Summary: Uses the maternal images of God in Scripture both to explore how the feminine enhances our apprehension of the person and nature of God, and to present a picture of redeemed motherhood.
Seeing God Through the Window of Motherhood
Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." 15"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. 17 Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. 18 Lift up your eyes and look around; all your sons gather and come to you. As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.
INTRO. ANALOGICAL PORTRAYALS OF GOD IN SCRIPTURE
Mother’s day comes around every year and there is a requisite pressure to address the topic of motherhood in the Sunday sermon. I have only had to do this a couple of times and I am amazed that men who have been pastors for decades are able to come up with something fresh every year. Many of the sermons that I have heard in the past have either been on topics like the dignity of motherhood, the necessity of disciplining children, or the duty that children have to obey their parents.
These are all important topics but as I was preparing this message I started thinking about what might be the underlying reason that God invented the idea of motherhood in the first place. I would like to suggest to you that motherhood, like many other human institutions, is a window through which we see and progressively understand the nature and character of God.
In many places in Scripture we encounter descriptions of God that use the imagery of motherhood. It is no stretch for us to speak of and understand the language about the fatherhood of God, but what about those places that speak of God giving birth and nurturing his people as a mother?
Now these Scriptural occurrences should not surprise us because they make perfect sense in light of what the Bible teaches about how humans were made in God’s image. Let’s remind ourselves:
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created
Do you see how both men and women bear the image of God. In other words the distinctive characteristics and qualities of both men and women are necessary to fully reflect the divine image. It follows therefore that the unique response that a mother has for her child has an analogy in the nature of God.
Two cautions should be made here.
1) By saying that God can be described in maternal language I am not advocating that we call God “mother”. In fact, while the Scripture is full of instances where God is addressed as “father” there is a conspicuous absence of places where he is called mother. We should maintain this practice in our praying.
2) By describing God in feminine and maternal imagery, we are not saying that God is essentially a male or female in terms of sexual distinction. God is a pure spirit and is therefore neither male or female. Metaphorical descriptions of God in the Bible depend upon us being able to recognize both the similarities and dissimilarities in the metaphor. In other words when we speak of God as “our father”, we are saying that he loves us like a father or disciplines us like a father or that he provides for us like a father. We are not saying that he sleeps in the same bed as mommy. The metaphorical image has limits and because no one metaphor could fully take in a being as infinite as God the Scripture uses many different and overlapping kinds.
With that in mind lets look at Isaiah 49
I. THE COMPLAINT OF A NEEDY CHILD (V. 14)
14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me."
A. The broader context of this section of Isaiah is how God is going to deliver the people of Israel from their captivity in Babylon. Isaiah shares with us the complaints of those who are in captivity. He speaks of it in terms of a child crying out for its parent. The LORD has forsaken me and the LORD has forgotten me. Here, as in chapter 40 is the familiar complaint that God doesn’t know and God doesn’t care.