So we are currently on a teaching series that I have entitled “God Loves You!” where we are camping on the subject of God’s love for each of us individually.
Thus far, we have looked at how important it is that we truly come to “know” His love. Yes, while a lot of Christians would say they know He loves them, the fact is most do not. What these are saying is that they have mentally accented to the fact that He loves them, but that doesn’t mean that they know His love the way the Scriptures teach us we are to know it. We found that “knowing” in the Biblical sense describes an intimate kind of knowledge like how a husband knows his wife and vice versa.
So how does one know if they know His love in this sense? Well, like it said in Genesis 4:1 that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore a son. So it’s to be understood that when you and I come to “know” a truth like God’s love for us, it will produce fruit in our lives. Amen? In other words, if I truly have come to know God’s love for me, I will see evidence of it in my emotions, in my love for others, etc.
But we also learned that it’s important that we have faith in His love and not just base it on the things we can see in our lives. Yes, like it is with so many things in the kingdom of God, the key to receiving from the Lord is to believe it without any physical evidence. God’s love for us is no different – He expects us to have faith in His love based on what He did for us on the Cross and then we can start seeing it’s fruit in our lives. In other words, while God definitely wants us to experience His love, we need to avoid gravitating towards needing to feel it or have any other evidence of it in our lives.
But like we learned a couple of weeks ago, even though our circumstances & situations shouldn’t be things we base God’s love for us on, the fact is with most people, they do. And the reason for this is because of what the vast majority of people believe about God’s “sovereignty.” So we dispelled a lot of popular theology out there about who God is and how He operates because this is one of the greatest obstacles to understanding God’s love for us.
And last week, we looked at that very familiar passage of Scripture, John 3:16, and saw how God’s motivation for sending Jesus in the first place was because He “so loved” us. Now we saw how it would have been enough for Jesus to tell us that God loved the world, but He went as far as saying that He so loved it.
I used the example of how I’m sure there’s certain foods that we love but others that we “so love.” We might say, “we love Chinese food” but we “really” love Italian. Then there’s certainly people that we love but others that we “so love.” Like we might say we love a certain friend, but we “dearly” love our child or grandchild. These are the ways that we might differentiate a general level of love for something or someone and a more special level of love.
So we learned that God “so loved” you like you really love your most treasured thing and like you dearly love the most precious person in your life. But here’s a big difference between God’s love and ours—Jesus said that He so loved the “world.”
We learned that the Greek word for “world” is the word kosmos and describes this world in a wide & narrow sense. It can describe this planet and the universe around it (i.e., the physical world we live in), and it can also describe the inhabitants of this world and the things which concern us. So, He didn’t so love a world that was perfect, that loved Him in return, and was worthy of that love. No, God so loved the very creation that rejected Him, sinned against Him, and was following the flesh & satan. That’s who & what God “really, dearly” loves. Amen!
So what we saw was that God so loved the place & people who certainly did not deserve it, who were lost & enemies of their Creator and destined to die for our sin, that He gave us the most precious thing that He could ever have given us, His only Son, so that we could live together with Him. Now that’s love, church! That’s the greatest example of love that you will ever find!
But do you know what else is one of the greatest examples of love that we have? A mother’s love! Yes, there is not a greater example of God’s love in this world we live in that the love a mother has for her children.
So with it being Mother’s Day today, I felt led to share on the love of God from a somewhat different perspective.
MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM
You see, most of time when it comes to this subject, we rightfully focus on the fact that God is called our Heavenly Father. So then the emphasis gets placed on a father’s love, but did you know that God does not just have paternal (i.e. fatherly) characteristics; He also has maternal (i.e. motherly) characteristics too?
Now I know that this needs to be prefaced with an explanation because I am certainly not saying that God is a “She.” In fact, God is a Person—not a “He” or a “”She”—but He is most definitely to be referred to in the masculine form simply because that’s the way we see Him referred to in the Scriptures. So with that being said, let me explain where I get this that God also has maternal characteristics:
In the beginning, we are told that when God created man that He created him in His own image and according to His likeness (See Genesis 1:26). This resulted in His creating the first man named Adam. In fact, in the next verse, we are told— “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Now that’s interesting, isn’t it? Well, before God went through the process of taking woman from this man He just created, we are told that “male and female He created them.” This, of course, could be a forecast of what God was about to do and not necessarily a chronological account of what happened, but it also could be the fact that when God created Adam that it was to be viewed as His creating both male & female at that time—which is exactly what I believe was the case. Let me explain …
You see, it was some time after this (how long we do not know) that God said that it was not good that man be alone (See Genesis 2:18). This resulted in God putting Adam into a deep sleep and drawing “woman” out of him. Most translations describe this as God taking one of Adam’s ribs, but the Hebrew word that is used, while it could certainly describe a physical rib, literally refers to the “side” of something or someone.
And on a side note, let me tell you why I don’t believe it was Adam’s ribs: How on earth could a loving God ever take ribs away from a man? That wouldn’t be love, would it? I mean, have you ever had good ribs? They are awesome, so I just cannot see God taking a man’s ribs away from him. LOL!
But all joking aside, here is my point: If man was created in God’s own image and likeness and then woman was taken from man, then wouldn’t that mean that “woman” also would have at least a portion of the image & likeness, the nature & characteristics of God? Sure, she would! She would also have a portion of the image and likeness of God too!
So what this means then is—in and of himself, man does not fully represent the image and likeness of God. Only man and woman, when joined together in their perfection and God-instilled characteristics, fully represent the image and likeness of God! So this means that a man can only represent a portion of what God is like just as a woman cannot fully represent Him either. It is only when a man and a woman join together in one flesh that God can fully be personified.
On a side note, have you ever wondered why God gave us the institution of marriage? There are several different reasons for this, but I believe what we have just been talking about is one of those reasons—so that a man and woman can become one and full represent the character & nature of God.
This revelation was birthed in me one day while Shannon and I were talking about one of the reasons God put us together: I was explaining to Shannon how she possesses certain traits and characteristics that I am not as strong in. So God put us together because He knows what He has called us to do and what we both needed in each other in order to perfectly complement each other for that calling.
You see, man needs woman and woman needs man in order to be perfect and entire lacking nothing. Now of course this does not at all mean that God cannot make up for what one may lack in a mate. Our complete sufficiency is found in God alone! But as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:12— “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” It is the three cords of God, man, and woman when joined together that is not easily broken. God has to be involved in anything, including our marriages, in order for it to be successful, but the other two cords of husband and wife are part of the equation too.
Husbands, your wives are vital to you being successful and fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for your life. And wives, your husbands likewise are vital to you as well.
You see, men and women are different! If you do not know this already, then you have definitely never been married Marriage can offer a myriad of challenges because of the sole fact that men and women are just different. But that does not mean that men need to change and become more sensitive and emotional like women generally are. And it also does not mean that the woman needs to change and become more reason-oriented and less emotional like the man is. The remedy to these challenges is first of all recognizing and understanding these differences and then learning to appreciate and yield to them instead of change them.
But back to my point of God having some of these characteristics that women have. Let’s look at a few scriptures that validate this truth about His Person …
You see, there are, albeit just a few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible. So let me highlight a few of these maternal or motherly metaphors used to describe God in the Scriptures.
MOTHER BIRD & MAMA BEAR
One of the common images of God’s maternal side that we have in the Scriptures is Him as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. In fact, there are a lot of Scriptural references of this. Let’s look at a couple of them …
And because God loves us so, He will do what? He will do what that mother bird does for her young— He will carry His young, bring us to Himself, and hide us under the shadow of His wings!
Another very familiar verse--Psalm 91:4—says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge …” This points to the protective nature of mother bird to cover and hide her young from predators—all because she loves her chicks.
We call this the nature of “mama bear”—which, in fact, is used to describe God in the Scriptures as well: In Hosea 13:8 we are told— “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open,” says the Lord. Here, we see that the maternal instinct to protect the children can produce wrath as much as warmth. Beware of the protective instincts of a mother.
Finally, let’s look at how Jesus picks up these images when he laments over Jerusalem:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (See Matthew 23:37)
Now one thing that is worth noting in all of these images and that we see clearly in Matthew 23:37 is how just because God’s nature is have that motherly protective instincts doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to happen for us.
Notice how in Matthew, Jesus is speaking to Jerusalem, God’s chosen city of God’s chosen people. He is lamenting over the people of God, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! This describes the voice of God because the prophets and those sent to her were the ones coming to declare to them the Word of the Lord.
Now we are quick to judge them and wonder how they could reject God’s messengers like this but how many of us do the same thing? Now we might not be rejecting a physical messenger but most of us reject the message that God speaks directly to us. When we are making a wrong decision or are headed down a wrong path and God’s still small voice speaks on the inside of us, “Don’t go there, Don’t say that, Let’s go another direction, etc.” what do we do? We try to suppress that inner voice because we don’t want to hear what He is saying. We want to go ahead and do what our flesh wants to do. We basically are stoning that still small voice when we do this which is essentially the same thing that Jerusalem did to the prophets sent to her.
And what does Jesus go on to say? “How often I wanted to gather your children together…”
If you were to ask your average Christian “Does God get what He wants?” your resounding answer would be— “Yes, of course He does!” But is that true? Does God get everything He wants? According to this Scripture, He often wanted to gather the children of Israel together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! And based on the analogy we have just been using, this a picture of God’s protection. So He wanted to gather His people together under His protective covering- close to Him and free from all danger- but they were not willing! Now, again, was God willing? Yes! He wanted them under His wings! But they were not willing- proving to us that our will can override His will. And we have to know this is true when you see the majority of God’s church weak and powerless and living defeated, not turning the world upside down like the early church did. Friends, if we are not seeing what the early church did, then it is not God who changed; It is the church who is not willing. Amen?
No, saints, God wants His church to be under the shadow of His wings. It is the church who rejects the still small voice of God and does its own thing. But not us! I said, not us! We are going to be those chicks that listen for that low clucking sound of the Master and stay hidden and sheltered under the protective wings of Almighty God! We are those who will learn to listen to that inner witness of the Holy Spirit and be led out of all temptation and, subsequently, delivered from all evil. For His is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen!
But the fact is, God’s maternal nature is absolutely willing and desirous to protect & keep His children just like a mother will do what’s in her power to guard her children from harm.
THE ALL BREASTY ONE
But not only does a mother’s love protect; it also provides …
We are familiar with the first name God was given in the Bible, El Shaddai, right? Most know this name to mean the “Almighty,” but it literally is defined as “the All Breasty One.”
Now in their time, this described something beautiful & powerful—the all-sufficiency of a mother to provide nourishment for her children. So in their day, seeing God has the “All Breasty One” revealed that God gives “more than enough” provision to His children.
And, oh, does God show this to be His nature throughout the Scriptures?! We see time and time again God has providing more than enough for His people, David saying in Psalm 23:5 He prepares a table before him in the presence of my enemies and his cup runs over. This shows God as having the heart of Martha in that He desires to feed and serve His children with abundance.
So that nature that we see in many mothers to provide a good nourishing meal for their children is obviously God-instilled. In other words, mothers get that tendency from Love Himself.
But like it was with the protective instincts of mama bird, the providing instincts are contingent on us receiving them.
I’m thinking of one passage of Scripture that echoes this, and it’s found in Psalm 81:10. It says, “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
We saw earlier in Exodus & Deuteronomy how the Lord described the deliverance of His people from the Egyptians as Him being that mother eagle who bore His people on His wings and brought them to himself. But notice how the Psalmist goes on to say, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
This describes how those little eaglets react to food being brought to them by mama eagle. Have you ever seen how baby birds respond to mama bird when she brings her young food? They open up their beaks as wide as they can, desiring mama to feed them. Well, this example from nature describes how one gets “fed” by the Lord. It comes through great desire and diligence.
You’ve seen how a litter of puppies goes after their mommy’s tummy when it’s dinner time, right? It’s survival of the fittest in some respects. She doesn’t pick and choose who gets the best spot at the “table.” No, they choose! Likewise, we choose where and how much provision we receive from the maternal nature of our God.
As the apostle Peter reveals to us in First Peter 2:2-3— “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Church, this shows us how even with us humans, newborn babies show their hunger by how they cry out for their mama’s milk. So, again, it’s the desire. It’s opening our mouths as wide as we can so that we can get filled! Amen?
THE HOLY HELPMATE
Finally, let’s look at one last and very important part of God that points to His maternal nature—the Holy Spirit.
You see, I see the Holy Spirit as sharing a lot of those maternal characteristics that we see in mothers. Let’s look at a few examples of this …
The first is in God’s creation when we are given our first reference of the Holy Spirit--Genesis 1:2. In this verse, we are told how the Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the waters. This describes Him as brooding over the waters during creation like a hen ready to lay her eggs.
And if you recall we see the same thing in the beginning of the New Testament where the angel answered Mary after she asked how she would bear a son that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her (similar to how He overshadowed the face of the waters in Genesis 1:2).
Well, all of this shows the Holy Spirit’s similarities to a mother bird laying her eggs—which points us towards a role we see in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit plays.
We are taught in the New Testament that just as the Holy Spirit was used to birth the original creation and form the Lord Jesus Christ in Mary’s bosom, He is the one who gives (re)birth to God’s children under this new & better covenant—for we are regenerated by Him. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the One who does the work of the new birth in our spirit when we call on the name of the Lord. So you could say that He is maternal side of God in being the One who gives us our life.
Sticking with Genesis, did you know that Adam & Eve both typified many things. One is that Eve was called a “helper,” and we know what the Holy Spirit is referred to in our New Testament—the Helper. So I see the Holy Spirit as representing some of the more common feminine qualities & characteristics.
This is borne out in other verses of the New Testament that describe Him with some more “emotional” traits— We are told that He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), how He can be jealous (James 4:5), etc. And while these emotional tendencies are not exclusive to women, they are said to be more prominent in them.
You see, many people think that being emotional is not spiritual, but God gave us our emotions. Therefore, emotions are of God. The problem is that too many people are led by their emotions, but I digress.
The fact is, there is a lot that points towards the Holy Spirit bearing a lot of those maternal characteristics of the Godhead. And we need to understand just how valuable those are to us receiving God’s love. Yes, just as it is not good that man be alone, it is not good that we only receive the paternal, masculine traits of love in our lives. We need the Helper to perfect our understanding of God’s love. Amen.