The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: One cold winter in South Wales, a mother was traveling cross-country with her young babe and was caught in a blinding blizzard. The following day, upon learning she never reached her destination, a group of men went out searching for her. They soon spotted a large mound of snow in the road she was known to have traveled. They quickly swept away the white powder and found the frozen body of the barely dressed woman. In her arms was a bundle of clothing, which they unwrapped to reveal her baby—alive.

In the struggle of the snowstorm, the woman had taken off most of her clothing and wrapped it around the little boy to keep him alive. She knew that she would perish, but that the baby might survive. The baby was David Lloyd George, who lived on to become the celebrated Prime Minister of Britain during World War I. One of the reasons he achieved such greatness is that he never forgot about his mother’s love and sacrifice.

It’s Natural

God has infused into mothers the natural desire to protect their offspring even at the peril of their own lives. The Creator has pre-wired this sacrificial nature not just into human mothers, but also in the animal kingdom. In the mountains of Northern California, we have a lot of black bears that are generally harmless. On the few occasions when black bears have attacked humans, it’s usually because someone came between a mother and her cubs. I even once heard of a car being ripped apart by a mother bear because her cub was trapped inside when a well-meaning camper tried to take it home. As the Bible says, “I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage” (Hosea 13:8 NKJV).

All through the Bible, we see examples of a mother’s love and sacrifice. And this natural love, combined with the influence of a godly mother, has changed history on many occasions. Mothers must recognize the profound power they have in molding human souls, not only for the difference they will make in this life, but also to prepare them for eternity. As it is often said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

A Sensitive Subject

I’ve learned that the subject of mothers can stir up a whole potluck of emotions, bringing warm memories for some and sadness to others. You might be a mother who has lost a child, or you might be a child who grew up without knowing your mother. You might even be a woman who wants to have a child, but for some reason cannot. Mother’s Day might be a bittersweet holiday for some to celebrate.

Yet the position of mother is the greatest natural office the Creator has passed to His creatures. It is the most important and challenging responsibility in the world—and one deserving of great honor and, therefore, our consideration.

A Mother of Renown

One of the more prominent mothers in the Bible was the slave Jochabed, whose name means “Yahweh’s glory.” Even as a slave, she demonstrated immense faith in God regarding her maternal duties.

When she became pregnant with Moses, she already had a son, Aaron, and a daughter, Miriam. The king of Egypt, fearing a rebellion would rise from the expanding population of the Hebrew slaves, legislated that all new male babies be thrown into the river. Jochabed could have used this law as a desperate excuse for “birth control” to reduce the number of hungry mouths to feed. But the Bible says, “When she saw it was a beautiful child,” her heart yearned for Moses. Instead, she hid him for three months until there came a time when she could no longer conceal him nor stifle his crying. So she lovingly wove a tiny basket “ark” and tenderly placed her human treasure within. She then floated it down the river and prayed that some Egyptian might find the abandoned, whimpering babe and have merciful pity.

In His great providence, God designed this very thing. Miriam watched from a distance as a kindly princess lovingly plucked up the crying baby. Miriam approached to ask if she might find a maid to nurse the child for the Egyptian aristocrat. Ironically, Jochabed is employed to nurse her own baby! The mother has just a few more years to shape his character knowing that a pagan Egyptian princess would soon take the baby for her own.

What would you do? How much could you teach your child in that short time? Evidently, the lessons that Moses learned at the knee of his mother during those brief years were so indelibly impressed on his soul that he never forgot who he was or his people. And most important, he never forgot that God had a supreme plan for his life. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

I also imagine that Jochabed spent the next 40 years praying for her child—that those seeds she helped plant would bear tremendous fruit. They did. The Bible records in Hebrews 11:25 that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” He first learned this principle at his mother’s knee. She was willing to stay with him as long as possible to bring him up in the way of the Lord. And Moses’ influence over religion, laws, and life today are perhaps second only to Jesus’. Of course, ultimately God gets the glory, but it was also the hand that rocked Moses’ cradle.

It Takes a Mother

This is a very important story because we live in a time when pure motherhood is often scoffed and belittled. This applies particularly to a mother who stays at home with her children. It’s as if society today thinks motherhood is an antiquated tradition, and that being only a mother is derogatory.

Someone once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I categorically reject that. It might sound nice and reassuring to think the whole herd is watching out for everyone’s children. But I strongly believe that we have so much crime and decadence in our world because this “village” is really a deceitful euphemism for the streets. It doesn’t take a village to raise the child; it takes a mother.

Families are letting everybody else raise their children. They’re told to take even their youngest to the local daycare for an entire day. Of course, I’m not criticizing those who truly must—the Lord knows that I am very grateful for occasional babysitters. But this is not God’s ideal plan. Kids aren’t supposed to be raised in strange groups, nor are they to be surrendered to the “village.” They need the mother’s personal one-on-one attention because for the first few years of a child’s life, the mother represents God. Instead of trying to find others to raise our children, we all need to pray that God will give mothers the grace to reflect and reproduce within them a reverence for the Creator.

This is how Jochabed used her influence to make a difference for eternity. I love this quote: “To a very great extent the mother holds in her own hands the destiny of her children. She is dealing with developing minds and characters, working not alone for time, but for eternity. She is sowing seed that will spring up and bear fruit, either for good or for evil” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 244).

What is a mother’s ultimate goal in raising children? Their comfort? Their happiness? Today we are told to indulge our children, so that they are always happy and entertained. Though popular, this is the wrong approach. Mothers must raise their children so that they might be Christians and be prepared for eternity. In this way, the work of the mother cannot be underestimated.

The Burden of Motherhood

Because some have mistakenly deified the mother of Jesus, many avoid granting Mary the credit due her in rearing the world’s Redeemer. Her name is the Greek equivalent of Miriam, which means “bitter.” However, it doesn’t mean that Mary was a bitter person. Quite the contrary, she was favored by God. Rather, it meant that her lot as a mother would have some bitter sorrow. When Mary and Joseph took Christ to be dedicated in the temple, Simeon said, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s heart was pierced through when she saw her son hanging on the cross.

Mary had a tough row to hoe. She was pregnant before her marriage and rode 70 miles on the back of a donkey before going into labor. She delivered her child in a crude stable and then was soon displaced to Egypt. She also probably didn’t always understand why her unique child said and did the things He did.

Mary watched her son suffer and die, and she attended His burial. My grandmother told me, “It’s terrible to bury your spouse, but it’s especially difficult to bury your children.” And sadly, Jesus was probably Mary’s only child. One way we know this is because while on the cross, Jesus committed the care of His mother to the apostle John when normally she would have been taken into the home of the oldest son. Jesus’ brothers and sisters were most likely half-siblings (Matthew 13:55, 56). Furthermore, it would have been very unlikely for the oldest brother to leave the family business and become an itinerate preacher.

I also don’t think Mary fully understood that Jesus would be a sacrifice. But she did know, by an angel’s promise, that this child was not fully hers. Instead, He would be “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32).

Christ was naturally vested with some of His Father’s attributes by virtue of being His Son, a mystery we can never fully understand. Still, the Lord committed Him to the care of a human mother for His raising and training. The Bible even says that He was subject to His parents. Now talk about having a big responsibility! Can you understand why Mary was wringing her hands when they lost track of Jesus for three days? She must have thought, “I was given the Son of God, and I don’t know where I put Him!” The Bible records her as saying, “I have sought thee sorrowing” (Luke 2:48).

Should a mother’s attitude about raising children today be any less committed than Mary’s? All children are a gift from God, so all mothers should be raising them for a great work—that they might reflect the image of God. They are raising their children for eternity! The work that God gave to Mary He has also given to every mother—that they might raise their children for the infinite glory of God. That’s a big responsibility and challenge. But God has given some great examples of mothers to follow.

Suzanna Wesley: A Mother for Today

I read a book about the extraordinary Suzanna Wesley that moved me to tears. In brief, she was a godly woman who managed to have 19 children in 21 years. Karen, my wife, got out her calculator to see how many years of pregnancy that meant: it’s more than 14—and I don’t want to know how many years of diaper changing that is!

Suzanna was born the youngest of 11 children of a minister, and she was brilliant. In an era and place where few women read, she became a prolific reader. And by 13, she was participating with her father in debating heated theological issues with church leaders. Like Jesus in the temple, she engaged these intelligent leaders with her grasping mind, and they invited her back because she added so much to their conversations.

Yet by far, her impact as a mother is more profound than anything else she accomplished. I don’t think she’d mind that statement. Her influence as a Christian mother spawned some of the greatest Christian leaders and reformers. John Wesley wrote her the following: “So many people have asked about how you managed to raise children who for the most part were all godly Christians.”

By today’s standards, she was strict. But she had 19 kids. So I wanted to share some of the rules by which she mothered. Perhaps you mothers (and fathers) will welcome some great advice from a mother whose children are the best evidence for her effectiveness.

Rules, Rules, Rules

A great rule to harness to help avoid spoiling children is not to give them anything because they cry for it. I’ve seen the nightmare at grocery store check out stands, and it should never happen. Nor did Mrs. Wesley let her children cry loudly. If they did, they received additional punishment to what caused them to cry in the first place. People who visited her home said they never knew a child was home because there was no shouting and screaming. All homes should have that kind of quiet calm.

Another rule she employed was that children would not eat between meals. I also follow this important rule because it helps control the appetite. Many children today are overweight, and one reason is that they eat too much between meals.

She also regulated the children’s rest and sleep. Young children were given naps in the morning and in the afternoon. This was shortened as they grew, until eventually they worked all day either at school or doing chores without naps. And sleep time was punctual. John Wesley attributed his long life and productive work schedule to his ability to sleep on command, which he learned from his mother.

The children were also required to address their mother with respect at all times. At the dinner table, they were to eat and drink everything before them and they were always to say “please.” The commandment to honor one’s father and mother should be as revered as the Sabbath and other commandments. Children in the Bible were stoned for dishonoring their mothers, but today they seem to have a free pass. (Not that I advocate stoning today!)

Suzanna also never scolded her children. She always explained the reasons and principles behind what she asked them to do. When she told them to do something, they were to do it immediately—and then they could ask questions later. But they were to first obey without question. It is acceptable for kids to question their mothers, but not until they’ve obeyed. Otherwise, a mom could say, “Get out of the street!” And the child might answer, “Well, why should I get out of the street?” as the car is about to hit them.

Finally, as soon as her children heard her wishes and did not obey, there were immediate consequences. I get irritated when a parent says, “I’m going to count to 30!” They’re just training the child to wait 30 seconds before obeying.

Of course, there’s much more to mothering than these rules, but one of the modern era’s best mothers used these principles to guide her children. And her children have been instrumental in reaching others for Christ.

God Knows a Mother’s Heart

Eric Fromme comments, “The mother/child relationship is paradoxical. In a sense, it’s tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side and yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother and become fully independent.” A mother is loving and teaches a child so that he or she can go out in the world and be successful and independent away from that same love. That’s the way it works in this sin-spoiled world.

“Jesus knows the burden of every mother’s heart. He who had a mother that struggled with poverty and privation sympathizes with every mother in her labors. He who made a long journey in order to relieve the anxious heart of a Canaanite woman will do as much for the mothers of today. He who gave back to the widow of Nain her only son, and who in His agony upon the cross remembered His own mother, is touched today by the mother’s sorrow” (The Desire of Ages, 512).

Indeed, God has taken on these qualities of motherhood in the Bible. El Shaddai is translated as God Almighty, but the picture translation of the Hebrew is “the many-breasted one.” This describes the ability for a mother to provide all the needs for her children, and God takes the name for Himself.

We often try to peg a sexual gender on God, and He is our Father in heaven. But it also describes Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matthew 23:37). You’ve heard the story of the firefighter inspecting a section of scorched woods who turned over a burned quail to reveal her living offspring. She shielded them from a fire under her wings, just as Jesus has shielded us from the everlasting fire.

Hope for Mothers

One of the most important lessons for a mother to teach her children is that she loves them. A child also needs to learn self-control, for children will not succeed at anything if they fail this lesson. Mothers must teach this through example by word and principle. Albert Schweitzer said, “There are three ways you teach your children: Example, example, and example.”

Christ has shown us that He loves us, and He has been our best example, so He knows the difficulty of being a mother. He understands like no one else, so mothers should not be afraid to take their sorrows and joys to Jesus.

In that same passage about mothers I quoted earlier, the author adds, “In every grief, in every need, He will give comfort and help. Let mothers come to Jesus with their perplexities. They’ll find grace sufficient to aid them in management of their children. The gates are open for every mother who would lay her burden at the Savior’s feet. He who said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not,’ still invites the mothers to lead up their little ones to be blessed by Him. Even the babe in its mother’s arms may dwell as under the shadow of the Almighty through the faith of the praying mother. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. If we will live in communion with God, we too may expect the divine Spirit to mold our little ones, even from their earliest moments.”

Mothers yearning for their children who have gone astray or with children who are in need of the Lord’s healing have Him to turn to. What mothers can’t do after their children leave home they can do by their influence—a mother’s example and her prayers.

Isaiah 49:15 asks, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb?” (NKJV). The strongest earthly tie is that of a mother for her baby. Despite this, there are rare, unnatural occasions where even mothers forget. Some have abandoned or aborted their babies. Yes, others have even killed their children. But God will not forget you or your baby.

“But I will not forget you,” the Lord says. “I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” In Romans 8: 38, 39, Paul says, “For I’m persuaded,” speaking of the love of God, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Think about the strong love that a mother has for a baby, and wonder in amazement as God says, “I love you infinitely more than a mother loves her child.”

Motherhood today is not appreciated as it should be. I once read a church sign that said, “If evolution is true, how come mothers still have only two hands?”

Being a mother is a very difficult job, but it is the most important one. I’m glad that God made mothers. I’m not sure I could do the job, but that’s why He chose my wife—why He chose you or your wife to do the job. We must respect and support the office of mother, and obey the fifth commandment in the letter and the spirit.

I want you to know that the staff of Amazing Facts is praying for the mothers of the world, especially in this age of fear and uncertainty. If we can pray for a specific request, please let us know.


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