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PRESIDENT REAGAN'S MOTHER –
A MOTHER’S DAY SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 10, 2015


Please turn with me in your Bible to Exodus, chapter two, verse two. It’s on page 72 of the Scofield Study Bible.

“And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months” (Exodus 2:2).

You may be seated.

This is the account of the birth of Moses. The mother of Moses was a Hebrew woman named Jochebed. When the Pharaoh of Egypt commanded that all male Hebrew children be drowned in the river, Moses’ mother Jochebed hid him for three months. When she could no longer hide him, she made a little ark, like a basket, and put the baby in it, and let it float down the river to the place where the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash herself. Jochebed knew that the only hope her baby had lay in the possibility that the daughter of Pharaoh would save him. She must have prayed hard as she hid in the bulrushes and watched the little boat with her baby in it float down the river to the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing herself. God answered her prayers and the daughter of Pharaoh took the baby and “had compassion on him” (Exodus 2:6).

In the providence of God the daughter of Pharaoh had her servants look for a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. They brought Jochebed, his real mother, to her to nurse him. Jochebed took care of Moses until he was about ten or twelve years old. After that he was raised in the Egyptian court as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

“And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”
       (Acts 7:22).

Moses was raised in the court of Pharaoh. He learned all about the heathen religion of the Egyptian idolaters. Everyone thought that he was an Egyptian. Yet in his heart Moses knew about God, because his real mother, Jochebed, told him about God and his Hebrew heritage when she was his nursemaid as a child.

Jochebed’s influence on her son was greater than that of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Her influence on him was greater than “all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). When Moses became a man the Bible tells us that he rejected the religion of Egypt to follow the God of his mother. The Bible says,

“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season…By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24, 25, 27).

Moses was so greatly influenced by his mother's faith that all the wealth, power and learning of Egypt could not stop him from following his mother's God.

Godly mothers throughout history have greatly influenced their children. President Theodore Roosevelt said,

The good mother, the wise mother, is more important to the community than even the ablest person; her career is more worthy of honor and is more useful to the community than the career of any other person, no matter how successful.

Was President Theodore Roosevelt right? I think so. The life of Jochebed shows that. Her son Moses went on to become one of the greatest and godliest men in history. He led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. Even in the midst of pagan idolatry, in Egypt’s court, Moses could not forget what he had learned from his godly mother.  

Does that hold true in our time? Yes, it does. I can think of no greater illustration of this than that of Nelle Reagan – and her son, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the fortieth President of the United States.

Ronald Reagan was born in 1911 in the tiny town of Tampico, Illinois, the second son of Jack and Nelle Reagan. Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “Dutch” by his father. The name stuck, and close friends often call the late president “Dutch” to this day. But Dutch’s father was a nominal Catholic and a hard drinker. His mother, Nelle, was a Protestant who took her faith seriously.

Jack Reagan moved his family around as he sought better work. They finally moved from the tiny town of Tampico to Dixon, Illinois, where they lived in five different rented houses. One neighbor said, “They were awful poor.”

Moving to so many places caused “Dutch” to become introverted, shy and lonely. As a child, Dutch said he was “a little slow at making friends. In some ways I think this reluctance to get close to people never left me entirely.” When I met him with my family in his office, I sensed a shyness about him. But he covered it up well as President. You can see photos of my boys, my wife and I, with President Reagan on the wall of our church, on the second floor.

I am now going to quote directly from God and Ronald Reagan, by Dr. Paul Kengor (Harper Collins Publishers, 2004). I will quote several paragraphs.

[Ronald Reagan] first sought and connected to God as a lonely boy… Another failing [of his father] may have contributed further to Dutch’s turn to God… shortly after young Reagan’s eleventh birthday…he was expecting to come home to an empty house. Instead, he was shaken by the sight of [his father] sprawled out in the snow on the front porch, passed out, flat on his back, freezing, too inebriated to make it to the door. “He was drunk,” his son remembered. “Dead to the world.”  

Dutch grabbed a fistful of [his father’s] overcoat and heaved him toward the door. He dragged him into the house and to the bedroom… It was a sad moment. Dutch felt no anger, no resentment, just grief…His world was in chaos – again…He was only 11 years old. 

The event occurred at a crucial time in young Reagan’s spiritual development. Four months later he would be baptized, starting life over as a member of the church.  The thought of his father sprawled in the snow might have lingered in Reagan’s mind that day, as it would the rest of his life.

[At that point, his mother] became the formative figure in leading Ronald Reagan to become a Christian.

Biographers usually begin the story of Nelle’s own faith in Dixon, but her role earlier in the church in Tampico deserves attention. In the last months before [his father] moved the family yet again, Nelle was very active in the church…Drawn by a 1910 revival held there, one source claims that Nelle ran the pastorless church virtually single-handed, writing bulletins, preparing Sunday programs, prodding the congregation to better support the struggling church, and even doing a fair amount of preaching... Even after moving to Dixon, Nelle made frequent trips back to Tampico to help her old church, with Dutch in tow.

[Then Reagan’s mother joined the church in Dixon]. The [church] first met in the basement of the town’s YMCA until it could raise funds for a building. The new church opened…on June 18, 1922.

Nelle [Reagan] became a leader, eventually a pillar, in the local church. Aside from the minister, she was the most visible face… Nelle’s [Sunday School] class was the largest. The church directory for 1922 registered thirty-one students in her class; the pastor’s class had only five, his wife’s nine.

Nelle gave religious readings, both outside the church and within – a service for which she was in great demand. Blessed with an engaging voice and the confidence of a natural performer – qualities she passed on to her son – she also acted in many plays… In June 1926, she brought the house down at the Baptist church with a reading titled “The Ship of Faith.”

…Nelle published an “Armistice Day Poem” in…1926, in which she urged that “God forbid that we forget” those soldiers who gave their lives [in World War I]. Those brave men, wrote Nelle, “have won for the world democracy, and doomed forever and always the cruel autocracy”… In 1927, Nelle appeared at the American Legion to give what was described as a “splendid talk” on the boyhood of George Washington – surely a story that must have made an impression on [her young son].

A firm believer in the power of prayer, she led prayer meetings at church. When the minister vacationed…she was put in charge of mid-week prayers, and she led discussions on prayer…Nelle [also] acted as a “leader,” providing “home prayer services.”

[Here is the testimony of Mrs. Mildred Neer, concerning Nelle Reagan’s prayer for her daughter. The girl had become so sick that she could neither eat nor sleep. The mother went to church. Here’s what she said]:

      When the service was dismissed, I couldn’t leave my seat. At last everybody left except Mrs. Reagan…
      I thought, “If only I could talk to Mrs. Reagan,” and went up to her…I told her about our daughter, and she said, “Let’s go into the back room.” We did. Then Mrs. Reagan said, “Let’s get down on our knees and pray about it.” She gave a wonderful prayer and when [we stood] I felt the prayer was answered. I went home. Pretty soon there was a knock on the door. It was Mrs. Reagan. She spent the whole afternoon [in prayer] with us. She left about six o’clock. Moments later the abscess [on the daughter] burst. The next morning the doctor said, “I don’t need to lance this.” God had heard Nelle Reagan’s prayer and answered it.

Another member of the congregation recalled:

…She never laid on the hands or anything like that. It was the way she prayed, down on her knees, eyes raised up and speaking like she knew God personally, like she had had lots of dealing with him before. If someone had real troubles or was sick, Nelle would come to their house and kneel and pray… folks could bear things a lot better after she left.

…it is hardly surprising that even as an adult Nelle’s son believed so strongly in the power of prayer.

Nelle Reagan dedicated her life earnestly to the “poor and helpless.” It was a promise she is said to have made to her own mother on her mother’s deathbed…She gave special attention to those behind bars…she [often] headed faithfully to the jail to read the Bible to the incarcerated… There are even accounts of criminals changing their behavior as a direct result of her ministry – one actually in the midst of a criminal act.

[One young hoodlum talked with Nelle at the jail. Afterwards, when he got out, he hitched a ride and was planning to rob the driver at gunpoint. When he got out of the car, he said] “Goodbye, thanks for the ride”… “You’ll find a gun in the back seat. I was going to use it, but I was talking to a woman at the jail…” Nelle Reagan had persuaded him to leave a life of crime.

In the summer of 1924, she helped raise money to erect a chapel for the Russian church in New York City, a symbolic act that showed solidarity with Russian Christians [under Communism].

In April 1927…she held a talk on Japan and the status of Christianity there.

Nelle Reagan had a heart for God, and she did her best to impart that faith to her son Ronald. It was her prayer that he would one day take that faith to the world.

On July 21, 1922, three days after the church opened…Dutch, his brother Neil, and twenty-three others were the first to be baptized in the new church. It was Ronald Reagan’s own idea to be baptized. He said he had had “a personal experience with Christ.”

As an adult, [President] Reagan would refer to the Bible as his favorite book, and as “the greatest message ever written.” That its words were of divine origin and inspiration he said he “never had any doubt.”

After being baptized [Ronald] Reagan became an especially active member [of the church]. [Reagan, his mother, and brother did the same thing every Sunday. His brother recalled the schedule]. “Sunday school Sunday mornings, church Sunday morning, Christian Endeavor Sunday evening, church after Christian Endeavor, and prayer meeting on Wednesdays”… At fifteen, Dutch began teaching his own Sunday school class… “He became a leader among those boys,” recalled childhood friend Savila Palmer. “They looked up to him.”

Ronald Reagan went on to attend a Christian college. In 1981 he became the President of the United States of America. He took the oath of office as President with his hand on his mother’s Bible, and said, “So help me God.”

As President, Ronald Reagan opposed abortion on Biblical grounds. He said,

I believe no challenge is more important to the character of America than restoring the right to life to all human beings. Without that right, no other rights have meaning. “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.”

In his 1986 State of the Union Address, he said,

Today there is a wound in our national conscience. America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our Creator is denied to the unborn.

Abortion was a moral issue on which he refused to compromise as President.

President Reagan also strongly opposed godless Communism throughout his presidency. He called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire.” He said, in his great speech at the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” He believed that the atheism of Communism was inherently evil. He built up American military might knowing that the Soviet Union would have to match it, and would crumble as a result. It did crumble, exactly as he knew it would. More than any other single individual, Ronald Reagan was responsible for the end of the “Evil Empire,” and the end of the spread of world-wide Communism. His biographer Edmund Morris said, “He wants Christianity in Moscow, it’s as simple as that.” And Ronald Reagan lived to see his prayer become reality.

This Mother’s Day, I want you mothers to go from this church with inspiration drawn from Jochebed, the mother of Moses – and from Nelle Reagan, the mother of our fortieth President. I want you to know that Jesus Christ died in your place, to pay for your sins, on the Cross. I want you to know that the Blood of Jesus can cleanse you from all sin. I want you to know that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and is alive right now at the right hand of God. I want you to come to Jesus and trust Him fully. And then be sure that you are in church every Sunday. Be sure that you make a spiritual impression on your children to live for Jesus Christ. God bless you. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Hebrews 11:23-27.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Will Praise Him” (by Margaret J. Harris, 1865-1919).