Exodus 2:1-10
Moses And His Mother

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The second Sunday in May is "Mother's Day."  On this day we gather to worship with various thoughts of thanksgiving for our mothers.  Also, I think this day is a good opportunity for us as parents and children to think about what a family is.  This year's story we read is one that we are very familiar with.  [The story] is an episode from the early days of Moses.  I would like for us to read this story by comparing our own families with the one small family which appears in this dramatic scene and I would like for us to seek the will of God for ourselves through it.

The Mother Who Parted With Her Son

2.  There was a man and a woman who belonged to the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  His name was Amram; her name was Jochebed.  Amram took Jochebed for his wife.  The first [child] born to them was a girl.  They named their daughter Miriam.  Before too long a boy was born to them.  Their son was named Aaron.  After about three years they had a boy again.  This son is the child talked about in chapter two and verse two which we read today, namely, it is the boy later named Moses.

3.  Couples marry and children are born.  That's supposed to be a happy [time].  But, it just wasn't so for this family or for anybody at the period of time.  For back about that time, the king of Egypt issued an order to the entire nation [of Israel] that was immeasurably cruel.  In chapter one and verse twenty-two it says the following.  "Pharaoh commanded the entire nation, 'Hurl the boys born to you into the Nile River leaving no survivors.  Let all the girls live,'" (1:22).  The circumstances to how he could have made such a command are recorded in chapter one.  In short, since the Israelites grew and got too powerful, he tried any way possible to curtail their growth in numbers and to keep them under his control.

4.  What did they do with the boys who were born to them while under an order like that?  The Bible says it like this:  "She conceived and gave birth to a boy, but when she saw that her son was adorable she hid him for three months," (verse two).  If we read only this portion we would have to read it that it meant as she saw her son he was so cute she couldn't bare to kill him.  Also, I would suppose everyone would understand the frame of mind of a parent like that.

5.  However, it is interesting that those who wrote the New Testament did not simply read it like that.  For instance, it says the following in Hebrews 11:23.  "By faith, after Moses was born he was hidden by his parents for three months."  In other words, they saw this as an act based on faith and not as an act based on the emotions of one's natural parents who just hid him because they couldn't bare to kill him.  Therefore, when it says "they saw their son's beauty" it does not just meant "it was because he was an adorable child."

6.  We understand it as we read one other place where this episode is referenced in the New Testament.  In The Acts Of The Apostles is recorded Stephen's speech.  In it he says the following:  "This king deceived our fellow countrymen, oppressed our forefathers, made them cast away our nursing babies and ordered them not to let them live.  At this time Moses was born.  He was a beautiful son fit in the eyes of God and for three months he was raised in his father's house and after that the pharaoh's [daughter] the princess picked him up who was cast away and raised him as her own son," (Acts 7:20-21).  In this passage "fit in the eyes of God" deliberately [is used] and if translated literally the phrase "to God, as far as God is concerned" is used.  The beauty of Moses was not seen as mere cuteness, but in relation to God.

7.  Let's go back to Exodus, midwives appear in chapter one who did not submit to the Egyptian king's command.  Why didn't they obey?  The text says, "Since all of the midwives feared God, they did not do what the Egyptian king commanded and let the boys live," (1:17).  From the flow in chapter two we should get to know [something about this] as well.  Thus, since they too feared God, it lead to their hiding of Moses.  According to an expression in The Epistle To The Hebrews, it was [done] "by faith."

8.  Nursing babies are cute little things for their parents.  But, just thinking that babies are cute in my eyes is a pole apart from thinking they are beautiful in God's eyes.  [Humans] don't want to depart with the cute [little] thing, but want to treasure and keep it.  But, even if one treasures and tries to keep it just the same, it is a definitely different matter whenever one would do this just by human emotions or do it by faith as a person who fears God.

9.  A preacher named Spurgeon in a short sermon on it wrote that "Many times a believer will sin over his or her absorbing love for one's children.  The Lord grieves over such a foolhardy love."  The doting which he is speaking of is first of all more than anything not loving the child as a being in the sight of God as a parent in the sight of God but only loving a child as a being who belongs to oneself within one's own sight.  People often are absorbed in this level of foolish love.

10.  The mother of Moses was not that kind of mother.  Consequently, when she got to the point when she couldn't hide him any more, she realized the time had come for her to let her child go.  This wasn't abandonment.  She, who wanted to keep her child by faith, entrusted her child to God by faith.  [Sometimes] there things a person should do and he or she should do it with all one's might.  However, there are also things that a person cannot do.  Those who hold on with human emotion have a hard time letting go.  This way of handling things doesn't limit itself to the area of "my child."  It's true in any area.

The Mother Who Was Entrusted With Her Son Again

11.  Let's read the next part.  She made a basket of papyrus, put her boy in it, put it in thick reeds along the Nile embankment, and left the area.  Only his older sister Miriam stood from afar and watched the situation.  Thereupon, the pharaoh's daughter came down to that place at the river to bathe in the water.  The one who had appeared there [at the river] of all people was the king's own daughter who issued the order.  The way things looked at the moment for the family who had confidentally entrusted the infant to God was that it took a great turn for the worst.

12.  But, God even advances his work through the most evil of developments.  The basket was discovered by the princess.  A servant girl took the basket and handed it over to the princess.  When she opened it, there inside was a boy and he was crying.  A feeling of pity arose within the princess.  She felt compassion and said, "This is surely a Hebrew child."  When his older sister Miriam, who was standing from a distance and was watching, figured out that the princess meant the child no harm, she made the following suggestion.  "Shall I go call a Hebrew wet nurse to give this child some milk?"  The princess responded favorably to this suggestion.  His sister hurried and brought along the child's own mother.  The princess said, "Go and take this child with you and give him some milk to drink in my place; for,  I'll pay you an allowance [for this service]."

13.  The mother, who had let her son go by entrusting him over to God, thus got to get him back again.  But, he was no longer as her own son.  She was entrusted with the care of this child as the son of the princess, as another person's son.  This baby would no longer ever be this mother's child.  What kind of thoughts did she have [when] she was raising up Moses?

14.  When we reflect on this matter, one part of his description, which continues in today's passage of the Bible, catches our eye.  It reads like this in verse eleven.  "About the time Moses became an adult, he went out to where his fellow countrymen [were] and saw them submitting to hard labor and he saw one of the Egyptians strike a Hebrew, his fellow countryman," (2:11).  What we ought to take notice of is that Moses was through and through looking at the Hebrews as "his fellow countrymen."  As touched upon earlier, in the speech by Stephen in the book of Acts the following words are given:  "So, Moses had received an Egyptian education in every area and became a person who made splendid speeches and deeds.  When he turned forty Moses began to think of helping his brothers, the children of Israel," (Acts 7:22-23).

15.  While he was receiving an education as an Egyptian he still did not lose his self-awareness as an Israelite.  It was not because his skin color or outward appearance was different.  It wasn't the sheer self-consciousness of his racial identity.  The Epistle To The Hebrews puts it like this:  "By faith, when Moses became an adult, he refused to be called a son of pharaoh's daughter and rather than be lost in the short-lived pleasures of sin he chose to be a person oppressed with the people of God and he considered the ridicule which he would receive because of Christ as more excellent wealth than the treasures of Egypt," (Hebrews 11:25-26).

16.  This part about being "by faith" was surely something which the mother of Moses could give to her son during a limited time period.  How the mother who was charged with only the raising of her son reacted to that duty may be seen here at this point.  She must have reacted to this brief period of child care as a duty given her by God and not the princess, which really amounted to no difference from the frame of mind she had originally.  Essentially nothing changed for her whether she raised him as her own son or as the son of pharaoh's daughter.  Because what [God] had given to her in the first place was not just a child, but the duty of a child.  Therefore, just as she [as] a mother had once let her son go by turning him over to the hands of God, she lets him go again.  "When the child got big, she took him to the princess.  Thus, he became the princess' son."  After this, the mother does not appear at the forefront of the stage of this story.  And that's okay.

Again The Hand Of God In Control

17.  Then, the princess named the child Moses.  In Hebrew the name Moses (or Moshe) came to mean "one who draws out water."  At this point the scriptures explain that the princess named him saying, "For I drew him up (masha) out of the water."  But, it could not have been from the beginning that the Egyptian princess gave [him] a name in Hebrew.  This is totally an explanation from a biblical point of view.  Actually we're not sure what the name of Moses used to mean.  Some say it originated in the Egyptian for the meaning of "have a child."  At any rate, this biblical explanation is worth looking at; that is to say, because before too long Moses himself will actually become "a person who draws out."  Because he becomes the vessel which God uses in order to draw the people out of Egypt.  The eyes of humankind might only see that the princess assisted and drew out the child.  But, the one truly in control and guiding this drama is God himself who is wishing to prepare "[a Moses], one who draws out."

18.  Thus, through out this entire narrative the hand of God is visible [though] it does not show on the surface of things.  The receiving of an education as the child of the Egyptian princess and the becoming of one well versed in matters of the Egyptian court and its society, and what's more the inheriting of his faith as a Hebrew --  these things could not have happened at the same time by any reckoning.  God's hand of providence is what brought it all together making the impossible possible.  The picture that comes to the human eye is the situation of endless misfortune and misery which protrude [their] edges into human sin and that there has been only the worst developments which persist from this.  Yet, God advances his work through the worst of developments.

19.  We know that the cross of Christ stands at the worst of extremes (of the fact that God advances his work through the most awful of events).  At that time when sin and death seemed to have won, God had ultimately won defeating human sin and death.  Therein is manifested clear and plain the plan of God's salvation.  Even in this little tale about a little family [his plan] is there from the stand point of the history of salvation by the same God.  In the midst of the worst of events there is one family who have been given a duty by God and live by faith.  God used in his plan of salvation the deeds based on their faith.

20.  We and our own families too have been placed in God's history which has been manifested in Christ and is moving towards a completion of salvation.  In his plans God will give us a duty, too.  The formation of the home, child rearing, and instruction of the young are one.  The duty given is different for each one.  The situations we are placed in vary.  But, at any rate, no matter the situation one is under, when we react by faith to the duty we are given, God will use it to advance his plans.

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