical and technological innovations. Men talk of test-tube and in vitro fertilization and all the rest. But the fact remains that life is created by God alone. It is a great wonder. Do you ever pause to consider, as a believing woman, this wonder? Do you ponder these things deep down in your heart? God forms another life. He gives a soul. God uses your body to nurture, to make room for, and to draw life for another. And all of this is the work of God! What joy! Not boasting (look what I did), but, no, when you give birth to a child you say, “Look what God did!”
The world sees the child as an extension of themselves. The world sees the child as subject to their own pleasure. The child of God sees a child born as a profound mystery of God. And we rejoice in His wonders.
But there is another reason for joy. More to the point, this joy of a believing mother is to be found in the will of God. That is biblical joy. You say, “What does that mean?” It means this: That God assigns to each one of us a station in His kingdom, a place marked out with gracious care. And He says to us: “Occupy till I come, work out your salvation within this sphere,” and He gives you the talents for that place. Joy of heart is receiving that place from God thankfully and seeking to perform the will of God in that place from your heart. Motherhood is the will of God. You, as a mother, are in the will of God. That will of God is to give you a child so that you might nurture, rear, and give your whole life to that child and to your husband.
Outside of the will of God there is no joy. You see that in the modern woman. There is no joy. They are filled with grudges and emptiness. You see that in them. But the child of God finds joy in being in the will of God. We say, “ ’Tis joy to do Thy will, O God.”
That will of motherhood involves a thousand different facets. You are to nurture, care, give your life for that child. But that brings joy. Joy for children of God is when they are pursuing the will of Him who has redeemed them, and they are aiming at that which will glorify Him.
But there is still a third reason for this joy of a mother. That is found in understanding the importance of motherhood in God’s covenant. As a believing mother, you should never say, “I’m just a mother of children.” You ought never say “just.” You ought never think that you are buried in drudgery. No, there is an amazement that you should have when you see the importance that you have in the hand of God. Through God-fearing mothers, God is preparing a church to praise Him. There is no more glorious and awesome task in all the world than that! A Christian mother is an instrument in the hand of God unto the nurture and the development of believing generations — of generations yet to be who shall arise to praise God. Remember the theme ofPsalm 113: God’s great goodness in lifting the lowly and exalting them to glorious tasks. God saves you as a woman. He grants you not only salvation. But He assigns to you the task of molding that which is most precious — the children of His covenant — in order that there might stand forth a people of the Lord God. God is so gracious, so good, that He takes weak and sinful women whom He loves in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom He sanctifies by the Spirit, and He places them in the crucial place of His kingdom of grace.
Envy the world’s woman? Honor is found where God honors. What an honor to be used of God to prepare children for the place of glory in His kingdom. Let the Word of God mold your perceptions. Let the Word of God determine your judgments. Let the Word of God form your values. Not the world. Yes, motherhood is a joyful thing — to witness the gift of God in birth, to be in the will of God nurturing your child, and to be used of God in the preparation of His eternal kingdom.
How do you respond to that Word of God? Do you respond in thanks — “Oh, Lord, Thou hast blessed me as a mother”? Or do you say to me, “Now, just wait a minute. You’re telling me that there is a specific role that I have to follow? Are you living in the Dark Ages? This idea of fixed roles went out in the 60s and 70s. Women can make it now in sports and in business.” If that is the way you respond, then you are rebelling. Not against me, you are rebelling against God and His Word. God makes a joyful mother of children. Are you this joyful mother? No, not always jumping up and down in joy — but the joy of contentment and the resolve to follow your God whithersoever He leads you. Your child needs to see this joy. You child needs to see that you are committed to the will of God, that you find your joy in taking your place as a mother of children within your home.
For we read, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house.” The Scriptures are very plain that the calling of a mother is within her house. It is a vast calling, as I said. It is a calling to love your husband and your children. It is to be a keeper at home, spending all of your energies for that home. What a task of a mother! You need to be a paramedic — to take care of the injuries of your child; a dietician. You need to know about medicine and finances. You need to be a cook, a counselor. And how are you going to do all of these things? Only if your soul is soaked with the Word of God. You must teach your daughters what it means to be a woman, a woman of God. There is a vast task that is before you in your home.
But I would like to safeguard this. I want to safeguard the truth that the place of the woman is within the home. First of all, I want to safeguard it from one excess, an excess that is prevalent today in evangelicalism and in much of Christianity. There is a reaction of the world, a false reaction, that leads some to exalt the home as being enough and then to look at the church as being only an aid to the home. If we happen to like the church, then the church is fine. But if we do not, well, we really do not need the church because we have the home and the home is everything. That is a sinful excess. I warn you against it. Direct your home toward the church. Involve your family in the church, in the worship of the church. Without the church your home is cut off from the lifeline of the means of grace, the way that God is pleased to strengthen you through the preaching of the Word. Do not withdraw from that church because, you say, “Well, this is the way I raise up my child, and nobody else does it as well as I do. One is not faithful if he doesn’t do it the way I do. So I am going to take my child away from everybody else in the church.” Oh, no. That is a sinful excess. Your home is your place as a mother. But your home must abide within the church.
I want to protect this truth not only from an excess, but also from a danger. The danger that I warn against is the sin of gossip. The Scriptures refer to that, that often a woman is subjected to the temptation of gossiping. Instead, then, of being focused upon your own home and your own duties within that home, you become interested in everybody else’s home. And the telephone becomes a convenient way to go from house to house, asking questions that you ought not ask, telling things that you ought not tell, quick to criticize other homes and other children. The result? Sometimes the result is that there is no meal ready when your husband comes home, the house not cleaned, the laundry not done — there has just been gossiping and talking. Keep your eyes on your own home! You have a husband to confide in.
Now I want to protect this truth of the woman, the mother being in the home, from one weakness. The weakness is this: as mothers, sometimes you are tempted to a false self-criticism and a hopelessness when you see your shortcomings. This is what I have in mind. You have had a busy day. It began at 6:00 in the morning with breakfast and preparation of lunches, the husband off to work and the children off to school. You spent a little time straightening up the house. You put the little ones down for a nap. You watered the flowers. Then when the little ones woke up, you went to the park. You came home for a little more cleaning and to prepare dinner. After dinner there were baths and then bedtime stories and homework. And finally at 10 or 11:00 you fall into your bed exhausted. But you cannot sleep because you begin to remember. You remember how short you were with your daughter about her dirty room and you yelled and screamed. You remember how disappointed your little boy was when you told him that you did not have time to color with him because you needed to fold the laundry. You remember that you have not dusted for about a week now. You have gained five pounds. You have not had time for your husband. You have had little time to pray. And as all of these things come upon you, you conclude, “I’m not a good mother. I’m a horrible wife.” And you are led to anxiety and depression. I warn you against that. If you have sinned, confess that to God. Do not look to yourself, but look to God. God says that He is pleased to use you and that you are precious in His sight through Jesus Christ.
When these thoughts come to your mind, I commend to you a chapter in the Bible ( Philippians 4), especially verse 8: “…if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Think on this, that God does not condemn His own daughters, that God delights in showing mercy as the Father of comfort, that God does not pile up on you accusations so that you will not be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning. God does not do that. Look to Him for justification, forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ. Be a joyful mother in Jesus.
And praise the Lord for what He has done for you.
We must do that, not only as mothers, but as husbands too. Sometimes I am amazed that husbands cannot verbalize their thankfulness for their Christian wives and the mother of their children. They say, “Well, she knows. I don’t need to tell her.” Do you talk that way? You should praise God and thank God and thank your wife for all she does as a mother. Let the Word of God mold us.
Yes, joyful mothers. The world will raise their eyebrows. They will say to you, “Another child? Don’t you know how children come? It’s going to ruin your figure.” Let them say what they want. Let us exalt God who delights in showing such mercy that He raises us up and makes us a joyful mother of children.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word today, and we pray for its blessing upon our souls. Be with us as Christian women and mothers. Pardon all of our sins and establish the covenant with us and with our children after us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.