A few weeks ago, Jared reminded us of God’s gift of women to the church. At about the same time, God blessed Elizabeth and me with another covenant child. Elizabeth labored greatly to bring this little girl into the world, as does every mother for her child. Impressively, God is pleased to describe his own work as being like that of a woman in labor in Isaiah 42:14: “For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.” Here, God describes himself as one who uses something like the Lamaze breathing technique because of the intensity of his work and desire! The point is that God patiently restrains himself from judgment against man for a time, but when he chooses to intervene, he goes to work like a determined woman in labor and will not cease nor withhold any effort until his accomplishes his purposes, just as a woman gasps and pants until she brings her child into the world.
I have now witnessed the labor of childbirth six times. It doesn’t look fun. I’m certain that if it would have been me in labor, I would have given up six times. Blessedly, the Lord has placed a special love in the heart of a mother for her child that compels her to accomplish her mission. In a similar way, our Lord loves his people so much that he will spare no expense to bring his people to life and freedom.
Before Isaiah’s day, he arose once to rescue his people from Egypt. After Isaiah wrote these words, God rose up once again to deliver his people from Babylon, and nothing would stand in his way. The wonder of God’s labor to bring justice and to redeem his own is seen most intensely at the cross of Calvary. There, the Son of God filled with love for his people would gasp and pant under the weight of the Father’s wrath to pay for our sins. There, the Father held back his wrath no longer but poured it out upon his Son until his justice was satisfied in order to redeem those he had loved with an everlasting love. He rose up and labored at great cost to change the horizon of human history forever.
We should give thanks for the women who labor in childbirth as one aspect of their calling before God. The sights and sounds of childbearing labor should always remind us of a God who loves us so much that nothing will stand in the way of his glory and the salvation of his people – not even the life of his own Son.
In conclusion, one more observation must be made. The thin walls of the labor and delivery wing of the hospital quickly and repeatedly reveal this: you don’t get in the way of a woman in labor. Elizabeth, who does not begin to know her own strength, gave me permission to tell you that I’ve nearly had fingers wrenched from my hands on multiple occasions while trying to assist in labor. I can only assume that if you attempt to obstruct a laboring woman, you’ll lose every time.
Whenever God Almighty arose in ancient times, his enemies failed every time. He promises to arise from heaven yet again in the final Day of Judgment. On that day, he will say: “For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.” When God rises in the final judgment, everyone who stands opposed to his Son, Jesus Christ, will be punished; they will fail. God will judge them eternally so that his children will rest securely with him forever. We marvel at the determined focus of a woman in labor, and perhaps chuckle in retrospect over the various expressions of a woman’s superhuman strength in labor. But, the reality of what labor and delivery illustrates is no laughing matter. The question that remains: have you bowed your knee to him, or are you in his way?