This sermon was preached by me on the UK’s Mother’s Day, which was on March 2nd. The audio can be downloaded or played here.
It was based on a number of verses:
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 49:15-16 Good News Bible
“Can a woman forget her own baby, and not love the child she bore?
Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.
Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.”
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
1. GOD IS LIKE A MOTHER, BUT HE IS A FATHER
We are right to talk of God as a father, for the Bible speaks of him repeatedly as a father. The verses we have read liken God to sharing attributes of a mother. There are, however, no verses that say God actually IS a mother; however, God is compared to a mother, and he is even likened to a hen brooding over her chicks. But we should no more worship him as “Mother God” than we should pray to God the Holy Chicken!
Since men and women are both created in the image of God, it should really be no surprise to us that God reflects attributes of mothers as well as fathers in his dealings with us.
Matthew Henry, writing more than 300 years ago, reminds us that God comforts us and he does so “not only with the rational arguments which a prudent father uses, but with the tender affections and compassions of a loving mother.” (Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Isaiah 66:5 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991).
Some things never change!
2. GOD IS COMPASSIONATE LIKE A MOTHER
Women tend to be compassionate, although one mum said when I spoke to her this week, “It depends on the time of day!”
When an accident happens in our home, my instinct is to ask what happened, how did the child get hurt, where is the bruise, was one of the other children somehow responsible? Andrée often says, “Darling, please just pick them up and give them a cuddle.”
God created the world. Is it any wonder he should feel the same intense degree of warm love and care towards his children that a mother so clearly demonstrates to hers? In one of our verses God says in effect “no way would a woman reject her own baby,” before acknowledging that, then as now, sadly there are a few women who do indeed forget the child they bore. But God can NEVER forget! Why? Because of what happened on the cross when he “engraved our names on his hands.”
3. GOD IS SACRIFICIAL LIKE A MOTHER
Mother with a baby might say, “O-o-oh, do you need a nappy change, poor little boy?” But Dad might say , “O man, could you not have waited to do that? It was changed only a few minutes ago!”
Women put their careers on at least a temporary hold, and go through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth to have a child. Jesus once said when that “when a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21)God understands the pain that mothers go through, not just in labor but in the decades that follow. He has seen us his children go astray and reject him, but still he loves us. How amazing knowing that he was going to a city that had killed prophets before and would kill him, that he doesn’t go in as a conquering manly warrior king. Rather, he says, “I am like a mother hen, cooing over you, wanting to gather you under my wings.” Surely God understands the thankless task of trying to win over kids when they are rebelling and think you hate them. The thousands of sacrifices the average mother makes for her children reflects upon the ultimate sacrifice of his life that Jesus would make.
Jesus died so he COULD gather his unwilling creation, like a mother hen would gather her chicks. He is hunting for them and searching for them right now to love them, forgive them, cleanse them from their guilt and shame, and make them into true children of God.
Jesus scorned the shame and pain of the cross because of the joy set before him— the joy of US as his children.
What a wonderful cry we heard from the prophet Isaiah—it was only made possible because of the cross. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
4. GOD IS COMFORTING LIKE A MOTHER
When it comes to hugs and kisses, especially if they are upset, my kids look to their mum for comfort. They say I am prickly and need a shave! Do you think of God as prickly?
Just as a skillful mother is able to pacify and soothe the woes of her child, so is God with us. Who here is distressed? God will soothe you. Who is sorrowful? God will calm your troubles. Who here is stressed? God will cause you to rest in him.
God is the God of ALL comfort. Jesus told us he was sending “another comforter” to replace himself, which tells us that his role and that of the Spirit was to comfort us.
Our response to being comforted?
We feel understood, We feel calmed. Stress lifts. Anxiety passes. Our problem now belongs to the one whose wings we shelter under.
This is surely the perfect description of the mature Christian:
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:1-2)
If you feel you are not there yet, you are probably right! Which of us is? But, that is our goal, arriving at a place where we trust God so much that we are not worrying about the events of our life, where we are calm and able to face the day.
5. GOD WANTS US TO OFFER COMFORT TO OTHERS
Perhaps you struggle with the question, “Why, God?” when you question something that has happened to you. There a
re a myriad of different circumstances life throws at us that make us ask that question. Bereavement, divorce, abuse by others, disappointments, sickness.
There are no easy or complete answers to the question “Why?” One answer is that God wants you to quiet yourself, stop examining things “too lofty for us to understand,” and instead be comforted by him so that you, too, can comfort others. But perhaps you need the comfort of others today . . . maybe you are far from the place that you can help someone else. Who here needs a touch from God? Maybe you need a touch from your neighbor.
Who here already knows from bittersweet, personal experience the truth that “God is the God of all comfort” — it is time you learned to pass that on! He comforts us SO THAT WE CAN COMFORT OTHERS. “But,” you say, “I am not a pastor or a theologian.” “I say,” “God tells us to comfort each other with the comfort he has given us!” Church, are our conversations seasoned with the salt of comfort? Do we listen to the troubles of each other and show that we care? Do we help each other to find the strength that only God can give?
RESPONSE: Salvation, need of comfort, need to comfort others.