Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 8/4/02
"And she brought forth a manchild, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and to His throne" (Rev. 12:5).
The bible contains many powerful metaphors or word pictures about God's relationship to us. We, the Manchild, gain solace and strength from the Fatherhood of God as He guides, protects and chastens His sons. Isaiah had a remarkable sense of this fluid relationship God maintained with His children, describing the Holy One of Israel at times, as their King, their Lord, their husband and Maker, but especially sweet to me, is his description of God as their Mother. When they groaned, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." He asked them, "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! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me" (Isa. 49:14-16, NIV). This verse has sustained me through some tough times when I was tempted to believe the accuser's voice about my own mothering abilities. We've had e-mail and phone calls this past week from distraught mothers whose children have jumped the track. I empathize with their pain and understand first hand what they are experiencing. Nothing will transform an ordinary woman into super woman quite so fast as a child who is in distress. No matter the age of the child, when a mother hears the cry, she is galvanized into action, be it heroic or merely codependent. (Fathers, this includes you as well).
Hallmark has made a fortune capitalizing on our conflicted relationships with our mothers. Whatever the season, no matter the reason, they have a card that depicts gooey sentimentality regarding mothers and our feelings for them. The truth is, there is no job in the universe as hard as being a mother! We are expected to give and protect life, be all wise, all knowing, all caring, and above all, not neurotic. According to health care providers and psychologists, who tell us what we must do even while they are "in utero," our job started nine months before we ever beheld the cherubic face of our long awaited offspring! I now see that we were sold a bill of goods, which says that mothers are responsible for every flaw, fatal or otherwise, that our children display. Had we been more godly, more committed, more holy, more dedicated, better Christians, our children would have turned out to be model citizens in the kingdom of Heaven. Isaiah's writings reflect how frustrated God was with His children at times. Now, surely, we can say that God is the perfect parent, all wise, all loving, all powerful, knowing the end from the beginning, and yet, sometimes I get the picture that He was tearing out His hair at the frustrating experience of trying to parent human beings. Yes, I know that I have created Him in my own image there, but it helps me not to be so hard on myself when contemplating my real and imagined failures.
God has never failed us nor abandoned us in any way. In spite of rebellious children, He never beat His breast and felt sorry for Himself as Shakespeare's King Lear did. "How sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child," the monarch whined. No, God is NOT a Jewish mother, who wrings His hands over how His children have failed Him, moaning about how miserable He feels as a result. How can He be calm in the face of so much failure? It is because He IS the perfect parent and He trusts Himself to bring to pass, what needs to happen for the child to come into perfect relationship with Him. In the Garden, we see a parent warning the child, "Don't you touch the fruit of that tree. If you do, you will die." He knew perfectly well, that His admonition to stay away would be like a magnet drawing them closer. It is human nature; it is built into the model; it is predictable. Over and over, the bible expounds God's warnings for His children. "If you serve those detestable idols, your crops will fail; your children will die; your enemies will sweep over the nearest hill and carry you off to captivity. Obey me or else." The Old Testament is a relentless litany of prophetic warnings; Israel's disobedience, and God's certain punishments, inexorable as the tide. I've been reading the bible for much of my 61 years now, and there was a period of time when I just couldn't stand it anymore, because far from thinking of God as a loving Father, I was terrified of Him, as all who live by law must be.
Slowly, within the last thirty years, His grace has had its perfect way with me. As the refining fires have done their cleansing work, I began to see God as my Mother, the one from whose umbilical cord, Eternal Life flows. I see myself engraved upon the palms of His hands. By Divine Providence, I began to realize the truth of Isaiah's words, "Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver" (Isa. 49:1-2, NIV). Isaiah is talking here to Israel, who is the prototype of His children the world over, including you and me. Paul wrote to Timothy, "For he has saved us from all that is evil and called us to a life of holiness, not because of any of our achievements but for his own purpose. Before time began he planned to give us in Christ Jesus the grace to achieve purpose, but it is only since our savior Christ Jesus has been revealed that the method has become apparent. For Christ has completely abolished death, and has now, through the gospel, opened to us men the shining possibilities of the life that is eternal" (II Tim. 1:9,10, Phil). And the Apostle Paul said of himself, that God had set him apart BEFORE he was born, calling him through His grace (Gal. 1:15).
I mention these verses today, because God is in charge of everything, including what kind of parents we had, and how we parented our children. Therefore, how they turn out is ultimately according to the pattern He laid down before the foundation of the world. Through Isaiah, He reminded Israel, "This is what the LORD says, the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts" (Isa. 45:11-12, NIV). Have you asked the Lord, "Why me?" when troubles come upon you. When your kids fail to be perfectly obedient to all the rules you so carefully laid down, do you organize a pity party and ask, "Where did I go wrong?" I've done all of the above at various times, but He always brings me back to this truth. He is the Potter. I am not. He sits on the Throne. I do not. It does no good to blame the child's flawed genes and chromosomes, to blame your own mother, or yourself, for that matter. God is the one responsible for the whole thing.
Someone always quickly and loudly protests, "Now, you're blaming God!" Who else is there who knows the end from the beginning? Let's get real here, if what He wanted was men and women who were like little robots, always perfectly obeying Him, why would He have put the tree in the garden in the first place? And having done so, why allow the serpent to set the hook in their jaw? Paul makes a startling statement in his epistle to the Romans: "For God has consigned ALL men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon A-L-L" (Romans 11:32, RSV). Here's how the dictionary defines the word "consign:" "to hand over or deliver, assign... to address or ship, especially for the purpose of being sold." Ask the Holy Spirit to bury that nugget of gospel deep in your sin soaked, guilt ridden psyche. God is the one who handed ALL men over to disobedience. He sold us into sin, in other words. Why? That He MAY have mercy upon all.
In this same chapter eleven of Romans, Paul makes the outrageous, incredible, yet wondrous statement that "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). When I first read that, my blood rushed faster through my veins and my mind raced. "Even Hophni and Phinehas?" I asked. (I Sam. 1:3; 2:12.33; 4:4,11). "What about Nadab and Abihu?" (Lev. 10:1-2). "What about Judas himself?" There is no qualifying adjective used in Paul's statement. The Interlinear Greek translation, The Emphatic Diaglott, renders it "all Israel shall be saved, as it has been written, shall come out of Sion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Again, this is an all inclusive statement with no qualifiers. My NIV Study bible, has a note at the bottom of the page stating, "The salvation of the Jews will, of course, be on the same basis as anyone's salvation: personal faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead." While it is absolutely true that all salvation comes from Jesus' life, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, the question is, "What part did we play in all of that? Did God need OUR works to create the worlds and accomplish His purposes in the earth?" And Paul did affirm that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11).
Many Christians seemingly cannot help but take credit for their part in the process, believing that their decision for Christ is what saves them. Paul makes no mention of any such decision, and in fact, his statement that "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob," is a direct reference to Isaiah's prophecy, which says of God, "And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD. "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children's children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore" (Is. 59:20-21, RSV). The action here originates from God toward men, not the other way round. He is the one who puts the words of life in our mouths, and He is the one, who for a season, withholds Himself from men causing them to be blind and deaf (Is. 6:9-10; Rom. 11:7-8), until He is ready "to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Is. 42:7; Lk. 4:18).
God is our teacher, and mothers, take heart, for He is the teacher of our children as well. "All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons" (Isa. 54:13, RSV). When we are taught by the Lord, there is the matter of learning what the Spirit is saying, which often results in unlearning what we learned in religion's hallowed halls. We know people who proclaim that God has called them out of religious Babylon, but who are still blind and cannot see that He has not yet taken all of Babylon out of them! This is more work for the refining fire, as John saw in the Spirit: "When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her (Babylon) and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry. "'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'" (Rev. 18:9-10, NIV). It has taken a great deal longer than one hour to get Babylon out of my life, and God is still in the process of sweeping out the debris and detritus left over from years of indoctrination, but however long it takes, Babylon's fate is a sure thing in my life and yours. After seeing this horrific vision of the fall of Babylon, John hears a multitude of voices in heaven crying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants" (Rev. 19:1-2). This is highly symbolic language describing the victory of our God over ANY thing that is a counterfeit of Him who sits upon the throne.
As a mother, I find hope and comfort in God's prophetic promises, because I am no longer on the hot seat. God is the one with whom we have to do, the one who knows the end from the beginning, and He is the one who gives us life, saves us from ourselves, and catches us up to the Throne with Him so the dragon cannot harm us (Rev. 12:5). Before His crucifixion, Jesus stood on a hill overlooking the City of David, and grieved, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matt. 23:27, RSV). In scripture, Jerusalem represents the jewel in God's crown, the symbol of His affection, the living embodiment of God's promise to Abraham. In comparing law and grace, works and faith, Paul said of the physical city of the great king, "Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother" (Gal. 4:25-26, RSV). Let's bring this home and make it significant for our present day lives. Earthly Jerusalem, symbol of the flesh, like Hagar, seeks direction from Mount Sinai, from law. Spiritual Jerusalem, our mother above, is birthed by promise and delivered by grace, not works. She is Mount Zion, the Manchild, in whom we dwell. God said of her, "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand, I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, 'You are my people'" (Isa. 51:16). God is speaking to all of us, here, because the new Jerusalem, the city of God, is within us.
God is the Mother of the Manchild! Therefore, any parents who are troubled about our children or ourselves, can rejoice in God's love for His wayward sons: "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins" (Isa. 40:2). God is our Mother as well as our Father, and He will bring to pass all He promised Jerusalem through the prophets. Like Him, we are free. The next time you are tempted to doubt God's tender care for you and your children, I invite you to feed on these verses. Once God embeds them in your soul, you will repent of fear and doubt, because God truly IS worthy of trust. We live by grace through faith, not by law through works. If anything depends on us, then we've got reason to worry, but rejoice with me now at the glorious end of the story for ALL of us: "Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and a-l-l the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God" (Isa. 52:9-10, NIV). May God open our blind eyes to see and our stopped ears to hear the Good News. Amen. Jan Antonsson. To be continued.....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Where is the Manchild?"
"Maturing the Manchild"
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 8/2/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.