The Mother Who Yearned Over Her Son

The Mother who yearned over her son, 1 Kings 3. 16-28.

The wisdom of Solomon

‘She is the mother thereof’, are the words of Solomon’s judgement in 1 Kings 3. 27 With this judgement, Solomon established his reputation for God-given wisdom in ‘all Israel’ and the uttermost parts of the earth'. Two women had come before him, both claiming to be the mother of a living child, and each denying a dead child was hers. There were no other persons invited, and no supporting evidence of any kind. One woman was speaking the truth; the other was lying, but which one?

The true mother revealed herself when Solomon ordered that the living child should be cut in two and shared between the two women. Immediately she renounced her claim, for her bowels yearned upon her son’, whereas the other woman also by openly approving Solomon’s order, showed herself to be cruel and heartless, and without any love for the child she had been falsely claiming to be her own.

The love of a true mother

The two women were harlots. Some interpreters have sought to play down the plain truth of their disreputable occupation, and suggested they were ‘tavern keepers’, but this is to miss an important lesson. Motherly affection is natural and instinctive, and is not the consequence of environment and upbringing. The mother’s heart is part of the nature which God has created, and is to be seen in both human kind and the animal creation. The Bible does recognize that occasionally a mother ‘may forget her sucking child’, and even a loving hind, in times of very grievous famine may ‘forsake her calf because there is no grass’, but these are the exceptions that prove the general rule, Isa. 49. 15; Jer. 14. 5.

How sharp would Solomon’s sword have been! But sharper still were the words he spoke, for like the word of God they were piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow and discerned the thoughts and intents of the heart, Heb. 4. 12, and the hearts of those two women were opened for all to see.

The example of love

This incident has practical lessons for us, for the Holy Spirit employs the same language used of the true mother in the New Testament when speaking of those warm feelings of tender affection which should characterize those who are the Lord’s. The apostle Paul truly enjoyed the warm affections of those among whom he laboured, for example Acts 20. 37, 38; 1 Thess. 2. 7, 8, 11; and 3. 12. In his epistles he has recorded his own tender regard for those whom he had spiritually begotten. His appeal to Philemon was, ‘I beseech thee for my son Onesimus–whom I have sent again; thou therefore receive him, that is mine own bowels'. Paul’s heart yearned, just as did that Old Testament mother, upon this previously wayward youth, who was now his spiritual son. Paul was confident that he would be received, for Philemon too was a loving warm-hearted man, Philem. vv. 7, 10-12, 21.

When he wrote to the fickle Christians in Galatia, he called them his ‘little children of whom he travailed in birth again until Christ be formed in them’, and he told the Philippians ‘how greatly he longed after them all in the bowels of Jesus Christ'. What a remarkable love Paul had for these converts of his! As is often the case with natural parents, these spiritual sons and daughters of his sometimes perplexed him, and some of them made him weep over them, but this seemed only to make his love for them the more remarkable. He would have said it was because ‘they were in his heart’, Gal. 1. 6; 4. 19, 20.

John too would continually remind us of the tender love which should be evident among those who would be seen to be keeping the Lord’s commandment to, ‘love one another’; and our responsibility to care in love, ‘Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’, 1 John 3. 14, 17.

How important is this loving concern when it is increasingly a sad trait of our age that there is an absence of ‘natural affection’, for men are by nature, ‘foolish and selfish', 2 Tim. 3. 3. Such attitudes are not to be seen among those who are the Lord’s.

A final application of love

This Old Testament mother is, in one way at least, like that woman who was a sinner who stood behind the Saviour weeping in Luke 7, of whom the Lord Jesus said ’she loved much’. We do well to take notice of this mother’s loving heart and commend her for it despite the fact that she was in a condition of life, which was both sordid and disreputable. A woman to be pitied; and so although she loved her son dearly, could not she ‘pray for him’ and guide him in the way he should go’? A truly loving mother will by precept and example bring up her child in the ways of the Lord. We appreciate the concern of heart that made the mothers of the Lord’s day bring them to Him that He might bless them, Matt. 19. 13.

‘For if their hearts to Me they give,
They shall with Me in glory live;
Suffer little children to come unto Me’.


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