THE STORY OF MOSES
We’ve been having some fun with the Old Testament readings from the lectionary. We’re going to continue that today as we move from the first book in the Bible, Genesis, and into the second book which is called Exodus. The story of Jacob and his family, which we were following ends with Jacob’s family all moving from Canaan to Egypt under the protection of Joseph who, if you remember, rose to be the second most powerful man in Egypt.
By the time we get to the beginning of today’s story in Exodus 2, 400 years have passed. Joseph is long dead and so are his brothers. But their descendants have multiplied and multiplied. Do you also remember God’s promise to Jacob, that God would make his descendants like the dust of the earth? Well, it’s been happening. In fact, there are so many Israelites in Egypt that the Egyptians are starting to get worried that they might take over.
We learn in Exodus 1 that a new Pharaoh comes to the throne who knows nothing about Joseph and his family. All he sees are the multitude of Israelites – they call them Hebrews – swarming over his country. He tries to put a stop to it my ordering a cruel decree which states that when a Hebrew child is born, if it is a girl, she can live but, if it is a boy, he has to be thrown into the Nile River. That’s where we stand as today’s story begins.
Let’s read Exodus 2:1-10 (NIV):
Now a man of the tribe 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. 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. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 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.
“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 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. 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.”
WHAT WE LOVE THE MOST
Drastic times call for drastic measures. Pharaoh decrees that all male babies will be thrown into the Nile River. The purpose of course is to drown the little boy and keep the population of Hebrews from growing any stronger. But Moses’ parents are creative. Like any parents, they want to protect their little boy. They hide him for three months at home. But when they can no longer hid him they put him in the Nile River, just like their supposed to. Mind you, they put him in a basket before they put him in the river which isn’t exactly what Pharaoh had in mind but it could be argued that they followed the letter of the law if not its spirit. Which is a good thing.
Nonetheless, we know what happens. Pharaoh’s princess daughter finds the baby floating in the reeds and recognizes him as a Hebrew baby. How does she know it was a Hebrew baby? Because Hebrews boys are circumcised so it would have been abundantly obvious.
At this point, the princess needs to make a decision. Surely, she is aware of her father’s decree that all male Hebrew babies have to be killed but, for some reason, she decides to defy her father and let the baby live. And then, in a very interesting development, the princess looks for a Hebrew wet nurse who eventually ends up being Moses’ biological mother. So Moses’ biological parents raise him until he can be sent to the palace. It seems that everything has worked out pretty well for everyone involved. The baby lives. The princess gets a child to raise and Moses gets to live in the palace where the absolute best of everything is available to him for the asking.
The story, however, demonstrates some important points. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live in a time when your baby was supposed to be killed simply because of his gender. And I can’t imagine having to struggle with the decision about what to do with my baby because keeping the baby and defying Pharaoh’s decree could bring the wrath of the entire Egyptian kingdom down on their heads.
That is what Moses’ parents decide to do. They hide him for as long as they can. There comes a time, however, when they can no longer hide him and then they have to make another decision. What do they do? They decide to trust God. After all, they have done everything they can to keep their baby safe. And now, they have no option left but to trust God to look after him when they no longer can. And that’s the point I want to make with this story today.
I know that we all know that we need to trust in God but that’s often easier said than done. I know that we trust God with lots of things and some of them are really big things. We trust God to keep the world spinning on its axis. We trust in God to keep the sun shining and the rains falling and the seasons changing. In fact, we trust God so much with this big stuff that we hardly give it a second thought. We just expect God to look after it and God does.
But do you know when we really need to trust God? We need to trust God with the things that are very personal to us. These are the things that really matter and these are the things that we really need to give over to God in trust. And there is nothing more personal and more valuable to us than our children. And that, I must confess, is not always that easy to do. We’d like to think that it is, that we can just give them over to God but, when we actually have to do it as Moses’ parents did, that can be a huge challenge.
STAYING ON THE SIDELINES
One of the key verses in this story when it comes to trusting in God is Exodus 2:4 (NIV) which says, “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” When we give those things that are most valuable to us over to God one of the biggest challenges for us is to just stand back and watch. That is so hard to do and it requires a great deal of trust. Yet that is what Moses’ sister does. She stands back and watches what is going to happen.
The truth is that she has no idea what is going to happen to her baby brother. There are any number of possibilities and most of them aren’t very good. The basket could spring a leak and sink. A hungry crocodile could come by. A water buffalo could decide to take a swim and crash through the basket. The wrong person could come by who might harm the baby. Or nothing could happen and then what would the sister do? Just leave the basket in the river and go home? After all, there are good reasons why the parents no longer felt safe keeping Moses and those reasons probably haven’t changed. The sister doesn’t know what is going to happen and so she just stands back and watches.
That is sometimes one of the most difficult things to do, especially when it comes to our children. And yet, there comes a time when we have to do that very thing. Our daughter Rebekah is starting her fourth year in neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario next month and hopes someday to be a neurologist. To get into medical school some universities require the applicants to write what’s called and MCAT which is the Medical College Admission Test. After months of studying, she wrote it in Oakville last Friday afternoon and, thankfully, felt pretty good about it.
But she was surprised by some of the things that she saw when she was there, specifically regarding the parents of some of those writing the test. Remember that these are mostly third and fourth year university students. They aren’t children. They should be able to look after themselves. In our house, Rebekah signed up for the test all by herself. She got in the car on Thursday afternoon and drove to Oakville all by herself. She checked into the hotel that she booked all by herself. She got supper, went to bed, woke up the next morning and got to the testing centre on time all by herself.
What surprised her were the number of parents who drove their adult children to the testing centre. The test is a six hour marathon and when Rebekah was finished the parents were still there waiting for their children to come out. I just hope they found something to do for those six hours other than sit in the parking lot – but you never know. The parents were not allowed into the testing centre but lots of them had their faces pressed up against the windows to get that first glimpse of their little darlings as they came out of the rooms where the tests were written.
Rebekah saw this and said, “Those parents really need to cut the apron strings.” And I think she was probably right. There comes a point in life when we just have to let our children go. Does that mean that they aren’t important or that we don’t care? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It simply means that we realize that we have done all that we can do as parents and that we now have to let them go and trust God to look after them. It’s just time to do what Moses’ sister did which was to stand at a distance and watch.
God has a plan and a purpose for your life. God also has a plan and a purpose for our children’s lives and if we don’t cut the apron string, despite our very good intentions, we run the risk of interfering with God’s purpose and throwing everything out of wack.
The other interesting thing about this story is that while the sister had the wisdom to stand back and watch, when she was needed she was able to step in and be helpful. When Pharaoh’s daughter made the decision to keep the baby and not have him killed, she needed help. She was not in a position to look after a baby. She could not nurse him and, in those days, princesses had servants and nannies to change the diapers and raise the children.
That’s when Moses’ sister jumped in. And when she did, she had the perfect solution. She knew a Hebrew woman who would be the perfect wet nurse. She knew the perfect family that could raise the child until he was weened and potty trained. The princess didn’t have to know that these people just happened to be Moses’ biological family. You don’t always have to tell everyone everything. Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour.
And so Moses’ own family got to raise him for a while longer. And when all of the messy stuff was out of the way, like the diapers and the food tossed all over the kitchen at meal times, Moses’ birth mother took him back to Pharaoh’s daughter so that she could raise him as a prince in Pharaoh’s palace. Everything turned out better than anyone could ever have anticipated.
Moses’ sister stood at a distance and watched what would happen to her baby brother. She watched and she waited. And she choose her time to step forward with an offer of assistance. Or, perhaps more accurately, she sought God’s timing to intervene and make suggestions that would help everyone out.
As parents and grandparents, there comes a time when we need to take a hands off approach with our children. Like Moses’ mother, we need to know when to let them go. Like Moses’ sister, we need to stand back and see what happens and be ready to offer assistance and suggestions when God calls us to do that. But ultimately, we need to let our precious children make their own decision, feel the pain of their own mistakes, celebrate the joys of their own victories and to be accountable and responsible for everything that they do. When we’ve done that as parents then we have done our jobs before God.
So, here’s the question for today. Do we trust God or don’t we? It’s important to know the answer to that question. But it’s even more important to ask if we trust him with the most precious things in the world, our children?
It’s hard to stand back and watch. It’s hard to take a hands off approach. Because our children are so precious to us, we don’t want our children to get hurt and we don’t want to watch while they are hurting. But guess what; no one gets to go through life unscathed. And it is often in the scathing that we grow the most. As Paul wrote in 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV): “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
And so comes the key question for today: Do you trust God or don’t you trust God? That’s an important question. And we instantly want to blurt out, “Of course I trust God. Why wouldn’t I trust God? I’d be a fool not to trust God.” Those are the right words, of course, and they are easy enough to say. But are our actions consistent with our words? It is in our actions that we demonstrate whether or not we actually trust God
Moses’ parents demonstrated their trust by placing their baby boy in a basket in the Nile River where any number of perils could have overtaken him. His sister demonstrated her trust when we stood at a distance and watched. What about us? Are we able to trust God that much?
I want to close by saying that I’ve learned over the years that I can trust God. I don’t always do it perfectly but I’ve learned over the years that there are advantages to putting things in God’s hands, in trusting him even with those people who are most important to me.
I can do that because I’ve learned that we are never alone. I am not alone. You are not alone. Our children and grandchildren are not alone. Even in times of trial, even when the storm clouds rise and the troubled waters run deep, we are not alone. God is there. As it says in Isaiah 43:2 (NIV): “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Trust in God to look after those people who are most important to you. We need to do what we can but, when we have done all that we can, like Moses’ parents and his sister, we need to trust and put them in God’s hands.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, we offer our praise to you without hesitation or reservation! We praise you in morning and in the evening, in our homes and at work. We praise you everywhere for everything at every time. You are our refuge and strength. Thank you for the assurance that we are never alone. We can depend on you when our own resources come to an end. You are worthy of praise and adoration and we will honor you with our thoughts, words and actions.
Creative and Living God, our Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the remaining summer. And we look toward the beginning of the school year and which is the cause of both some anxiety and some relief. Grant us your mercies as we enjoy these days of summer and prepare for another year of activities around the church whatever that may look like.
We are entering a new activity season filled with both concerns and opportunities. Much around our church is changing and the community is changing with it. Help us, O God, to continue to shine the light of your love upon the people we meet. May your blessings flow through us that we may declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. May his name be praised.
Our prayers are lifted up for the sick of our congregation and community, remembering especially Richard, Bob and Gary. Bless them with a special measure of your Healing Spirit.
Lord of Love, thank you for the assurance that, as we grow to know your Word, peace and grace will increase in our lives. That is your promise and your promises never fail. Thank you for the many other promises that you have given. Enable us to walk in them fully, trusting in your great mercy, so that through them, and by them, we may become more like you. We lift our prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
August 23, 2020 / Pentecost 12 / Proper 16
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 1124; Matthew 16:13-20; Romans 1:1-8
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: God hears our voices and attends to our cries;
ALL: God listens to our prayers and responds.
ONE: May God’s grace and judgment come into our presence;
ALL: enabling us to discern righteousness.
ONE: Let us call upon God;
ALL: who satisfies our every need.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Hope and Peace, hear our prayers. We gather to worship and sing praises to your glorious name. Your majesty extends from east to west, north to south. Your love covers us like a thick downy quilt, giving warmth and comfort. Enable us to feel, once again, the assurance of your constant peaceful presence, beside us, amongst us and within us. In a world of uncertainty, you are the rock upon which we stand. You are the breath that gives us life and the strong arms the lift us up.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
You call us to come to you but we often struggle against you. You ask us to do one thing and we do something else You lead us in one direction and turn aside to walk another path. You call us to work for justice but we often chose to ignore the acts of inhumanity that surround us. We deserve your condemnation but you bless us with mercy. Forgive us and set us free from the chains that bind us. Enable us to live anointed lives in Christ.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
One of our greatest struggles is against the temptation of sin. Rejoice when, by God’s grace, we resist and live in righteousness. Rejoice, also, that when we fall to temptation, God delivers us from the chains of death. Through Jesus Christ, we have our forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
For your many blessings, we praise you. For the wonders of Creation, we give you thanks. You have given us, O God, far more than we need. You have given us far more than we deserve. Remind us, once again, that you are the source of all good things that we may offer our heartfelt gratitude and glory.
God calls us to be one in the body of Christ. God calls us to seek reconciliation from the things that would separate us one from another. As we leave, may our lives be examples of unity and harmony. May we seek to be the people whom God has called us to be.