Sermon for Sunday, January 10th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 2:1-10 ESV] 1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
New Testament reading:
[Heb 11:23-28 ESV] 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
[Luk 2:41-52 ESV] 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
In the Great Awakening of the 18th century there was much emphasis on the sudden conversion experience. Some ministers even came to believe that it was necessary that a convert to the faith first undergo a terrible conviction of sin lasting for some time and then have a remarkable and sudden change brought about by the Holy Spirit. While this is indeed a way that many do come to the faith, not all are able to identify the exact moment of their conversion, nor can all believers attest to a period of great conviction of sin prior to belief. Many, in fact most, Christians are brought up in the church, knowing the Lord from their earliest days. It is a clearly a great blessing to have parents that have faith in God.
So I’ve titled the sermon today “A Parent’s Faith” as we look at the importance of the faith of Moses’ mother.
And while by “faith” I certainly mean those doctrines of the Bible that Christian parents believe, my focus is on that act of believing in itself. This active trust in God that Christians parents have is a blessing to their children.
Many of us, though not all of us, have our parents to thank for our education in the faith, and the example that they have set for us in their believing the promises of God. If not your parents, perhaps your grandparents or an aunt or an uncle or some other role model. It is a great blessing to have these people in our lives.
Moses, in fact, was saved through the faith of his mother. [REPEAT: Moses was saved through the faith of his mother.]
I. Moses Saved through the Faith of His Mother
Now, that exact point isn’t explicit in the Exodus text. But the author of the Book of Hebrews (11:23) confirms that which is implied in Exodus, for he says:
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
Who’s faith? His parents. But it is his mother who figures most prominently in the story. She trusts God in putting Moses in the river to be found by a princess, the daughter of the Pharaoh. And it is Moses’ mother who then nursed Moses at the command of Pharaoh’s daughter.
The reward of her faith that not only that her baby Moses kept alive, to be nursed by her, but she was paid for the work, since Pharaoh’s daughter did not know that she was the actual mother!
Have you seen these calculations? – People have calculated how much it would cost to hire a mother. So much per hour for doing laundry, so much per hour for cleaning the house, so much per hour for teaching the children, and for each and every thing a mother does. It is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions for a mother to raise a child from infancy to adulthood. Moses’ mother is greatly blessed in being paid for at least part of that.
Well, let’s take a step back and look at the story.
First, Moses is born the son of a Levite man and Levite woman. He then also is a Levite, a member of the tribe of Levi who later are to function as assistants to the Priests in the temple.
His mother (and father) hide him for three months, in virtuous disobedience of authority. But at that point she realizes she can hide him no longer. It is too risky. He will be found and killed, and probably because of disobedience she will be killed as well.
Now, what sound does a baby make? Maybe a few will say “goo goo ga ga,” but probably 9 out of 10 will say “waa waa.” Imagine trying to hide a baby for 3 months! What do babies do? They cry! They do other things too, but crying is their forte.
So she made a basket of bulrushes. These are paper reeds — papyrus — used for making shoes, baskets, and all sorts of thing. Of course it was used for paper as well. While in Old Testament times the primary material for writing was on animals skins, the early New Testament copies are on papyrus. I have here with me a replica picture of one of the early New Testament fragments, and it on papyrus. If you look closely you can see the fibrous material.
What Moses is placed in, according to our Bible translation, is a basket. But in the King James Version, it is more accurately translated, “ark.” It is the same Hebrew word used here as used for the boat in which Noah and his family were saved. It is a tiny ark.
In reading this account, we are probably to be reminded of the ark in which Noah was saved. Now Moses also passes over the water, being saved by the much smaller ark in which he was placed. But it is very dangerous for Moses as he is just an infant. He is entirely at the mercy of God. Noah was as well; totally at the mercy of God. Just because Noah is an adult doesn’t mean he is any less in need of the Lord to sustain him. The salvation through water of each Noah and Moses is entirely OF God. No credit is given Noah for being a good captain, and no credit is given baby Moses for being a good paddler. Salvation is of the Lord.
Moses mother knows this as well.
We find later in Exodus (6:20) the lineage of Moses. His father Amram descends from the people of Israel, and therefore from Abraham. Very likely Moses mother — who name we find is Jochebed — was also descended from Abraham. And so, passed down through the generations was knowledge of God’s covenant with Abraham.
God told Abraham in Genesis 15:
“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
This would have been passed down through the generations and known by Amram and Jochebed, the mother and father of Moses.
And God had also promised Abraham to give him many descendants who would have a large territory of land. Even more, God had promised Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.
Paul says in Galatians, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
This same faith in God was known by God’s people through the generations. Jochebed knew also of the promises of God and so had faith in Him.
She put her faith in the Lord and His promises when she set Moses in a basket in the river.
She, like the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, is another woman of the Bible that we are to look up to.
So, next in the story, we heard that Moses’ sister stood at a distance. This is probably Miriam who is mentioned by name later in the Scriptures. And this is probably how Moses, writing this book, knows what happened to him as an infant. His family, probably his sister, told him.
Then the daughter of Pharaoh (and her servant) finds the baby. She knows that is must be one of the Hebrew children, for the policy of throwing them in the river was well known. But she takes compassion on the infant. She then calls for a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. And, by God’s providence, Moses’ own mother is called to nurse the child, and to be paid for it! The Lord indeed works in mysterious, marvelous ways!
Pharaoh’s daughter then also disobeys Pharaoh’s command. Just like Shiphrah and Puah. But we have no evidence that she was a believer. She wasn’t trying to obey the Lord, but her motivation for rescuing the baby was probably just plain old kindness, and care. So the baby becomes the adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter, and is named Moses – which “sounds like the Hebrew for ‘draw out’.” And there is some discussion here whether this was an Egyptian name or a Hebrew name or both. Probably it was some of each, intelligible in Egyptian as well as Hebrew.
II. Moses Trained in the Faith by His Mother
Our Exodus account focuses on the rescue of the infant Moses. As for his upbringing and education, we find in Acts 7:22, in Stephen’s speech that “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.”
Moses is trained in the knowledge of Egypt, but the Lord brings him to faith nonetheless. This might be a bit like those among us who were brought up, as I was, in the Public schools, but who had parents who taught them the faith. We believe in Jesus Christ even though the schools spent 12 years trying to convince us of an entirely godless worldview. The public education simply isn’t a neutral education. There is positively no Bible and no prayer in the public school. Evolution is taught; not evolution and creation side by side so that you can decide. I can say for myself anyways, it is no thanks to my schools that I am a believer in Jesus Christ. It is a thanks to my parents who raised me in the faith, who took me to church, who took me to Wednesday catechism, and who prayed for me.
Now you might notice that there is a birth story of Moses and then no stories of his youth. So it is not unusual that the New Testament gospel writings similarly covered Jesus’ life. There is the birth of Jesus and then the one story of him at age twelve where his parents slipped up and left him at the temple.
Moses, if we sneak ahead to our next reading, grows up knowing that he is a Hebrew. Despite all of the “knowledge” of the Egyptians he learned, he counted himself as among the people of God. He may have been told by his adopted mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, that he was a Hebrew. But for him to know anything about God and the faith of his people, it had to have come from an actual Hebrew person. The Egyptians weren’t going to promote the foreign religion of the Jews.
So Moses has someone — possibly his mother or his sister — to thank for his knowledge of the faith.
Application 1: We are weak, but He is strong.
We we think of baby Moses in the basket on the Nile, we think of how helpless he was, utterly dependent on God for his salvation from dangers surrounding him.
But is not his fragility our as well? We depend every moment on the providence of God to sustain us. The dangers around us are no less real than those which threatened baby Moses. The raging waters, the crocodiles, the Egyptians could have gotten him at any moment if it were not for the Lord’s protection and the Lord’s plan for Moses. As we walk through this world we walk constantly near dangers that could end out lives at any second. The sidewalk is just feet from the curb where a car could careen off the road and end our lives. Everyday we walk past massive 5,000 lb trees that could fall on us with just a gust of wind. And inside of us, it takes just one organ to stop working an our lives are over.
Even more sure than taxes is death. You must not think that you are going to live forever. Nor should you think that you will make a death-bed confession. Life is fragile and short. You need to come to the Lord now, because we are weak, but He is strong.
Application 2: We too have the Promise of God.
And our strong God gives us the promise of eternal life, the promise of the covenant.
In this promise we are to nurture our children. Some will come to faith even without Christian parents, but in many more cases God uses Christian parents to bring the faith to their children.
The word used for all of this is nurture. We are to nurture our children in the faith. Regular prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, attending church, talking with them about God, and being an example for them in avoiding the evils of the world. And for those who say “I want this for my child,” you should also say “I want this for myself.” Many people come back into the church when they have children and want them raised in the church. But what of yourself! Do you not care about your own soul? Do you not love the Lord whom you desire your children to love?
We have that promise of God. The same known by Abraham, and Jochebed, and Moses. In fact, we have it all the more clearly because of the knowledge we have of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. Since we have the promise, of God we are to life in faith; trusting in the Lord for all things, believing in his promised salvation.
The faith of Jochebed saved Moses. She trusted in the Lord for Moses’ physical salvation from the waters of the Nile.
Moses’ spiritual salvation came through the gift of faith; his assent to the promises of God. And this faith was inculcated by his mother. Though we cannot force our children to believe, we can teach them the ways of the Lord so that our children know Him from their earliest days.
God promised Noah, “Behold I will established my covenant with you and your offspring after you.” (Genesis 9:9)
And God promised Abraham, “And will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)
The promise of the forgiveness of sins, Peter says, “belongs to you and your children and to all who are far of – all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)
Let us thank the Lord for that promise, and live in accord with it.
And know that whether or not you have faithful earthly parents, you have a faithful father in heaven, who will fulfill his promises.