A Trip Down A River to the Source - Part One
I recently saw some really beautiful photographs of a mother carrying her recently born baby girl and the images really took me back to the times when my own girls were small.
I also recently got to hold a six month old baby, which is not an everyday occurrence for me especially when you have an eleven and seven year old.
These recent experiences reminded me of some very powerful Biblical texts that describe motherhood and I was able to see something that I had not really appreciated before.
What I saw was a new way of looking at our compassionate God, a loving Father, who chooses to express His love and compassion using the most interesting of terms and some of them exhibit a pretty deep connection to the femininity of motherhood. For example, note the following:
Rejoice with Jerusalem “Before she was in labor she gave birth;
before her pain came upon her she delivered a son.
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?
For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children.
Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”
says the LORD; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”
says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her;
that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.”
For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem
(Isaiah 66:7-13 ESV)
This passage comes to mind when I saw these photos from this new mother. The pictures really show a deep mother/child connection, the essential natural experience of nurture through breast feeding, the closeness of carrying your child, the sheer joy of playing with them and of course describing humanity's redemption using birth imagery. This is what these photos conveyed and it is the exact picture being displayed in the above text.
I guess being a resident of Jerusalem, the home of the Mother Church of Christendom, (which was built originally on the Mount of Olives near a cave where not only did our Lord reside and teach his disciples when He visited the Jerusalem area, but where He was also raised from the dead) gives me a special connect to what St. Paul was saying:
"But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother." (Galatians 4:26 ESV)
The picture that this text is also showing us is a glimpse of heaven come to earth and most importantly, the experience that Isaiah and Paul chose to make this comparison is the mother child relationship! This should come as no surprise to anyone who has even the most basic understanding or experience with maternal love. It is without equal and one of the most powerful expressions of love in existence. This is what Isaiah is telling us. It is to be compared to heaven coming to earth!
This also gives us pause when we think about what Paul says about the Jerusalem above and how he calls her "our mother"! Quite a statement from someone who saw the third heaven and it definitely gives us all something to think about. (II Corinthians 12:4)
Yet, there is something in this text of Isaiah which is so important and which I saw a connection to that I had not heretofore seen before and herein I found an opportunity for learning something else, because this missing element I think helps us to see a different view on the maternal side of God.
Honestly, some people (none of them mothers) seem to get very nervous when you start talking about the maternal side of God. However, this is only the case in religious environments where men are firmly in control and women are marginalized. But thankfully, in serious and mature Biblical academia, there is no nervousness or lack of comfort in discussing these Biblical texts because they are given the deep respect they demand and are taken to their logical and natural conclusions for mature Christians who have "eyes to see" and "ears to hear" their true meanings.
They show us really the integration of femininity into the Godhead in a way that allows us humans to appreciate it in a practical way. After all, all of us have mothers that we know, love and feel close to (under ideal and normal circumstances we hope).
But before we get into the details of this text, let's give a general survey of some of the more specific female features associated with God. Yes, you read correctly!
Here I am fortunate to have been taught these things when I was younger by my late father who published a number of important papers on this subject. Note a comment here where he discusses this issue of God's feminine side. He goes right to the top academic sources to discuss some important texts which address this issue directly.
Stay Tuned for PART TWO COMING SOON