Let me say “Happy Mother’s Day” to all of the moms here. It’s great to have a day set aside to honor mothers and to say “thank you” to them for what they have done and do for us.
I also know Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for many women. For those who haven’t been able to have children, for those who have gone through the trauma of abortion, for those whose mothers have passed away, for those who have a difficult relationship or no relationship with their mother, for those who have difficult relationships or no relationships with their children, for those have lost children through miscarriages and early deaths, for those who are struggling to make it as single moms, it can be a difficult and emotional day. If you find yourself in one of those categories or if Mother’s Day is difficult for you for yet a different reason, I want to “thank you” for being here because it could have been tempting to stay home rather than put yourself in an atmosphere where you might be emotionally vulnerable.
Today I want to focus not necessarily on motherhood or mothering, but I want to highlight strategies for living remarkable Christian lives as seen in the lives of four women who were on the scene during the time in which Moses was born. Would you take a minute and offer a silent prayer to God asking that He will impact your life through this message?
The first women I want to look at with you are two midwives whose names are Shiphrah and Puah. Their story is found in Exodus 1:15-21. The background for their story is simply that the Egyptians had made slaves out of the Nation of Israel. The trouble for Egypt was that the nation of Israel was growing rapidly. They were having many children, and the Pharaoh feared the Israelites would soon outnumber the Egyptians and would take over. So, he devised a murderous plan. Look at Exodus 1:15:
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, FEARED GOD and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives FEARED GOD, he gave them families of their own.
Two Hebrew women here, Shiphrah and Puah demonstrated amazing courage. Defying the Pharaoh wasn’t something anyone did. Pharaoh said the baby boys were to be killed right after their moms had given them birth. Imagine. You are a midwife. Your job is to deliver babies. Your goal is to help new lives come into the world, and you have now been mandated to do exactly the opposite. The text tells us twice that Shiphrah and Puah defied the Pharaoh’s orders because of their fear of God. They may have been afraid of the Pharaoh, but they truly feared God which means they respected and honored His wishes over the wishes of anyone else.
These brave women knew they were risking their lives to spare the lives of these little boys. As I thought about this, and I thought about the world which the Hebrew boys were entering, I also thought it may have been tempting for Shiphrah and Puah to cave to the Pharaoh’s desires by rationalizing that these little boys were just going to be born into slavery. I mean, in a way, taking their lives could be reasoned a mercy killing. They would be sparing them from a life of hard, forced labor. But they didn’t rationalize anything. Ultimately, it wasn’t an emotional decision that they made. It wasn’t that their maternal instincts to protect these young babies kicked in. It wasn’t that they couldn’t bear the thought of doing Pharaoh’s assigned task, but it was that God prohibited murder of any kind, and they were going to obey Him. They risked everything out of honor and respect for their God. They were true heroines.
I love that they were fast enough on their feet to give Pharaoh an answer about why they weren’t doing what they had been ordered to do even though I am sure it was less than honest. They said that the Hebrew women were just too good at birthing babies, and they birthed them before the midwives could arrive. How many of you know that Shiphrah and Puah just learned to take their time? I’m guessing they learned to go the long way when they had been sent for. They knew how to walk slowly and to stop and smell the roses. Wise ladies!
What I think we can all learn from them is that:
Heroes Live For a Higher PURPOSE.
People God chose to use to do mighty things didn’t step up to the plate because they were running for office and hoped to add to their fan base. They didn’t do risky things because they were trying to build their reputations. They didn’t go out on a limb for others because they had junior “Messiah Complexes” or because they were people-pleasers. They did it because they had a devotion to God’s Word, God’s will and God’s ways, and that meant that no matter what they personally thought or felt about something, they lived their lives based on what God had to say to them about how they should live. Because Shiphrah and Puah lived that way, they became heroines. Many children were rescued.
If Pharaoh’s plan had succeeded there wouldn’t be enough fighting men to ever have a chance to overthrow their Egyptian captors had that been the plan. If the Pharaoh’s plan had succeeded the Hebrew nation would have eventually been wiped out. Hebrew girl slaves would have been forced to marry Egyptian slaves, creating a new race. But we know God wouldn’t have permitted to have His nation, through whom all nations on earth would be blessed, wiped out. It wasn’t just a courageous decision in the moment that these women made, but it was a pivotal and crucial moment which impacted history forever. For out of the Jewish nation would come the Messiah, the Redeemer of all people.
You want to be a hero? You want to be someone through whom God can do mighty things? Stay mindful that you are living for a higher purpose. There is a future that is yet to unfold. There is a story that is yet to be told. There are people who will be influenced, lives that will be changed, ministries that will be started, and laws that will be re-written. There are homes that will be built, there are young people that will be called into ministry, there are missionaries that will be sent, and there are sermons that will be preached. And those things will take place as the result of a chain reaction from the faith and courage and example of those who have their minds firmly fixed on the high and holy calling of following after Jesus and obeying God’s Word no matter what the cost!
Listen, before Moses’ mother ever saved him by putting him a basket and floating him on the Nile River, Shiphrah and Puah and saved him by allowing him to live! Who knows but what their courage gave Moses’ mother the courage she needed to do what she did? And our text tells us Shiphrah and Puah were rewarded or blessed of the Lord to have families of their own. The heroes God uses stay focused on the fact that they are working in God’s economy for a higher purpose; not always one they can see or will even see in their lifetime.
These midwives feared God more than they feared their employer, the Pharaoh. Listen, the right thing to do is always God’s thing to do. If your employer asks you to lie to cover up an internal problem at the company, what will you do? If your boss wants you to say and do things that aren’t true because they could bring in more profit, what will you do? If you are asked to ascribe to unethical practices and play manipulative games in order to make the bottom line look different than it really is or in order to schmooze someone to gain business for the company, what will you do? What if what you are told to do is clearly unbiblical, and you either do it or you lose your job? What will you do? In those moments we will find out if we are dedicated to the higher purpose or to our immediate sense of security and control.
The Apostle Paul had the high and holy calling to preach the Gospel, and he was committed to it; so committed that if it earned him prison and beatings, he kept preaching. He said of his own preaching that he wouldn’t compromise the Gospel in order to gain friends and influence people. Galatians 1:10-“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
He said of himself in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
You may not see yourself as a hero or heroine. You can be if you will stay committed to the high purposes of God for your life and live to honor and respect His will, Word, and ways.
Well, when Pharaoh’s plan to have the midwives take out the baby boys didn’t succeed, he announced his plan B. Exodus 1:22 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Exodus 2:1-4 1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 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. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Moses’ mom’s name was Jochebed. She was an Israelite and a member of the Tribe of Levi from which the priests came, from those who carried out the ministries of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. She and her husband were dedicated to God. Like the midwives, she chose to defy the Pharaoh’s order. I’m guessing that not only did she fear the Lord, but her mother’s heart, that Mama Bear wanting to protect her son, also played a factor.
Let me just emphasize the idea for us today that every mom and every dad need to have a relationship with the Lord. If your children are going to become what God intends for them to become, the best foundation for that to play out for their lives includes you being someone who honors and fears the Lord.
I also see from Moses’ mother that she was willing to do what it took to protect her son. She hid him for three months at home. When that wasn’t a long-term solution, she made the basket for him to float in. She found a hiding spot among some reeds. She had her daughter, Moses’ sister, standing nearby to keep watch over him.
I call Jochebed a heroine because she was willing to do what it took to protect Moses. So, point two for today: Heroes are willing to do what it takes to PROTECT their families. Next to following God’s high and holy calling by obeying Him and living for Him, your second highest calling is your family. It’s your marriage. If you are a parent it is also the raising of your children. Protecting, preserving and keeping watch over our families is our highest earthly calling.
When our children were born, we took seriously the idea that we were supposed to protect them. We moved sharp objects away from their reach. We put outlet covers on the outlets so they wouldn’t stick their fingers in the socket. We added locks to some doors. We rearranged furniture to make sure they wouldn’t get hurt when they were trying to walk. We moved medicines and cleaners either out of their reach or put safety devices on them so they couldn’t get to them. We made them hold our hands when we crossed the street or when we were in a parking lot. We taught them about stranger danger. We even came up with a password that any stranger would be asked to use to make sure they had really been sent from one of us if a stranger approached our kids and said they were to go with them. We established that our family door knock was to the rhythm of “Jingle Bells” so they knew it was us before they opened the door. We took all these measures to protect them and watch over their lives.
Listen, dad and mom, your kids may now be driving you around, but they still need protecting. In fact, in a very real sense, they may need it more now than they ever did when they were toddling around. They need to learn how to handle temptation and be taught about not putting themselves in compromising situations. They need to learn a lot about the internet and how to stay safe. They need to be reminded about the importance of curfews and communication regarding where you are going and who you are going with. They need to be taught what to say and do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or asks them to participate in activity they have been taught to avoid. They need to know how to handle disappointment and difficulties with friends. They need to have a heads up about traveling alone or late at night whether on a college campus or coming home from work. They need protected from the commercialism and consumerism that is literally vying for their souls. They need to be protected from the sexually charged, drama-filled culture in which we live.
Let’s not falsely assume that the need to protect our families ends when our children learn to care for themselves or when they start school. The enemy hasn’t quit pursuing our families. It’s just my opinion, but the low morality in our country isn’t the reflection or fault of a government or law, but it is the result of a lack of vigilance and protection in our families.
As our kids have grown, Thom and I thought less and less about protecting them physically, and instead have had to turn our attention to offensively training them about what to expect in the world so that they have the tools they need to protect themselves. In addition to that, we have worked to make sure they know how to pray and call upon the name of Jesus because He is their Shield and Protector. What we do now as parents provides protection for our children as they learn to handle more and more about life on their own.
Jochebed didn’t know she was protecting a deliverer of an entire nation. We have no idea what God has in store for our children. Our job is to make sure they stay safe so that when He reveals it to them, they are ready to go. And just as God blessed the midwives, God also blessed Moses’ mom. When someone was needed to nurse baby Moses, she was chosen. She got to spend precious, formative years speaking over and praying over Moses teaching him about the one, true God. I believe that by the time he was weaned he knew enough about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to understand who God was.
So we have talked about the heroism of the midwives. We have talked about the heroism of Moses’ mother. How about this last one? Does anyone know what a “magnate” is? Let’s read on and see if we can figure it out.
Exodus 2:5-10 5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
A magnate is a person of great influence! The Princess was definitely a magnate!
Heroes risk to POSITIVELY IMPACT other people.
I had never really seen this progression in the Moses’ story before, but you have Midwives fearing God, a mother protecting her family, and then a stranger taking him in. It makes for a perfect model regarding what the Christian life is about. The Christian life is about serving God, instructing our families, and then reaching out to others.
Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses’ in. She “adopted” him to be her son. Perhaps she thought him to have been abandoned. From her perspective he was vulnerable, helpless, and in need of nurture, protection and care. I don’t know if you have ever thought about the personal risk she took, but it was her dad that said the baby boys were to have been murdered as they were being birthed. It was her dad that said the baby boys should be murdered by drowning them in the Nile, and in direct violation of her dad’s orders, she brought one of them home and adopted him! She assumed the cost for raising him, for providing for him, for educating him, for equipping him for life.
Every one of us knows people whether children or adults who are vulnerable and in need of nurture, protection and care. Part of our mission as Christians is to bring a sense of rescue to those around us who are struggling. What could happen if each Christian would take the responsibility of reaching out to help just one other person? I’m talking about a long-term journey with someone.
What about befriending the lonely or awkward kid at school? What about making time for someone who lives alone and is in need of fellowship? What about speaking into the life of a young person who has lost a dad or mom? What about reaching out to help the person from a lower income family get an education or new clothes for that interview? What about tutoring someone or offering to babysit when needed without pay just for the opportunity to impact a child’s life? What about providing transportation so someone can come to church each week?
That Princess didn’t have to care for Moses, but she took him in as a son. You know we call the church the “Family of God” for a reason. We are brothers and sisters. We are aunts and uncles and extra sets of grandparents. Our love, our sacrifice, our compassion, our reach should go beyond any gang leader’s who promises security and protection if you join their gang. Our love, our sacrifice, our compassion, our reach should exceed any drug dealer’s who promises an escape from the pain of the world if you will work for him. Our love, our sacrifice, our compassion and our reach should far outstrip the abuser and trafficker who seeks to manipulate, enslave and shame others for selfish gain.
When you are loved as if you are family, when you are thought of and cared for as if you belong, it changes who you are. Isn’t that the mission of Jesus? To transform people? I believe Jesus does His greatest transforming work through the Body of Christ as we get involved in caring relationships with people who need hope and help.
And so, a very unlikely person, the Pharaoh’s daughter, became a heroine in Moses’ life.
Would you like to be a hero? Stay true to your high and holy calling. Would you like to be a hero? Be diligent about protecting your family. Would you like to be a hero? Reach to positively impact others to the point where they feel part of your own family.