God Plans It Out
November 18, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Everybody wants to live during a good period of time. A parent wants [God to let him or her] have a good time period for his or her children to be born. But, we don't actually get to choose the time we have the babies. Even the time in which our children live doesn't go exactly the way we wish it to go. What's going to happen in this country later on [after the kids are born]? Will the children be forced to live in a miserable age? When we think like that, our hearts become dark. We feel impotent and we humbly sigh.
2. But, it is for that very reason, since we are so like that, that the words from the first reading which we read for today reverberate as an enormous encouragement. Today we read the narrative surrounding the birth of Moses. [Listen,] everybody. the time period when the character named Moses received his breath in this world was a most dark age for the Israelites. God deliberately chose that period of time. The very "worst time," filled with sadness and sorrow, was "the best time" which God had chosen to prepare the character named Moses for the future.
3. That was some three thousand and several hundred years ago. It was about after four hundred years had already passed since Jacob the forefather of Israel and his entire household had moved to Egypt. Around that time the Israelites had increased to the point that the Egyptians could not ignore them. The Egyptians felt a sense of impending crisis in the increase in foreigners. So, in order to stem the increase of Israelites, the pharaoh imposed cruel and compulsory labor upon them. Yet, the more the Israelites were oppressed the more they increased. Whereupon, at [wit's] end, the pharaoh issued a horrible decree. The text in Exodus chapter one and verse twenty-two says the following. "The pharaoh ordered the entire nation. 'The male children born, spare not a single one, but throw them into the Nile River. Let all the female children live.'" -- As I mentioned earlier, the age in which the character named Moses was born was truly dark like this, it was a time period filled with sadness and sorrow.
4. Today's passage of scripture tells us the circumstances around the birth of Moses as follows. "A man from the house of Levi took a daughter from the same Levites. She became with child and gave birth to a male child, and seeing that the child was precious, they hid him for three months," (verses one and two).
5. It was "a male child" who had been born. That day turned into a day of sadness. According to the command of the king, that child must die. But, the mother did not murder her child by throwing him into the Nile River as per the command of the king. The Bible says they hid [him] for the space of three months. They could not bring themselves to murder their own dear child. It makes sense. But their having hid the child was not because of just parental emotions. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the following is written. "By faith, after Moses was born, for three months, he was hidden by [his] parents. For, they saw the beauty of their child and did not fear the king's decree," (Hebrews 11:23). In other words, the Bible sees the acts of Moses' parents as "an act that came by faith." It says that they "did not fear the king's decree." In saying that they did not fear the king, it means, put in other words, that they were fearing the One to truly be feared.
6. In fact, these [God-fearing] people were not only the parents of Moses. We go back into the Book of Exodus, and in chapter one, the Hebrews, that is, the Israelite midwives appear on the scene. The pharaoh ordered them, "When you assist in the delivery [of a baby] of a Hebrew woman, check the gender of the child, and if a male child, kill it, if a female child, let it live." But what did they do? It is written in the text as follows. "Since each of the midwives feared God, they did not do as the Egyptian king had commanded, they let the male children live, too," (1:17).
7. In short, it means that whether you take into account the midwives or both Moses' parents, they [all] knew who the true ruler was. It was not the pharaoh, the king of Egypt, they believed it was God. They recognized that life belongs to the rule of God and does not belong to the rule of a king, and consequently, it means that human beings are not in charge. Because they fear God, they respect the preserving of life more than the king's decree.
8. But, talk as much as we may on "by faith," what one husband and wife from a people of slaves could do before the powerful authority of the Egyptian king, the pharaoh, won't be much. They don't wield power enough to overthrow the governmental system of the Egyptian king. The best they could do was something like hiding a baby. They did it for about three months. After three months it got to where he couldn't be hidden. Both parents had kept Moses hidden for three months, but then finally they realized the time had come they ought to let go and send Moses away. They put the male child into a papyrus basket made waterproof with asphalt and pitch, then placed it among the thicket of reeds on the riverbank of the Nile.
9. There are times when one must not let go because of faith. There are situations when, on account of faith, we must never give up. At those times, people use whatever possible means, they must do their utmost. But yet also, there are times when we do let go by faith, and we must trust in God. Whether we don't let go or we do let go, in either case, the main thing is that we do it by faith. That is to say, the main thing is that we do it with fear and trust in God the true ruler.
A Person Touched By The Hand Of God
10. So, how did the situation unfold? The older sister Miriam had kept watch on the baby's basket from a distance, which had been placed in a thicket of reeds on the banks of the Nile. Whereupon, at that very moment the pharaonic princess came down to the river wanting to bathe in it. She, of all people, the daughter to the king who had issued the [murderous] decree, had come. Even worse, the basket which was placed among the thickets of reeds, was so incredibly easily discovered by the princess. It was the worst way for things to unfold!
11. However, God often even uses the worst of developments and causes things to move forward. She sends forth the maid servant and has her fetch the basket. When she opens it there is a baby in it and it is crying. A feeling of compassion arose within the princess. Feeling pity, she says, "This is surely a Hebrew child." Whereupon, the sister of that child without a moment's delay approaches the princess and makes her an offer. "Shall I go and call a Hebrew wet nurse to give this child milk to drink?" The princess willingly accepted this offer. The one whom this young girl had brought back was the true mother of the baby. The princess says, "Bring this child, and give it milk to drink in my place. For, I will pay you a stipend." Wow, the baby would be raised by its true mother.
12. What do you all think as you read this? Do you think, "This is too good to be true?" However, the people who think that way as they read this story, granted that they themselves have experienced something like what is written here, will most likely only think along the lines of "a happy ending type story" or pure "luck." But, Moses' mother, who had made a firm decision and acted by faith, never took this as pure "luck." "By faith" she let Moses go and must have been shaken up by what happened. Looking at the hands of the living God, she must have trembled with a sense of fear. And if we suppose that she still had joy within herself, I would think that it was not just the joy of being able to put her hands on Moses again, but a joy filled with the fear of having been a person touched by the hand of the living God.
13. And a person touched by the hand of the living God does not end with "Ohhh, that's nice." The mother wasn't just happy when she could hold Moses in her arms again. She couldn't help thinking of the will of God being there in it and of the plan of God. And she took it profoundly that what she was given was not "her very child" but, "the duty and responsibility of raising her child." We can surmise that from how she raised Moses when she had taken custody of him for the princess. The princess told her, "Give it milk to drink in my place." Since the male child was found by the pharaonic princess, you could say, it was ordained that he was already the child of the princess. The mother was entrusted with the upbringing of the Egyptian princess' child. -- But, Moses' mother did raise the baby as the child of the Egyptian princess. [Yet] come hell or high water, she would raise him as a Hebrew to serve the living God. We see that when we read verse eleven. Moses received an Egyptian upbringing as the princess' child, but still when he became an adult, he saw the Hebrews as his countrymen and countrywomen. Come hell or high water, he would live as a Hebrew, as the people of faith!
14. In this way then, the mother had taken the upbringing of Moses as a duty given her by God. And when the mother fulfilled the duty given to her by God, she entrusted her child over into the hands of God again and let her son go. "When the child became big, they brought him to the princess. The child thus became the child of the princess," (verse ten), says the scripture. After that the mother doesn't figure into the play list of the narrative any more. That's fine because the main thing it is saying is that what could never be fulfilled by human wisdom, God did fulfill by using this mother.
15. Please ponder this point. To receive an education as a child of the Egyptian princess, to become a person well versed in the Egyptian royal court and matters of society, and to take over the faith as a Hebrew -- These two things are not very likely to come into existence at the same time any way you cut the pie here. But, God brought it to pass and made it happen. Why [did he]? Because it was necessary. Because it was quite necessary for further developments. God will use Moses and wants to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. That is, Moses will later hold negotiations with the king of Egypt and become the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In order to do that Moses needs to be a person from the Egyptian royal court and at the same time a Hebrew who had taken over the faith. Therefore, God had made what was basically impossible come to pass. For one, something like "a Hebrew being the son of an Egyptian princess" was totally unlikely to ever appear on a historical level. Through a series of events God had prepared a character that was unlikely to appear on a historical level.
16. -- And I am repeating myself but, in order to make this happen, God deliberately chose the darkest time period for the Israelites. And [what had God used?] God had used this one small family, belittled by a great power, wracked by suffering and pain and great worry. [And] God had used one powerless mother, not strong enough to do one great thing. When that mother took her given duty by faith, that small act of faith was used in the great plan of God.
17. We, too, are living in a age in which we are always being tossed about and belittled by various powers. As a result, we live at times having huge stress, grieving, shedding angry tears, and having many anxieties. But when we read this story in which people just like us were used for the plan of God, we are made aware that our own small family, our own little lives are in the big hands of the living God. God advances his own work using even the worst developments in the worst time period as seen from a human perspective. Since that is the case, the main thing is that we live with fear and trust in God as the true ruler, mo matter the times, just as the mother of Moses [did].