Mothers in Israel
“The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.” Judges 5:7
Deborah is the only instance in all of Scripture where we see a woman in authority over Israel (unless you count Jezebel). And here, in Deborah’s song, do we not find how she sees herself? That is, “a mother in Israel.”
Now, every man, when he is a child, is subject to his mother. A mother has a God-ordained authority over her children. But there comes a time, which is a crisis of authority, when a transition takes place and that young man must answer to God directly. It is almost certain that some circumstance will arise where he will have to make it clear to his mother that he is now accountable to a higher authority.
Even in the life of the Lord Jesus we find several encounters with Mary that invite consideration.
First, when Jesus was twelve, and Mary and Joseph mistakenly thought Jesus was with relatives as they were returning to Nazareth, they finally find Jesus three days later in the temple amazing the doctors of the Law with His understanding.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him,
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:48-52
Jesus was truly perplexed my Mary and Joseph’s anxiety. “Didn’t you know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” I wonder if it was not more for their lack of understanding than his unreadiness, that he humbled himself and went down to Nazareth. Whatever the case, it is apparent that He immediately perceived in His heart that going down with them was His Father’s business, at least for that season that ended up lasting 18 years.
This was the beginning of the transition of authority from the earthly to the heavenly, which is complete by the time we see Jesus again with His mother in John chapter 2.
And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. John 2:3-5
At this point, it is clear that both Jesus and Mary understand who is in authority. Mary’s famous statement “Whatever He says to you, do it” is spoken with the certainty of one who has tried it and seen the results. It is as if she knows now that when she uttered the words 30 years before, “Be it unto me according to Your Word” that the one she bore as a result of the word IS the Word that was spoken to her.
One final example bears mentioning. Both Matthew and Mark share the account of Mary and Jesus’ brothers coming to see Jesus after He was well into His ministry:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50 NIV
There is no record of Mary taking offense to these words. Mothers everywhere, and likewise, all women in ministry, should ponder these things, because if those little ones who have been entrusted into your care are truly growing in favor with God and man, then the transition of authority over them from you unto God is close at hand.
The Apostle Paul goes as far as to say this:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority
over a man; she must be silent. 1 Timothy 2:12
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach. 1 Timothy 3:2
An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Titus 1:6 NIV
When I was a new Christian, in my twenties, the Lord placed me in a ministry under two older lady saints (Jewel Courtney and Annette Marsnik). Spiritually, they were like mothers to me, and I am grateful for their influence and their watchful eye. The last one surviving was eager to transfer the outward authority within the church to one of us “brothers,” and was prepared to bring in outside help from a man if necessary. They were always deserving of the honor and respect of a mother, but in order to remain on the solid ground of what is written in the Scriptures, that transition had to take place.
Had it not, those of us who were their children would have not been equipped to face our own hour of temptation, when our relationship with our Father in Heaven and what He has written in His Word and revealed in Jesus, are the only adequate weapons for our victory.