It must have seemed like the worst time in the world to get pregnant, Pharoah’s reign. Her son would only be stolen away, screaming and hiccupping as newborns do, tossed over the banks of the Nile. So today, I’m thankful Moses’ mother gave birth anyway. I’m thankful she nursed him to keep him quiet and alive.
I’m thankful for Shiphrah and Puah, too, because God used them in a Resistance plot to keep Pharoah from killing every newborn boy on the birthstool. The midwives wiped away the blood, glanced toward the door, then at the mother and whispered, “He’ll live.”
God has always been gracious to promise his people a Deliverer, but before he prophesied that Judah’s hand would be on the neck of his enemy or that he would crouch as a great lion (Gen. 47:9-12), God first said rescue would come through the offspring of the woman. He had planted a Seed in his garden, and he had planted it inside Eve.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,” he told the Serpent,
“and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel”
So there’s a chance Shiphrah thought she was saving the Messiah, or that Moses’ mother “saw that he was a fine child” and hid him away because he looked like the One. In a way, they both were right.
Every Daughter of Eve since the garden has born the heavy, holy calling to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). Giving birth to children is not the only way to obey that, of course (after all, Shiphrah and Puah feared God by using their midwifery to save children). But childbirth is one way. And if Eve hadn’t obeyed, if Moses’ mother hadn’t conceived, if Mary had said to Gabriel: “I prefer my upstanding reputation as a virgin. Don’t let it be to me according to your word,” I wonder what would have happened to the Seed of the woman? Would it have been left in the desert?
So the womb is a holy place. The Hebrew word for it is raham, which is rooted in the word “mercy.”[i] Just as the centerpiece of the Holy of holies was the Mercy Seat of God, Mary’s womb became a Mercy Seat where God came to dwell. And before her, the Seed rested in the wombs of women who had no clue they were carrying so much glory.
My sister told me the other day that the hardest part about her miscarriage was feeling her womb shrink again.
“You couldn’t see that I was pregnant, but I had felt the difference,” she said. “I felt things starting to grow and swell, and then the next day, my stomach had gone back.”
She felt like one day she was a mom, and the next day she wasn’t.
Weeks wore on after the miscarriage and springtime came, but her emptiness was still there, and all she wanted was something to fill it again, to kick around and make her sick— to make her a mom. But she knew a healthy baby could never fill the real, terrible void in her heart. God would need to come in, make his home, and fill her with himself. So, like Hannah in the temple, she prayed: “Lord, if you give me another child, I’ll give him to you.”
And he did, hallelujah. But what’s more, he gave her himself, and that’s true fruitfulness because Jesus is the true Seed.
I call Leanna’s kid Bear Bear instead of Barrett, and while she and I talked, he ran a truck up the sunroom wall and laughed. He’s a joy and a half, but Leanna’s pregnancy with him was really hard-fought. I remember chopping carrots for chicken noodle soup and taking it to the back room, where she was sick in a recliner for days.
Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward, but my sister will tell you it hurts to deliver a child into a world in bondage (Ps. 127:3, Rom. 8:21). Before Leanna was a mom, she was a midwife’s assistant, because she’s always found life beautiful, but also because it takes extra hands to soothe and coach a baby into the world— which is why God followed his promise to Eve with a curse:
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children”
And so today, I’m thankful for every woman who chooses to do it anyway. The hate, virus, and war could be reasons to never bring more life into this place. Pharaoh and the hot slavery of Egypt could have been reasons to cut off the fruitfulness of Israel. “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad” (Ex. 1:12).
When Daughters of Eve have babies and nurse them in the corners of oppression, they’re turning the curse back on itself. They’re telling the Serpent, “You and your offspring can’t win.” They’re sowing seeds of a Kingdom that will one day be a garden full of trees again (Matt. 13:32).
Isn’t it something that Mother’s Day this year will find women in our country protesting their right not to be mothers, to empty their wombs, to choose murder instead of mercy?
There’s a lot to be said and more to be done, but today, as creation groans in the pangs of childbirth, waiting for Jesus the Seed to break forth, I’m dearly thankful for moms who groan with it and who do bear the seed.
[i] Rebekah Merkle, Eve in Exile: And the Restoration of Femininity. (Canon Press: Moscow, ID, 2016), 199