Do you believe in coincidences? Do you believe that things happen just because they happen? Or is there a cause behind every event, and a reason for every happening? Today’s passage tells us that a surprising sequence of events that happened in Egypt was not a matter of coincidence - God’s mighty hand was behind it!
(A) A Couple’s Faith (Exo 2:1-3, Heb 11:23)
Today's passage starts off with “Now”. We know from Exodus 1 that the Hebrew people were under slavery, and their newborn sons were condemned to be slaughtered, for Pharaoh had just sent out a command that every Hebrew son shall be cast into the Nile. The way the passage begins reminds us of this harsh reality. The people of Israel were not having the best of times. We also see the characters described by their house - Levi (Exo 2:1). This stems from Exodus 1:2, where we know such a house of Israel existed, and this tells us that these people find their heritage in the family of Jacob. We can be sure about this from the text!
But something shocking is introduced in Exo 1:2. We learn that the woman was committing a crime! In fact, she was directly disobeying a “law” set out by Pharaoh-the-dictator. This is a dangerous as the punishment could be severe for going against Pharaoh’s commands. But why take this risk? The same verse tells us that she was motivated because she saw that her child was a “fine child”. This word “fine” here means “good”, and it is the same word that God uses to describe creation when he created in Genesis 1. You might be skeptical when you first read this passage, and think, “of course his mother thinks that he is a fine child, which mother wouldn’t?” But this is an echo of the promise that God makes to Abraham, that through his offspring, all nations will be blessed (Gen 22:17-18). You and I should be asking “is this the offspring that all the nations will be blessed through?” If we think about how God described creation, how children are a fulfilment of the promise, and what the Hebrew woman must have been thinking, we gain an understanding of the situation’s immensity.
This is important for us today because blessing in the Bible isn’t just about getting material things, but about curse reversal - it is about returning to Genesis 1. It is God saving the world out of the sin they committed! How do you count your blessing today? What does it mean to be “blessed” for you? Do you count them by your achievements, by your family, by your relationships? These are all good things but how often do we count God’ curse reversal as blessing? Friends, there is no greater blessing than to see the curse of sin and death reversed. There is no greater blessing than to see one come to Christ. How often do we rejoice and give thanks for the gift of salvation? How do we think about blessing?
The actions of this Hebrew woman, mother of the "fine child" were also hopeful, desperate, and determined. But they were also entirely practical. She was making a waterproof basket for her son (Exo 2:3). The word for basket here is the same word for “Ark”, and we will touch more about that later. Notice also her desperation, as she was willing to set him down the Nile in that basket. How do we know this? Bulrushes are long, tall grass-looking plants that grow out of water and are probably buoyant. Also, bitumen and pitch (semi solid bitumen) were ingredients used to water proof things. This woman did everything to save her child - determined, practical, and desperate. Does this strike you as odd? Do you realise that people of the Bible - people typically regarded as unpractical faith people - are practical?
Here’s the surprising thing: Hebrews 11 also tells us that Moses’ parents did all of these things by faith! Their practical actions were also done in faith. Isn’t having faith trusting that all will turn out well? Isn't it just believing in the positive, and never giving up? Whatever our prior conceptions of faith, this passage shows that we can exercise faith and be extremely practical at the same time. Faith demonstrates an resolved belief in God’s promises. Doing so informs and shapes your life. How do you and I do that in school? How do we study diligently and yet have faith? How do we work responsibly and yet exercise faith? How do we serve our church faithfully? It is difficult to be practical and exercise faith at the same time because we all too often depend on ourselves to make things work out - our plans, and goals, our energy, strategies. In our good times, see that God's promises are better! In our suffering, take comfort in His promises too.
Faith in the Bible is not a mere pick-me-up but consists of persistent and certain hope in the promises of God, and it is such faith (Heb 10:39) that obtains salvation on the last day. Our faith is in Christ, whereby we trust that the object of our faith will accomplish all that it sets out to. This is our hope!
(B) Two Courageous Women (Ex 2:4-9)
There are two women in the following encounter (Exo 2:4-9). Moses' sister was a Hebrew slave who followed Moses’ basket (Exo 2:4) and was bold enough to speak to Pharaoh’s daughter (Exo 2:7). How could we describe her actions and attitude? Miriam, like her mother, had a real “risk it all” approach. In speaking to Pharaoh’s daughter, Miriam risks it all, she was a slave, and we must remember how dangerous it could be to speak to an Egyptian, let alone to Pharaoh’s daughter. We must remember the climate in which this encounter took place. Pharaoh was a ruthless king and the Israelites lived bitter lives and were in hard service because of him. And yet, Miriam adopts this risk it all attitude to ask if Pharaoh’s daughter wanted to keep him. This is almost suggesting treason to a high-ranking government official.
What made Miriam ready to risk it all? What would make you risk it all? What is worth your "risk it all"? Is it worth it? What have you staked your life on? Has it paid off? Have you felt a sense of being cheated? The Bible tells us that in God are pleasures forevermore (Ps 16), and what we need most is God, a relationship with him. Anything other thing will fail to live up to your expectations. A prestigious job, finishing top of your class in school, having a child, marrying the love of your life, winning the lottery, etc. Do you believe that? Have you experienced the futility of staking your life on things or people other than God?
We also know that the woman that picks up the basket is not any woman, but is Pharaoh's daughter, Egyptian royalty. She went to bathe, found the basket, took pity on the baby and decided to keep him (Exo 2:5-6). She demonstrated kindness and courage, because she was willing to act against her father’s decree. It would seem strange especially because she knew that this was a Hebrew child, and by keeping him alive, she was directly defying Pharaoh. This is no accident. She even agrees to pay someone to keep this child alive. This is outright law breaking from Pharaoh’s daughter of all people.
What happens after this amazing encounter is even more mind-blowing. Moses' mother ends up getting paid to nurse her son, thanks to Miriam's intervention and boldness (Exo 2:7-8). This would have been the most unimaginable scenario for the woman - the part where "coincidence" doesn’t seem to cut it as as an explanation. When she placed him in the basket, she would have been thankful if he was alive, let alone be picked up by Pharaoh’s daughter (the horror), and somehow be paid to nurse her own son by Egyptian royalty. You and I read these verses quickly, but what is going on here? It is a miracle! She must have been overjoyed, she must have felt like “all my hard work has paid off”, and in fact, that God has rewarded my faith in trusting him to deliver my son. Put simply, she must have been mind-blown.
To see one’s hopes and dreams come to absolute fruition is to know one of life’s greatest joys. How would you describe this God who fulfils such hopes? He is a very kind God, who gives beyond what we can imagine or think. Have you ever felt this way, where you asked or hoped for something, and something ten-fold the goodness takes place. Our God does far more than we can imagine, and his goodness is undoubted. While things may not seem like it in the present, we can trust that His ways are higher and better than our ways.
(C) A Saving God (Exo 2:10)
Our passage ends off with Moses’ deliverance. (Exo 2:10). This entire passage is laced with God’s work of delivering Moses, where God protects him from the start to finish and delivers his life. Here, there is no chance of chance. There is the faith of Moses’ parents in God’s promises of salvation. There is the ark that protects Moses in the river, and there is even an Egyptian royalty who pays to nurture him. Were these coincidences or was God protecting Moses’ life?
There is another who was born under a decree of death. We have just read it during Christmas. In Matthew 2, another king, one called Herod commands that all males in Bethlehem under 2 years old shall be killed. But God also protected him, telling his parents to bring him to Egypt till Herod died. How does this all matter for us? It matters because we have a saving God.
God is able to save us completely, and he uses even people outside of the "people of God" to affect salvation - Pharaoh’s daughter is no Hebrew. If you are a Christian today, following Christ, can you see how God worked in you to bring you to knowledge of him? Who brought you to know God? How did you meet that person? Why did you decide to listen to that person? What made you stake your life on Christ? And how is God still working in your circumstances today, sanctifying you to become more like Christ?
Our God is a God who is working in all our circumstances. That is one of the hardest things to believe, especially when life seems directionless, aimless, and extremely mundane. How do we trust that God indeed is working? What if none of our work, our ministry or mission excites us? What if no fruit can be seen for all our labour? Look to the Bible. This passage tells you that God is not doing nothing!
If you are not a Christian today, this is the kind of God we come before, one who saves by pure grace, completely by his own doing. There is nothing you and I can do be saved, but God in his power, saves us by Jesus Christ, the one who “has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Hebrews 3:3) God Himself condescended in the Person of Christ - the baby in the manger - not just to save a nation, but to save the world!