The Great Mother


Today is Mother・s Day. Many people will probably use this opportunity to proclaim the greatness of motherly love. In the genealogy of Christ in the book of Matthew, the names of four great mothers are recorded. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Mary. From their experiences, especially their attitudes towards God, we can learn many valuable spiritual lessons.


The writers of the Bible did not conceal any of man・s corruptions and follies. Moses recorded honestly the debauched and faithless behaviour in the personal life of the ancestor Judah (Genesis 38). Tamar・s husband Er was wicked in God・s sight and died. His brother Onan refused to fulfill his duty to his brother by marrying Tamar and producing an heir for the firstborn. So God put him to death as well. Her father-in-law Judah was afraid that the third son Shelah would die also. So he employed the pretense that Tamar should return to her father・s house and live as a widow until Shelah grew up. In fact, he intended to deceive her, perhaps even to accuse her of infidelity. But the eyes of God discern what people do in the shadows, and He punishes those who are wicked, treats those who are abused or maligned with benediction, and causes the deceitful to suffer shame. Because of her perseverance, wit and patience, God permitted Tamar to finally receive a righteous standing (Genesis 38:26), and to become an important matriarch in the building up of the family of the chosen people.


Working as a prostitute in the city of Jericho that was facing imminent destruction, Rahab recognized that Jehovah was God in Heaven above and on earth below (Joshua 2:11). She knew also that God had given that land to the Israelites, and she herself and all the Canaanites in that city would soon face punishment by the will of God. So she seized the opportunity to seek God・s mercy, begging for the lives of herself and her family in exchange for saving the spies. The scarlet cord tied to her window became the sign of her faith. When the city walls crumbled, it became the symbol for salvation as well. Through her faith, Rahab welcomed the spies and helped them to escape, so she was not destroyed together with the frightened yet unrepentant people of the city (Hebrews 11:31). Not only that, this sinner among the Canaanites was actually taken by Salmon of the tribe of Judah to be his wife, experiencing amazing grace, and becoming one of the great mothers that built up the house of David.


Categorized as forbidden to enter Jehovah・s court and despite the pain of loss of her husband, the Moabitess Ruth still persisted in following her mother-in-law to Bethlehem, a place she was unfamiliar with, willingly leaving her homeland, own tribe, and her father・s house. In Moab, she would have had the opportunity to return to her family, marry someone else and live among her own people. But because of love, she gave up her justifiable individual rights. Although Naomi tried to dissuade her, her determination was unshaken. She still insisted on accompanying her mother-in-law and becoming a Jewess, choosing the God of Israel as her own God. Ruth loved Naomi deeply, respected and cared about her, and followed faithfully the instruction of her mother-in-law in complete submission (Ruth 3:5). So she received God・s blessing, her virtue was heralded, she had a son by Boaz, and she was even included in the genealogy of Christ.


The angel Gabriel called Mary a woman who was highly favoured because the Holy Spirit would soon come upon her and the power of God would overshadow her. She would bear the son of the Most High and be commended to give birth to the Son of God. Still, in the Palestinian society of 2000 years ago, to be unmarried and pregnant was an unacceptable disgrace. After hearing the angel・s greeting, Mary had conflicting emotions, and pondered its meaning (Luke 1:29). That the Son of God would come down to earth as a man, and be born through the pregnancy of a virgin was an inconceivable wonder. To the prenuptial Mary, it was not only personally difficult to accept, but hard to explain to her betrothed Joseph or vindicate to her compatriots. But in the end she submitted to God, so that His will that the Word would become flesh could be fulfilled.


These 4 mothers recorded in the genealogy of Christ all separately manifested in His plan of salvation their waiting for, faith in, following of and submission to God in their testimonies. They unconsciously complemented the will of salvation of the Lord. :He (Jesus) replied to him, .Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.・; (Matthew 12:48-50)


By: Daniel To

Peace Evangelical Church of Richmond Vancouver

May 14, 2006