Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Psalm 30: 5
“Sorrow does not control life. The overcoming life is greater than sorrow. Through the gate of sadness, we pass into a richer, sweeter, finer life. After the shadow of night, morning breaketh. Night comes before the unfolding beauty of a dawning day. The overcoming life is triumphant over sadness. It is victorious in and over sorrow.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’ And they brought a sword to the king. And the king said, ‘Divide the living child in two and give half to the one and half to the other.’ Then the mother of the living child said to the king, for she yearned over her son, ‘O my Lord, give her the living baby, and by no means slay him.’ But the other said, ‘Let him not be mine or yours, but divide him.’ Then the king said, ‘Give her who pleads for his life the living baby, and by no means slay him. She is the child’s mother.’”
1 Kings 3: 24-27
“A Mother’s Yearning Heart”
“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”
St. Therese of Lisieux
What thoughts come to mind when I hear the word “mother”?
What lessons can I learn from the two mothers who came to Solomon?
“Lord of life and King of glory,
Who didst deign a child to be,
Cradled on a mother’s bosom,
Throned upon a mother’s knee;
For the children Thou hast given
We must answer unto Thee.”
“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England.”
In a few days, we will be celebrating a holiday set aside particularly to honor our mothers. This special day was first celebrated in the United States in 1907, encouraged by a lady named Anna Jarvis as a time to not only honor mothers, but also motherhood.
I find it to be another one of the “Garden” coincidences (which I think of as my daily heavenly miracles) that we happen to be studying about two very different and distinct mothers, whose dramatic story is found in 1 Kings 3.
As we have found out, two women, who the Bible calls harlots, came to Solomon because, according to their tale, during the night, one of the women laid on her own child, apparently smothering her son. The next morning when she found the child dead, she exchanged the other woman’s living child, for her dead baby. Solomon’s challenge was to try and figure out who the living child’s real mother was.
In reading what commentators say about this story, nearly every discussion comes to the conclusion that a mother would know her own child. But as I think of the nearly forty years that my dear mother-in-law worked in a newborn nursery, I’ll never forget her telling me how careful they were as nurses caring for each infant in trying to make certain the babies’ name tags properly identified each child. And please remember, we live in an era where there are electronic monitoring devices, DNA testing, and a host of other technological advances which are used to help identify newborn babies.
Not so, during Solomon’s kingship. What he had to go on was the words of two women, which were in total contradiction with each other. And so, to what I conclude would be the total shock of the people present, Solomon asked for a sword and ordered the “living” baby to be cut in half. I find it noteworthy that the Bible underscores the fact that the baby to be cut in half was “living” or as the Hebrew tells us was “alive and whole.”
Immediately after Solomon’s edict had been laid out, a voice was heard. It was a woman’s cry for mercy. A mother, who we are told, in 1 Kings 3: 26, spake for her bowels yearned upon her son,” or as the Hebrew words help us understand more clearly, her “rechem,” her womb, yearned or “kamar,” “to intertwined or contract, to be deeply affected with passion, love or pity.” In other words, this dear mother, who had contractions giving birth to her son, now felt the same internal painful contractions as she suffered the fear of losing the life of the child she had given birth to. What a demonstrative picture the Bible gives us of a mother’s love and compassion for her child.
As this woman begged the king to spare the life of her child, the other woman called for the sword to fall. And it was at this moment the evidence became crystal clear as to who the child’s real mother was. What a story and what a conclusion to a challenging dilemma. But as we look deeper into the decision Solomon made, I find two critical lessons that each of us as women can take away from this complex situation.
First of all, as Luz Arellano so beautifully penned, “’Mother’ does not mean being the woman who gives birth to and cares for a child; to be a mother is to feel in your own flesh the suffering of all the children…as though they had come from our own womb.” Even if the mother who gave birth to the baby who was “living” had to give up her child, she chose to let her child live over just “possessing” her baby. I love the words of the great evangelist, Billy Sunday, who said “A mother’s love is unselfish and has no limits this side of heaven.” This is certainly the unselfish love which was evident in the life of the mother of the living child.
But this story also has a teachable lesson which we find evidenced by the words of the mother who wanted the “living” child to die. As Sydney Harris correctly observed, “The commonest fallacy…is that simply having children makes one a mother – which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician.” Just because both these women each had a child, it didn’t make both of them qualified to be a mother.
As we contemplate the conclusion to this predicament faced by young Solomon early in his reign as king, I was reminded of the words penned by John Wesley who said he learned more about Christianity from his mother than all the theologians in England. As I’ve shared with you before, Susanna Wesley was a woman and mother to be admired. She was the youngest of twenty-five children who herself had nineteen children, including two sets of twins. After the rectory where her family lived burned down, Susanna wrote that uniting her family again and the salvation of each of her children was the primary focus of her life. But this determination didn’t just happen. Every day of the week, she set aside an hour of the day to focus on the individual needs of a particular child. As her children left home to attend school, she continued her personal ministry in her children’s lives by writing each child a letter.
I found a copy of one of her letters to her oldest son, Samuel, when he was away at school and here’s the tender way this mother shared her love with her son. “I am, Dear Sammy! Your faithful friend and mother, Susanna Wesley,” written May 22, 1706.
In the words of Diana Wiseman, “Thank You Jesus, for a mother’s unfailing love, for her unstinting devotion and steadfastness, for her wisdom and support, for always ‘being there’ in times of happiness and of stress.”
And to all of you who may be a “special” mother, filling in a place of honor for a child who may not have come out of your own womb, but is from your heart, may you too be blessed for your unselfish love and yearning compassion.
“My love for you makes me desire your highest good. How can love desire less? Anything that desires less is selfishness, not love. You may have others who will be more demonstrative but never who will love you more unselfishly than your mother or who will be willing to do or bear more for our good.” - Catherin Branwell Booth
“Dear Lord, there are so many kinds of mothers who have blessed us with their love and care: our own birth-mothers who carried us and labored for us in so many ways, and no matter how old we may be will always have a special place in our hearts;
foster-mothers, adoptive mothers, and stepmothers whose task of picking up the pieces is not easy and whose successes are the more glorious for the effort involved; and all the other strong and holy and loving women who have taught us and nurtured us, encouraged us and guided us.
Thank You, Father God, for all the mothering we have received. Bless all whose lives have blessed ours and may we, in our turn, bless the lives of others, in Your name. Amen.”
Dorothy M. Stewart
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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