Happy Mother’s Day to Mom, Jessica and Katie! I’m so thankful for my wonderful mother and for the sisters that now share in her motherhood. This afternoon, Elizabeth and I plan to listen to the sermon that mom posted.

Here are theological reflections on a mother’s day theme.

Seed of the Woman

When God first conveyed salvation, He was in the midst of cursing Satan. At that moment, nothing stood between Adam and death except the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15). From the moment that Adam lay down his regency and paid homage to Satan, all his seed lay damned within his loins. But God chose the woman’s seed to carry a promised savior. Adam’s future seed stretched in an unbroken line from himself to Joseph—graciously broken then by the Holy Spirit coming to Mary. Adam’s line boasted worldly advantages of pedigree and pomp. Chosen men, patriarchs, saints and kings populate it. The line from Eve to Mary, however, hangs in frayed and severed shreds. Matthew points out its sporadic outlines in his genealogy, walking us through the Old Covenant narrative of the woman’s seed. Following the tattered fragments of the womanly line is a harrowing tale of faithfulness through abuse, brokenness, perversion and foreign incursions. Sarah laughed. Rebecca schemed. Leah bartered. Tamar (a Canaanite) seduced. Rahab (a Canaanite) sheltered. Ruth (a Moabite) served. Bathsheba was taken. Naamah (an Ammonite) brought Moloch. Each one was a daughter of Eve and mother of Mary.

With Naamah’s introduction of Moloch worship into the Davidic line (climaxing of course in Manasseh), motherhood grows most desperate. She lays her own children in the fiery arms of Death that she might bring salvation to her family. Her labor to deliver the seed is at its most hopeless and misguided. “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). Yet, those bearing the promised seed come from Moab and Ammon.

When God created Eve out of Adam’s rib, she already bore within herself the promise of incarnation. And the great wedding feast of the Lamb is prefigured in Adam’s ecstatic song of covenantal bond: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). After the fall, God curses the woman. He makes bitter and painful her glorious status as perfect helpmeet. From then on, she bears the promised seed like a cross. Her generations (both faithful and faithless) of service as wife and mother are met only by suffering and abuse. Mary faced the threat of divorce and years as a political refugee for a Son who the kings of this world handed over to death in the end (or what she felt at the time must be the end). She was the mother of a King whose kingdom (though it cuts across all humanly imposed or conceived boundaries) is not of this world.

God’s word weaves several typological metanarratives together, but this one is clearly central. Following Adam’s fall, God called Israel out of Adam’s rebel family and raised her up in his royal household, like a foster father. When she came of age, he married her (despite her infidelity) that she might bear a son who could be the first fruits of a new humanity. This Son, born to the woman Israel, then recreated and redeemed a people for Himself out of the race of Adam. Then, as a half-brother and husband, God’s Son courts and marries this new Israel. (Abraham’s story and the Song of Solomon both speak to this idea of a sister-bride.) Because of this metanarrative, the matriarchs of Israel are one of the most profound types of Israel as a whole. Each of them (and there are many supporting cast members such as Hannah, Rachel and the mother of Sampson) embodies her entire nation as she rejects and serves her God. Mary’s Magnificat, in addition to being a beautiful private prayer, is the prayer of faithful Israel to her Creator, Redeemer and Husband. We are twice married (divorced and remade) and given the privilege of bearing the seeds of our own Lord and Husband.

The entire saga of the woman’s seed, in its Old and New Covenant expressions, is depicted with powerful details in John’s Revelation (chapter 12).

I also wanted to say something about Isaiah 49 in connection with these themes, but am out of time:

13 Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”

15 “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!

16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.

[Note: Verse 16 echoes each half of verse 15a with God’s hands being more intimate than the caress of a nursing mother and his protection being more secure than the walls of the womb (the NIV neglects to render “womb” in 15a).]

17 Your sons hasten back,
and those who laid you waste depart from you.

18 Lift up your eyes and look around;
all your sons gather and come to you.
As surely as I live,” declares the LORD,
“you will wear them all as ornaments;
you will put them on, like a bride.

19 “Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.

20 The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing,
‘This place is too small for us;
give us more space to live in.’

21 Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who bore me these?
I was bereaved and barren;
I was exiled and rejected.
Who brought these up?
I was left all alone,
but these—where have they come from?'”

22 This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“See, I will beckon to the Gentiles,
I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
they will bring your sons in their arms
and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

23 Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

24 Can plunder be taken from warriors,
or captives rescued from the fierce?

25 But this is what the LORD says:
“Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
and plunder retrieved from the fierce;
I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.

26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh;
they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine.
Then all mankind will know
that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

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