Miracle Children and the Mothers Who Shaped Them
- 2008 7 May
Most mothers believe their children are special but some stand out for another reason. Before conception, angels notified their mothers-to-be that their baby was a child of promise. Let’s look at what made those children unique and the mothers who were charged with bringing the promise to bear.
Sarah and a New Spiritual Heritage
“Next year, Sarah will have a son.”
The angel’s words turned Sarah’s world upside down, altered the course of history world, and still echo through time.
To 90-year-old Sarah, eavesdropping through the woven goat hair wall of her lonely desert tent, they seemed a joke. So she laughed. A child!
But the angel’s pronouncement was accurate. They named the baby Isaac or “laughter” to commemorate their own astonishment at what God had done.
Why wait so long to fill Sarah’s aching arms and bring laughter to her tent? God was at work in Sarah’s life, not only so she could pass along her DNA, but also to fully gestate a new sort of spiritual heritage in her — monotheism. This vital heritage she would pass along to her son. While Abraham fathered a number of peoples (Arab nations, Assurites, Letushites, Leummites, and Midianites: Genesis 25) and consequently their religions, it is Sarah who gave birth to Judaism, and eventually, Christianity — not a job for a spiritually immature woman.
It was, however, a job for a protective woman. Sarah recognized the threatening home dynamic with Hagar and Ishmael underfoot. Harsh though it is, she demanded their influence be excluded for Isaac’s sake. So protective was Sarah that we can only speculate upon the potential repercussions to Abraham had she suspected what the trip to Mount Moriah was actually all about.
Elizabeth and a New Sort of Priest
They were seemly the perfect Jewish couple. Zechariah was a priest: Elizabeth the daughter of a priest. But their marriage was marked with a peculiar disgrace: childlessness. What had they done to deserve this? What was their secret sin? They wondered. As did their neighbors and family.
The Scriptures do not tell us how much Elizabeth discovered about Zechariah’s discussion with the angel in the temple. We do see she had more sensitivity to God than her husband Zechariah who was rendered mute for his impudent questioning of Gabriel in the holy of holies.
For the first five months of her pregnancy, she hid herself (Luke 1:24). Perhaps at that time, an angel visited her to catch her up on heavenly plans afoot both in her own home and in the Galilee. Perhaps God’s plans were revealed to her during prayer. Somehow she knew a fact not revealed to her husband — that her virgin cousin Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.
At her newborn son’s circumcision ceremony, we get another peek at Elizabeth’s depth of understanding as well as her spunk. When the entire neighborhood presses to name the baby Zechariah, she protests. “His name is John,” she says. This is so outrageous that they appeal to Zechariah to override her decision. He backs up his wife, upon angelic instruction.
John, born a priest, also stood against the crowd. He preached a revolutionary message threatening temple systems and religious hierarchies: “Sacrifices and rituals aren’t enough. You have to live as people of God.”
Jesus spoke high words of praise for John: “Among those born of women there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptist.” And higher praise for those who heeded John’s message: “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.” Matthew 11:11
Mrs. Manoah and the Champion
Even with miracle children, there are no guarantees. When an angel announces a child’s birth, he may not turn out to be Mama’s pride and joy.
To the barren wife of Manoah, an angel announces the birth of a mighty deliverer of Israel (Judges 13). Wisely, she and her husband ask for instructions on how to rear such a remarkable child. To all indications, they followed his directions, yet their offspring, Samson, was a wild, undisciplined man.
Mary of Nazareth and the Prince of Peace
Mary was little more than a small-town girl when the angel Gabriel asked her to assume a pivotal role in history: the handmaiden of God.
Gabriel promised her none of the prosperity, success, and blessing characterizing modern day calls-to-service. Rather, because God appreciated or “favored” her, Mary was chosen to serve.
Depending upon the religious tradition, Mary’s role in shaping Jesus is minimized or maximized. But in any creed, whether she fully understood Jesus or not, she was faithful both as a mother and a disciple.
Every Mother Gives Birth to a Miracle
There is a lovely Jewish tradition that three partners are necessary in every child’s conception: Mother and father each contribute seed to create a body for the new child; God bestows life by the gift of a soul.
This was probably on David’s mind when he wrote: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… Your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Psalm 139:12,16-NIV)
The astonishing uniqueness of each person’s DNA fingerprint bears witness that God does indeed have a very active, personal hand in each baby’s conception and birth.
True: Some babies were heralded with angelic announcements. But all mothers become mothers because of God’s miracle touch. Each of us is the recipient of that touch. What an awesome gift!