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Sermons of
Rev. Stephen Pilon
Pillar of Fire Church

The Value of Mothers

There is a modern proverb that most of us have heard that says: 'the hand that rocks the cradle controls the world.' While not all proverbs found outside the Bible are true, this one is. And it's true because the person who rocks the cradle will also be the person who will have the greatest impact on the moral and spiritual development of the child. As a result of this impact, the child in the cradle will be influenced for either good or evil depending upon the moral and religious beliefs of the one doing the rocking. The mind of a young child is like a sponge that is waiting to be filled. Now, this is a truth found not only in Scripture (Proverbs 22:6), but in the secular world as well. For not more than a year ago a study was conducted in which researchers attempted to find the age at which children appeared to establish a moral foundation. Based upon their research it was determined that by the age of 3, a child's basic ideas of good and evil, right and wrong were pretty well set. And this is why we have Christian daycare centers, Sunday school classes, and children's church - all designed to influence the young for good. Now because children do learn at such a young age the job of raising children in a fallen, sinful world is a huge responsibility, a responsibility that for the most part falls on the shoulders of those women who go about the business of being mothers. And it really doesn't matter if these women are mothers according to nature, or mothers by proxy as in the case of nannies, stepmothers, or daycare workers, because they all fulfill the same role as guides and teachers to those whom God has placed in their care. 

And it is because of this great impact that mothers have on the lives of the young that various countries throughout the world have honored them since at least the 1600's, as well as here in the United States. For it was in this country that mothers were officially honored when the second Sunday in May was set aside as a national holiday by presidential decree in 1914. Now since the nurturing of children is such a great responsibility, a responsibility that even our government recognized 85 years ago, isn't it unusual that in our country today motherhood is by and large considered to be the least fulfilling task that a woman feels obligated to perform. Too often careers, self, materialism, want, pressure from a spouse, or a whole host of other things take the preeminence or the priority in life, and children must somehow be squeezed somewhere in between. And though many mothers today, both in and out of the church don't seem to have the time to teach their children the most important things in life like they once did, they are only deceiving themselves if they think that their children are learning nothing at all. For just as the children of the 60's learned that there was a double standard without their parents telling them of it, a standard that said: 'do as I say, and not as I do,' so our children also learn by what they see and hear. And so if a mother ignores her responsibility to teach the child committed to her care good things, i.e. honesty, integrity, faith, love, righteousness and godliness, or treats that responsibility with contempt by relegating it to a very low priority in life, the impact will be felt throughout entire families, communities, and nations. 

But perhaps some of you are among those who don't believe the consequences are so dire. If you don't, look at the world around you. Look at the problems we as a church and nation are facing with gangs, teenage pregnancy, violence, and drugs, and then tell me that mothers have little or no effect on the moral or spiritual direction that their children take, especially when you consider that so many homes today are single parent homes, homes where mom is the only parent present.

In the Bible the extremely important role that a mother plays in shaping her children's beliefs both spiritually and morally are well documented. And because Mothers' Day has been set aside as a day to honor those who have shouldered the burden of shaping young lives, we're going to take the time to briefly look at the impact that two mothers had on each of their children. To do that we're going to look at two different stories told in the textbook of life - the Bible. The first story is found in Judges 17:1-12:

Now there was a man from the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, the eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, and on which you put a curse, even saying it in my ears - here is the silver with me; I took it. And his mother said, may you be blessed by the Lord, my son! So when he had returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore I will return it to you. Thus he returned the silver to his mother. Then his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to the silversmith, and he made it into a carved image and a molded image; and they were in the house of Micah. The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah; he was a Levite, and was staying there. The man departed from the city of Bethlehem in Judah to stay wherever he could find a place. Then he came to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. And Micah said to him, where do you come from? So he told him, I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am on my way to find a place to stay. Micah said to him, dwell with me, and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes, and your sustenance. So the Levite went in. Then the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man became like one of his sons to him. So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and lived in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as a priest.

While this passage of Scripture contains many things worthy of study it is nevertheless the story of Micah - and his mother.

It is the story of a man who was raised in a very religious household by a mother who taught him many things by what she said and by what she did. One of the first things she taught him was how to lie and how to play the hypocrite in a religious sort of way when she said in verse 3: "I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son", but then she gave only 200 shekels of silver for religious purposes and kept back the other 900 for herself. Like Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5, Micah's mother pledged one thing to her god but then did something far less. In addition to this she taught Micah about the Lord, especially His name, for she said in verse 2; "may you be blessed by the Lord, my son!", and the word she used for Lord was what we call the Tetragrammaton. Now the Tetragrammaton was the covenantal name for the supreme God, the name we know as Jehovah. It was a personal name considered so holy that the Israelites normally substituted Adonai or Lord for it. 

So Micah's mother knew the name of the Great and Supreme God, but then she tainted that knowledge by mixing idolatry with it in two ways. First of all she had an idol made with a portion of the silver she donated for that purpose. By doing this in violation of the command of the Lord who had said in Deut. 27:15: "cursed be the man that makes any graven or molten image.." she showed that in her mind the God of Israel was no different than any other god, for they too were represented by images. Secondly she taught Micah through her cursing of the one who took her money and her blessing of the one who returned it, that Jehovah was like the pagan deities who could be invoked for either good or evil based upon nothing more than the whim of the petitioner. Now none of this was lost on Micah, for later on the extent of the religious education that he had received from his mother became all too apparent, as well as the confusion spawned by it. For example, in our passage we are told that Micah had a shrine in which to place his idols. Now the shrine that is mentioned in this verse was a pagan altar that provided a specific place for Micah to worship before his gods in the privacy of his own home. It was an act of arrogance and self-will for him to do such a thing, for God had commanded Israel to avoid these shrines for one reason. Israel was to obey the will of Jehovah and worship Him at Shiloh, the town where the Tabernacle of meeting was, and the place where He chose to receive worship. For in Leviticus 17 God said that sacrifice at any other place was to demons - not Him. Unfortunately Micah wasn't used to such a God. After all, his mother could invoke her god who had the same name anytime she wanted and her god would do as she wished. But here was a God he didn't know, a God who had a mind of His own, a God who demanded obedience to His will, a God his mother never prepared him for

The passage also goes on to tell us that Micah consecrated one of his sons to be a priest for him and that he even made an ephod for him to wear. Now there are two things I want you to notice about this. First of all Micah's ordination of his son was unauthorized and he knew it. He knew that God had commanded that the priests of Israel were to come only from the tribe of Levi, which is why as soon as he had an opportunity to have a Levite as his own personal priest he took it. And secondly the ephod he made for his son was a specific piece of clothing that God commanded the High Priest of Israel to wear when ministering before Him. It was not to be worn by anyone else. So, in this small portion of Scripture we see Micah mixing the things of God with the things of the nations around them. But we also see something else. We see Micah becoming the master of his god simply by his statement that just because he finally had a Levite as a priest for his own pagan altar, God would now have no choice but to bless him in whatever he did. We are told in 1 Cor. 4:7 that none of us has anything that we have not received. And while this passage is speaking of spiritual gifts it also encompasses the whole spectrum of spiritual knowledge. No one is born with the knowledge of the true God and Micah was no exception. 

But, just as Micah was not born with knowledge of God, neither was he born with his distorted view of the God of Israel, he was taught it. Like most children he learned most of what he knew of God from his mother. And so through the hearing of the ear he heard what she said and through the seeing of the eye he saw what she did. And this is why Micah followed in the footsteps of his mother by mixing the holy things of God with the unholy things of the pagan idol worshipers. And what was the ultimate result of such a perverted religion? Well, if you were to read chapter 18 of the book of Judges you would find that Micah's idolatry affected not only himself and his children, but it also affected the entire tribe of Dan. And as a result of this idolatry the tribe of Dan would remain locked in the embrace of idolatry until the captivity of the northern kingdom some 500 years later.

Now no one can doubt that Micah was "religious" and sincerely believed what he had been taught by his mother. But neither can any Christian doubt that the things he learned from her were wrong. And not only were they wrong, but through those same teachings many people became separated from the very God who had saved them from a life of bondage in Egypt. And this separation wasn't just temporal; it was eternal, for this is the separation that we call eternal death. Do you still wonder how much influence Micah's mother had on him? 

That's the first story. The second story that we're going to look at is found in 1 Samuel 1:2-21.

In this story we read of a man named Elkanah
"and he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons? So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head. Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. 

And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, because I have asked for him from the Lord. 

Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever. 

Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. So they worshiped the Lord there."

This is the story of Samuel - and his mother. In contrast to Micah's mother Hannah was a godly woman who believed in the God of Israel. She understood that worship of the Lord was to take place only at Shiloh - not at a homemade shrine. She understood and believed in the power of the Lord as the supreme God as indicated by her prayer to Him as the God who could either give or withhold children from her. She understood and believed in the law of the Lord as indicated by her vow to raise her son as a Nazarite, which meant that she would not allow him to drink wine or cut his hair, and that he would be dedicated to the Lord forever. Later, after Samuel was born she used her time to instruct him in the law and the ways of the Lord. That she understood and believed in the Lord as the supreme God is evident from the fact that she gave her son to Him just as she promised. She didn't break her promise like Micah's mother did when she kept 900 pieces of silver for herself after promising all of it to the Lord. These were the things that made Hannah a godly mother and a righteous woman. She knew the Lord was God and she honored Him by doing what was right. And not only did she do what was right but she taught them to her son and expected him to do them as well. There was no known mixing of the profane with the holy, the pure with the filthy, or the godly with the ungodly. And not only did Hannah refuse to mix the popular views of her day with what she knew of the Lord, but she was also successful in teaching them to her son so that when he was only 5 years of age, he was able to conduct himself properly in the house of the Lord. 

This knowledge that Hannah imparted to her son had such an impact on him that he in turn was able to have a major impact on the nation of Israel, an impact that affected the nation for good, not evil. But understand this: the knowledge that Hannah gave to her son was not just intellectual, but like Micah's mother it was based upon her life and what she believed. Samuel learned what his mother told him, but it was reinforced by what he saw in her. In other words his mother practiced what she preached, not perfectly, but consistently. In his life Samuel was not considered a rich man, instead he was considered a man of God. And he was considered a man of God because he chose to serve God over other things. Why, because his mother never emphasized things, instead she emphasized the Lord and Samuel's obligation to honor Him. 

So what do we have? We have two men both of whom were raised in a religious environment. Through the one an entire tribe of Israel was destroyed, and through the other a nation was spared. Through the one the name of Jehovah was minimized, but through the other it was exalted. And through the one the things of God became commonplace but through the other they became what they were - holy. Now consider the final destinies of these two men. When Samuel walked off this earth into eternity he stepped into a kingdom that the God he loved had prepared for him. But when Micah died and entered eternity there was nothing but the darkness of eternal separation waiting for him. For as he turned his back on the true God during his life, so this same God turned his back on Micah after his death. Samuel's mother prepared Samuel for eternity by leading him to the Lord, but Micah's mother condemned her own son by her own faithlessness. 

Both women had access to the truth and the ability to teach it, but only one of them did so. This same power to teach truth to the young through both word and deed has been granted by God to all mothers. It is a power that can either exalt the Lord in the minds of your children or it can be used to reduce Him to nothing more than a fairytale, something that is entertaining but totally irrelevant to life. It is a power that can lift up a nation or if abused it can destroy an entire people. And last of all it is a power that can be used to bring your children to the Lord or it can be used to drive them away from Him forever. Be careful how you use this power that the Lord has entrusted to you, for the eternal life of your sons and your daughters may very well rest upon how well you discharge your duties as mothers.

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