A Mother’s Psalm – Psalm 113

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children (Psalm 113:9)

Psalm 113 is the first of six of what are called the “Egyptian Hallel” psalms (113-118). It is a call for God’s people to praise the Lord, and was typically sung in Israel at the opening of the Passover liturgy. It is a call to praise God for both His sovereign majesty (vss. 4-6) and for His acts of deliverance (v. 7-9); specifically, it calls His people to praise God for His intervention for the poor and needy who were outcasts from society, and His raising of them up to prominence. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes (vss. 7-8). These words were also sung by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:8, and similar phrases are found in Mary the mother of Jesus’ Magnificat in Luke 1:52.

Another act of deliverance for which God is praised in Psalm 113 is for His liberation of oppressed women. In the ancient Middle-East, and in Israel in particular, motherhood was the crowning achievement of any woman. A woman without children was considered a social outcast (Gen 16:2, 20:18, 1 Sam 1:6, Luke 1:25). God’s people sensed His mandate in creation to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), and when they could not do so, they sensed the disfavor of God on their lives. But God’s people often found themselves released from the curse and blessed with children (Ps 115:14, Isaiah 48:19, 54:1-3). Barren women were often redeemed in Scripture; we see a pattern where God often chooses and calls barren women to give birth to a significant heir through miraculous and inexplicable circumstances. Finally, the ultimate “barren” woman – a virgin – Mary, gave birth to the Messiah in what was the most miraculous conception.

The coming of Christ into the world changed everything with respect to our outlook on children and infertility. No longer are God’s children called “barren.” Being without a child is never mentioned in the New Testament as a curse; in fact, the New Testament actually praises the unmarried state (1 Cor 7:6-8). Read Mark 3:34-35, Matthew 10:35-37 to discover Jesus’ teaching on family and children. In texts such as these we see what the creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” as well as all of the examples of barren women in Israel, point to. The read Titus 2:2-5 to discover what is the mandate of all women, whether married or single.

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