Now, maybe you think we have swung pretty far away from that first chapter of the Genesis revelation. No; you are mistaken there. We have been walking, with rapid stride, by the shortest road, straight into its inner heart. Let us look a bit at the picture of God sketched for us in this earliest page of revelation.
There are two creations here, first of the earth, man's home; and then of man himself who was to live in the home. Here at once in the beginning is mother-love. Before the new life comes the mother is absorbed in getting the home ready; the best and softest and homiest home that her mother-love can think of, and her fingers fix. The same mother instinct in the birds spends itself in getting the nest ready, and then patiently broods until the new occupants come to take possession.
The Bible never calls God a mother, though the mother language, as here, is used of Him many times. It takes more of the human to tell the divine. You must take many words, and several of our human relationships, and put them together, in the finest meaning of each, to get near the full meaning of what God is. Up on the higher level, with God, the word "father" really includes all that both father and mother mean to us.
The word "father" is even used once of God in what we think of as the strict mother sense. In speaking of God's early care of the Hebrews Paul says, "as a nursing-father bore he them in the wilderness." (Act_13:18), American Revision. That word "nursing-father" is peculiar in coupling the distinctive function of the mother in caring for the babe with the word father.
The word "father" applied to God includes not only our meaning of father in all its strength as we know it at its best; but all of the meaning of the word "mother," in all its sweet fragrance, as we have had it breathed into our own very life.
We have come commonly to think of the word mother as a tenderer word than father. Though I have met many, both men and women, who unconsciously revealed that their experience has made father the tenderer, and the tenderest word to them. Father stands commonly for the stronger, more rugged qualities; and mother for the finer, gentler, sweeter, maybe softer qualities, in the strong meaning of that word soft.