The Hebrew slaves had become quite numerous in the land of Egypt, and Pharoah gave the command, "Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live." Jochebed was a Hebrew woman and became pregnant during this time. She did throw her baby into the Nile but took some extra precautions first. "She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River."
God honored the actions that Jochebed took and protected her baby in a most ironic way. "The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him. Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. 'This must be one of the Hebrew children,' she said."
The woman was not ignorant of the baby's origin but cared for him anyway. This baby boy who was passed from one mother to another was Moses, the future liberator of the slaves.
There was a man from the hill country with two wives; one wife bore him children, and the other wife Hannah was not able to. Rather than belittle her like many men would have, he tried his best to encourage her. " 'Why are you crying, Hannah?' Elkanah would ask. 'Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?' "
Apparently it wasn't. She sought God for a son and said, "O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime..."
God answered her prayer and she gave birth, naming the son Samuel. She and her husband agreed that they would dedicate the child after he had been weaned, and they held to that promise.
She showed her amazing dedication to the Lord with the phrase, "Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life."
Elizabeth's story is a strong New Testament parallel to Hannah's, she too was without a child. An angel appeared to her husband and said that their prayers would come true, and that their son "will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly."
What an amazing promise! Elizabeth is six months pregnant when she learns that her cousin Mary (yes, that Mary) was also pregnant. Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist (a descendant of Jochebed), later paved the way for the ministry of Mary's son, Jesus. Elizabeth's faith and encouragement had a strong impact on the life of Mary and of her son John.
Finally, the story of Eunice is very short, but is a often-cited example of a mother training her son well. Paul wrote a letter to his friend Timothy saying, "I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you." Lois and Eunice must have done something right, as Timothy was a very effective minister in one of the most influential cultural centers of the Roman Empire. If it wasn't for Eunice's training, the church would have been without a central figure in its historical development.
These mothers are not well-known at all. However their dedication to and faith in God lead to the development of great, godly children. Take the time to thank your mothers for their training, and pray that you will be as effective as these women were.
(All biblical quotes in this post are from the New Living Translation by Tyndale House Publishers.)
P.S. This post is now a perennial favorite, often doubling this blog's traffic in mid-May.