In a 1945 Texas newspaper article, written on the recent success of a local athlete, we are given the first known mentioning of a commonly heard phrase that states, “Behind every great man there is a great woman.” If you’re like me, you have heard this phrase many times and in many capacities. Most commonly, it seems as if it’s used by successful men who are seeking to give due credit to their spouse’s part in their accomplishments. Today, I would like to slightly alter this phrase to honor a specific group of women by changing it to say, “Behind every great man is a great Mother.” The Bible proves this notion to be true by giving us many examples of incredible Mothers who directly affected the course of history and the men who were shaped by their own actions, sacrifices, and faithful devotion to God.
A few of these examples can be seen in the lives of Moses, Samson, and Samuel. We see God using the great influence of Mothers in the story of Moses when we watch Jochebed devise an incredible plan to save her son’s life. Jochebed was determined to find a way to save her son, and God blessed her plan. Not only was her son saved from death, she was able to nurse and raise him until he was old enough to go live with Pharaoh’s daughter. Her son, Moses, went on to free the Hebrew people from Egypt, leading them in the desert toward the Promised Land according to God’s plan.
In the story of Samson, we see a mother, who is not named, that completely understood and adhered to the plan God handed down to their family. She was married to a man named Manoah but was unable to conceive. Judges 13 tells us, “The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, ‘You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’” Samson’s mother knew there was something special about the angel of the LORD. When her husband was afraid, they would die for having seen the face of God she became the voice of reason saying He would not have told us these things if He were going to kill us. She gave birth and named the baby Samson, and the LORD blessed him. Although some of his actions were later questionable, the LORD used him mightily in His plan to defeat the Philistines.
Lastly, we turn our attention to Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who we are introduced to in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah was married to a man who loved her very much, but he also had another wife. In her emotional request to God to bless her with a son she prays in 1 Samuel 1:8, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”She did just as she had promised, and when the boy was old enough, she took him to the house of the LORD and presented him to Eli. Hannah then prayed, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.” We see through this the incredible sacrifice Hannah makes in order to thank God for what He had given her. The same woman who sat near the temple and prayed so fervently for a son, when questioned by Eli as to what she was doing responded, “I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” Hannah was able to turn around and give what she had been given back to the Lord in service.
What effect did this sacrifice on the part of Hannah have on Samuel and his life? Was the example of his mother’s intense devotion to God ingrained within him as he grew up in the Lord? One can see the influence on Samuel’s life as the book of 1 Samuel unfolds. Time and time again, Samuel is the man who stands between God and the people of Israel as a spiritual mediator and physical leader. It’s Samuel that God looks to as the mouthpiece for instructing Israel on how to rightfully return to Him in 1 Samuel 7:2-4. It’s Samuel that the people of Israel go to when they want to make the request of changing from a theocracy, a nation led by God, to the more popular monarchy system. Samuel’s continuing influence and leadership are constantly seen as we watch Saul become king, fall from grace, and David emerge and eventually become the second king. Samuel becomes one of the most influential men in the whole history of Israel, and it would have never happened if it weren’t for Hannah, his mother.
Turning our attention to our own lives, whether we see ourselves as successful or not today, how many of us could echo the same thought – where would we be without the influence of our Mothers? I think back personally to the times my own mother sacrificed for me in different ways by giving up her time, energy, and resources to see me become who I am today. Now, I recognize that all who may read this may not have had a traditional mother figure to give in this way. Maybe you’re like me and have been blessed to have another woman assist in this way. Whoever your mother figure is today, whether it be your actual mother or not, let us reflect on their impact on our lives. It is evident in scripture, God often employed great women to be an integral part of raising great leaders and servants, and it’s still true today. What type of lives are we building with the foundation of faith, security, and sacrifice that has been given for us?