We began our Moses series by looking at the time in which Moses was born, 350 years after the death of Joseph. All of the Jewish people had been put in to hard labor and slavery because the new Pharaoh feared their numbers. In order to try to emasculate them, he puts them into slavery but it doesn't work. They continue to multiply. They continue to grow so he issues a proclamation that every baby boy born to a Hebrew woman was to be thrown into the Nile River. That's the setting when Moses comes in to the world.
MOSES AND HIS PARENTS
Exodus 2 doesn't give us the names of Moses’ parents but if you jump ahead to Exodus 6 you see the name of Moses' family.
“Amram married his father's sister Jochebed and she bore him Aaron and Moses.” (Exodus 6:20)
Moses is born to a Jewish family living in Egypt at the time of slavery. The husband's name is Amram. We do know based on scripture that Amram was from the tribe of Levi. He ends up falling in love with a woman named Jochebed. According to Exodus 6:20, Jochebed is also Amram's aunt.
Moses is not their first child. He's actually their third. Their middle child is a son named Aaron who would have been about 3 years older than Moses. Aaron would have been born prior to the king's edict to kill all the baby boys. The oldest child of Amram and Jochebed is a daughter by the name of Miriam. At the time that Moses is born she's a pre-teenager. She's somewhere between age 7 and 12 and she's going to play a very vital role in the story.
When Moses is born it is during the time of a horrible Egyptian proclamation. Let me remind you of that proclamation seen back in Exodus 1:22. In this verse, the king makes it very clear what is to take place.
“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people saying, every son who is born, you are to cast into the Nile. Every daughter you are to keep.”
When Amram and Jochebed conceive and she realizes she's pregnant, this proclamation is in effect in Egypt. I have to believe that every single day for nine months this couple prayed one simple prayer, “God, please let it be a girl.” They knew that if it was a boy they were in big trouble. If it was a boy, it was going to have to be killed.
When Moses is born we see the nature of these parents. According to Exodus 2:1-2, they have a son. Jochebed hides the baby for three months. Here's the question – “Why does she hide him?” The verse gives us the answer.
“The woman conceived and bore a son and when she saw that he was beautiful she decides to hide him for three months.”
What makes this woman come to the conclusion at the risk of her own life and the life of her family, to hide this baby boy? It says that she saw the baby was “beautiful.” Don't just wax over that because it's easy to read that and go, “Yeah, yeah, every mother thinks their baby is beautiful….Big deal.” Are all babies beautiful? No! Are all babies precious? Yes. Are all babies beautiful? No. Some look like aliens.
There is more to this description. When it says that she saw that he was beautiful, it's saying that God has put into her heart the fact that this baby had a special purpose. That's what made him beautiful. If you jump ahead into the New Testament, you get to Acts 7 where Stephen is preaching a sermon. At the end of the sermon he will be stoned to death and will become the first martyr in the New Testament church. In part of his sermon he's going through the history of Israel and he gets to this part about Moses. Notice what he says about Moses' beauty in Acts 7:20:
“It was at this time that Moses was born. And he was lovely in the sight of God.”
When it says she noticed he was beautiful, I don't think it's simply talking about physical beauty. The Spirit of God put in Jochebed's heart that this baby had a special purpose. He was lovely in the sight of God and so for three months this family, in an amazing act of courage, hide the existence of this baby.
Do you realize how hard that would have been? Everybody knew she was pregnant and now everybody knows she's not pregnant. How do you hide the existence of a baby in a land with thousands upon thousands of Hebrew people living in small huts right next to each other? What do babies do all the time when they're not sleeping? Among other things they cry and they cry and they cry. Can you imagine what a task this was for this family for three months to hide the existence of that baby boy?
It took such courage that it lands them right smack dab in the middle of Hebrew's chapter eleven’s great hall of faith - the chapter where God lists for us all the great men and women who have shown faith in the Bible. In Hebrews 11:23 it includes the parents of Moses.
“By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents because they saw he was a beautiful child and they were not afraid of the king's edict.”
We already have seen the Hebrew midwives who were ordered to kill all the baby boys and chose not to because the Bible says they feared God more than they feared Pharaoh. You and I will never reach our full potential as followers of Jesus Christ until we fear God more than we fear any human on the face of the earth. That's where Jochebed is. That's where Amram is. As a result, they hide this baby for three months.
During those three months we have no idea what they called this baby. The name Moses is given to him around the age of 4 by the princess of Egypt. That wasn't the name given to him by his parents. The Bible doesn't tell us the name given to him by his parents. I like to think it was “Scott” but I'm not real sure about that. We're not sure what it was.
They concealed the baby boy for three long months and now they realize they can't keep it up any longer. They're going to put together a plan to save the baby that I believe was put in their heart by God and it's going to involve a basket.
“When she could hide Moses no longer, she got him a wicker basket.” (Exodus 2:3)
The word “basket” is the same word used in the book of Genesis to describe another floating device that was much bigger in size. It's a word that literally means “ark.” and was used to describe Noah's ark - different size but same concept. She takes this basket, covers it with tar and pitch so it is water resistant, and then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River.
I’ve been to the Nile River. On one of our trips to Israel we visited Egypt. I remember when we first arrived eating at a cafe right on the Nile River. As I was eating and watching the Nile River, in my mind I was trying to envision this basket floating down the river with the current with baby Moses inside of it. I was really enjoying this picture in my mind until it all got popped when I looked down and there was something floating down the Nile River but it wasn't a basket. It was a big, dead, fat, bloated cow.
They didn't put the basket in the main part of the Nile River so the current would just take the basket downstream. That's not what they did. There would have been a tributary coming off the Nile River with large reeds and they would have put the basket in the tributary so it would sit among the reeds. The basket wasn't going to go anywhere. There was no current. It was just going to bob there. Interestingly enough, in doing this, they really obeyed Pharaoh's command. Pharaoh said that every Hebrew baby boy was to be put into the Nile River. They did. They put him into the Nile River.
Think about how difficult this was. When Jochebed and Amram put that baby in the tributary and they walk away, Jochebed had to be thinking, “Will I ever see my baby again? Will I ever hold my baby again?” Remember the day that you dropped your child off at college for the very first time? What a tough day that is for a parent. Can you imagine leaving your baby in that basket? At this point they were trusting God completely with that baby's future. When Amram and Jochebed first married, this wasn't what they envisioned happening to their child. Moms and dads, we must get to the point where we are willing to trust God with our children's future even if it doesn't measure up to what we thought was going to take place.
According to verse 4, Miriam doesn't go with them back home. Instead she stood at a distance to find out what would happen. She's not just hiding in the distance out of curiosity. There's a plan that she's going to play a part of and she knows the plan. They have rehearsed it.
MOSES AND THE PRINCESS
I believe that Jochebed and Amram scoped this whole thing out. They realized that for their baby son to live someone had to find the baby who had the power to say, “This baby lives.” In all of Egypt who's the only person who could disobey Pharaoh's command? Who's the only person who could say, “I found a baby. I'd like to keep it.” It was Pharaoh’s daughter, the princess herself. Some things transcend generations and transcend cultures and one of them is that daughters really do have their daddies wrapped around their little finger.
Moses’ parents are banking on that when it comes to the princess. They know that the princess has a routine. They know that about the same time she would come down to the Nile River to bathe. This is what we would call a “Divine appointment.” A divine appointment is when God puts the right person in the right place at the right time for the right purpose. That's what He's doing. He's putting the right person (the princess) in the right place (the Nile River) at the right time (when the basket's there) for the right purpose (to find Moses).
Divine appointments don’t just happen in the case of Moses. They happen in your life. Just about every single day of your life God is orchestrating the events of your life to get you at the right place at the right time for the right purpose. At this very moment God is orchestrating the events of other people's lives, some of whom you've never even met, to get them at the right place at the right time so they can rub shoulders with you. God is always working behind the scenes.
“Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile with her maidens, walking alongside the Nile. And she saw the basket among the reeds.” (Exodus 2:5)
The princess sees something strange. She is down at the river all the time and that basket's usually not there. Her curiosity now takes over and she sends her maid into the water to get the basket. All the while Miriam is watching the plan unfold. The maid takes the basket and brings it back out. God has accomplished the divine appointment. He has the princess at the right place at the right time for the right purpose.
“When she opened the basket she saw the child and behold, the boy was crying.”
Why is that important? Why is that even in the text? Remember, she is the daughter of Pharaoh. She knows Pharaoh's edict. She's been told that Hebrew people are dangerous and that if they keep multiplying, they're going to overtake the Egyptians and their dynasty would fall. Her family would lose the palace. When this woman sees that it's a Hebrew baby boy in the basket she should have ordered the maid to take the baby by the ankles and drown him in the Nile River. She is not a lover of Hebrew people. She's been taught to hate Hebrew people.
But something happens when she opens that basket that connects to her heart. At that exact moment God causes the baby to cry. I don't know if an angel pricked his foot or what but God causes him to cry. There are no coincidences with God. There are no accidents with God. He knows what He's doing right down to the finite details. Men cave in when women cry. Women cave in when babies cry. And when this baby cries, he connects right to this princess's heart. God uses even the cry of a baby in this whole process to rescue Moses for the special purpose that he has.
There's a verse in the Bible in the book of Proverbs that says that the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord and like rivers of water He turns it any direction he wants it to go. It doesn't matter how powerful a man or woman is; it doesn't matter what degree of royalty they attain; if God wants to change their heart, God will change their heart. And He does just that with the princess. She is now connected to this baby.
“Then his sister Miriam said to Pharaoh's daughter, shall I go call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?” (Exodus 2:7)
This baby needs fed. The Gerber baby food company has not come on the scene yet. The princess has not given birth so her body can't produce milk at this point. So, Miriam, just like I'm sure her mom had her rehearse a million times, comes over and says, “Would you like me to go get a Hebrew woman who's recently given birth who can nurse the baby?” It's all part of the plan that God put in their heart. Pharaoh's daughter thinks it's a wonderful idea and so she sends Miriam off to find such a woman.
As Miriam races back to the land of Goshen, can you imagine how her heart is about to explode? She's got to be running back going, “It worked! She bought it! This is amazing!” She runs back and she gets her mother, Jochebed, the mother of the baby. The princess doesn't know it's the mother of the baby. Jochebed has to put on a pretty good act here. She has to pretend she doesn't know this baby. She has to pretend she has no real interest in the baby, even though it's hers, as she comes before Pharaoh's daughter.
Pharaoh's daughter asks Jochebed to take this child away and nurse him for her and offers to pay her to do so. Jochebed left the Nile earlier that morning wondering if she would ever see her baby again, wondering if she would ever hold this baby again. Now, not only does she see the baby, not only does she hold the baby, she gets to take the baby back home with her because she's going to nurse the baby until the baby is old enough to go to the palace.
Do you remember the old Ginsu knife commercials? It slices, it dices, it does everything. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, the announcer would go, “But wait, there's more!” That's what is happening here. Jochebed comes out and the princess gives her the baby. How awesome! But wait… There's more! She gets to take the baby home. But wait…There's more! She gets to nurse the baby and continue that bond only a mother can have with their child. But wait…There's more! If you order right now, here's what else happens. She gets paid to do it! And every mother reading this is going, “That's how it should be!”
We serve an awesome God! Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him -- God -- who's able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask and anything you could ever imagine.” If there was ever a woman in all of history that understood that fact, it's a Jewish woman named Jochebed who not only got to hold her baby again, she got to take that baby home, she got to nurse that baby and she got paid to do it. What an amazing story.
That leads us to the adoption of Moses. Moses would have stayed in that Jewish home until he grew. The Bible says in verse 10, “the child grew.” He's not just weaned, he grew. He would stay in that Jewish home until it was time to be adopted by the princess. In Egyptian culture of that day, that would happen around the age of 4. Moses would have stayed in his own Jewish home for the first four years or so of his life. Look at verse 10.
“The child grew and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son and she named him Moses and said, because I drew him out of the water.”
For the first four years of Moses' life he doesn't live in the palace. The first four years of his life he's in that Jewish home with his Jewish mom and dad who taught him Jewish songs, fed him Jewish food, and told him the story of a Jewish God. Then, at age 4, they would have brought Moses to the palace where the princess would have adopted him. It's at that point in the text that she gives him the name Moses because the word Moses means “to draw out.” She drew him out of the water. We don't know what his name was before age 4 but at this point his name becomes Moses.
The first four years of his life, he's a Jew. The next 36 years of his life, until age 40, he lives in the palace. Notice what the book of Acts says regarding his Egyptian years. In Acts 7:22, Stephen's preaching still. He says,
“Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians and he was a man of power in words and in deeds.”
For 36 years, from age 4 to 40, he's living in the palace. He is getting trained with the best Egyptian education possible, hieroglyphics and the whole nine yards. He's learning it all. He has the best clothes. He has the best textbooks. He has the best teachers. He has the best tools. According to the text, he becomes powerful in words and in deeds. In fact some historians that he was being groomed to be the next Pharaoh. This guy has a future as an Egyptian and it’s a future of power and wealth and prestige.
At the age of 40, however, he's going to have to make a decision. He's going to reach a fork in the road. He's going to have to decide at the age of 40 if he is going to fully continue and immerse himself in the Egyptian culture, which might even land him the job as Pharaoh, or if he is going to go back and immerse himself in his Jewish roots. Not much of a choice, is it? What's amazing is what the Bible says in Hebrews 11 he decided to do. In Hebrews 11:24-25 it says this,
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, he's 40 years old, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.”
At the age of 40, he makes the decision to turn his back on his Egyptian connection and to fully immerse himself in his Hebrew connection. What in the world would have led Moses to make such a decision? I'll tell you what did it. It was those four years from birth to age 4 that Moses spent in the land of Goshen with his Jewish parents learning about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And when age 40 came, we realize that those four years behind that door marked Joseph for life.
I think we have made a mistake in our culture today. I think we have made a big mistake in the church today. We have undervalued the importance of those formative years. We have undervalued how critical birth through age 4 really is. It was what happened during those four years that far surpassed in Moses' heart what happened in the 36 years that he lived in the palace. What happens to you before the age of 5 will mark your life forever.
In the church today it is easy to say, “Ah, that's just the nursery. All they do there is rock babies.” Tell that to Jochebed. Tell that to Amram. Those four years marked Moses' life forever. It is not just the nursery. They are not just parents of preschoolers. You are not just a children's worker. The story of Moses would have been completely different had it not been for those four years in that Jewish home.