Every new mother thinks their baby is special, a cut above the rest. I was no exception. My baby Daniel was wide-eyed, alert, and impossibly cute; we have photos taken when he was two months old, sitting next to me on the couch, looking as aware as a two-year-old. I envisioned him attending Harvard and winning Nobel prizes. The sky was the limit…
The reality, of course, has been different. He turned out to be wide-eyed, alert, handsome…and not exactly Harvard material. He is special, as every child is special to God and—hopefully—to their parents, friends, and family.
When we first meet Moses in the Bible, he’s a baby: an exceptional newborn. Here’s our passage for today:
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Heb.11:23)
The original account in Exodus attributes this act of faith to Moses’ mother:
Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. (Ex.2:1-2)
I’ve often wondered what it was about baby Moses that set him apart. His mother had two older children as a basis for comparison: older sister Miriam, and older brother Aaron, who would become Moses’ mouthpiece. They all seem like overachievers to me. Did he, like my Daniel, seem precociously aware for a newborn? Did his mother peer into his baby-brown eyes and see the wisdom of ages? Could she tell, as she nursed him, that he was destined to lead millions out of slavery? Would she have let him be killed if she hadn’t noted his exceptionality?
The Bible doesn’t answer any of these questions.
But it’s the coolest story. There’s the tar-and-pitch coated basket, the thicket of reeds along the River Nile, the proximity to where Pharaoh’s daughter goes to bathe. Did Moses’ mother pick the hiding place with this in mind? It appears so. She also posted big sister Miriam nearby, waiting to see what would happen. And when the baby cries and Pharaoh’s daughter sends her slave girl to fetch him, Miriam is right there to find “one of the Hebrew women to nurse him for you”. The nursing woman happens to be Moses’ mother. Mother and son get to bond—so important for emotional development– until Moses is weaned. Only then does Pharaoh’s daughter take Moses home.
Moses gets the best of both worlds: his family relationships are intact, and he gets to grow up as Pharaoh’s grandson, positioning him for his future role as defender and deliverer of the Hebrews, great in number and heavily enslaved by the Egyptians. Essentially, God orchestrates the world’s second greatest rescue tale (after the Cross, of course) based on a mother’s instinct: This child is destined for amazing things.
It’s possible she risked her own punishment, even death for her entire family, by defying Pharaoh’s edict. Again, I wonder: what did she see in him?
What’s cool about her story is that God had everything worked out in advance. He knew the timing of the river bathing and the disposition of Pharaoh’s daughter—that she’d respond mercifully and ignore her father’s edict. And even these factors were predicated on the faith of two other women, Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who feared God and defied Pharaoh’s explicit instructions to kill every male Hebrew at birth. Their boldness led to Pharaoh’s counter-order to throw every male newborn into the river, which is perhaps where Moses’ mother got the brilliant idea to test the king’s edict by choosing the deadly river to be her son’s sanctuary.
God moves in a mysterious way…We see this over and over in the Scriptures, most delightfully in stories like this, where a simple yet bold act of faith is met with God’s provision of open doors and divinely appointed connections. Moses’ mother could have hesitated, wondering what if. Instead, she put herself (and her family) in harm’s way, and trusted God would protect and bless them. As He did.
The Hebrew writer says, They were not afraid of the king’s edict. Why? Because they trusted God—even though their people were enslaved, even though times were dire, even though all of Egypt was intent on oppressing and reducing them. That, to me, is a remarkable faith. It’s not as if they were living on Easy Street, enjoying the good life and confident God would continue to bless them. They were living on Extremely Difficult Street, in a culture where they were despised and humiliated, where life kept sinking from bad to worse. In spite of this, they trusted God would see their act of faith and run to bless it.
And He did. In greater ways than they could ever have imagined.
Four of the greatest years of my life were lived in Lagos, Nigeria, where life is extremely difficult, with frustration and deprivation at every turn. What made this time so special was the amazing faith and perseverance of the Nigerian disciples. Their joy, hard work, and devotion to God’s kingdom was exhilarating. Inspirational. They weren’t slaves, per se, but they lived in a culture where the wealthy rule, the majority suffer, and nearly everyone has to fight for survival. This toughness, when softened and refined by faith, was a joy to behold. We wept to leave our remarkable friends, and still mourn our distance from this zealous group of ‘despised people’ who put our western version of commitment to shame.
What about you? Do you relate to Moses’ parents, suffering as slaves in a society that despised them? Do you relate to the midwives, uniquely positioned to make a world of difference by choosing to fear God more than men? Or are you more like Pharaoh’s daughter, living in luxury and comfort, yet able to play an amazing role in God’s story if you’re governed by compassion, not conformity?
Wherever you fall on the poverty-to-privilege continuum, how is your faith measuring up? Are you trusting God in spite of hard circumstances to meet your every need? Are you living by faith, like Moses’ parents and the midwives, guided by God’s Spirit and not the expectations of others? If you have plenty, are you sharing with others? Does your heart overflow with compassion, or with fear?
When God looked at each of us as newborns, He saw someone uniquely made and fiercely loved. Let’s aspire to the vision He has for each us by living lives of faith!