I’m sure you’ve had an opportunity in a conversation, perhaps recently, to tell someone where you grew up. I’m an Iowa transplant, so it happens to me pretty often. Now, I usually answer the question with, “I grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Iowa in 2001 to marry Jodi,” but there are certain occasions where I go all the way back, to, “My dad was a feed truck driver delivering grain to a farm when he caught the eye of the farmers daughter.”
In Exodus 2-4, Moses is telling his “all the way back” story as he’s writing the Story of God for the Israelites. He wants the people to see God’s protection and provision for him as a child, his call on his life as a young man, so the people embrace him as their authorized leader. So, off he goes:
Now a man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son; when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him.
Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile while her servant girls walked along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds, sent her slave girl, took it, opened it, and saw him, the child – and there he was, a little boy, crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.”
This is one of those sections of the Story of God that seems like random facts the author could have skipped over, especially all the commas in the part about Pharaoh’s daughter! But there is a deep richness to this that I couldn’t squeeze into the message last week that I wanted to come back and write about.
A NEW ADAM
Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31 all say that after God created something, brought order from the chaos, or called something into existence, “God saw that it was good.” Moses’ mother saw him, and saw that he was beautiful. In Hebrew, it’s the same word as “good.” There’s a new creation, a new Adam, happening again here. Then, because the king ordered all Hebrew babies to be thrown in the river, his mother hides the three month old in the river, in a basket coated with asphalt and pitch – the same material used to coat the gopher wood that Noah’s ark was made of. If the ark symbolized rescue from destruction, this child in a basket will symbolize rescue as well.
Tension arises in the story, though, as the daughter of the murderous king appears by the water’s edge. She is there to bathe, and her servant girls are walking the riverbank keeping watch. But in a surprising twist in the story, she has compassion on the child and ends up taking him into her home as her own son after he is weaned.
THE PALACE OF A KING
Throughout this story, it’s easy to see that God is our Protector. He is sovereign in all that he does. It is God’s divine order that led Pharaoh’s daughter to the river right where the basket would be, and his providence that would Moses in the palace of the king, a place of abundant riches, unlimited food and resources, and a well-stocked future. Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us that when Moses was older, he refused this kind of wealth and traded it for the wealth of knowing Christ, choosing to identify with the slaves instead of the Egyptians. This would prove costly, and he had to run.
In Exodus 3:7, now as a nomadic shepherd in the wilderness of Midian, God reveals himself to Moses and calls him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out. The Lord says:
I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out becuase of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing the milk and honey…”
Look at the similarities!
Pharaoh’s daughter observed Moses; God observed the nation.
Pharaoh’s daughter heard Moses crying; God heard the cries of the nation.
Pharaoh’s daughter knows Moses is a Hebrew; God knows more than our nationality. He knows our suffering, our sins, our fears, our anxieties.
Pharaoh’s daughter reached into the water and drew him out; God reached down to rescue the nation out of Egypt.
Pharaoh’s daughter brought Moses into the wealth of the palace; God will bring the nation into the goodness, spaciousness, and abundance of the Promised Land.
HOW MUCH MORE?
If the daughter of a madman is merciful and compassionate, then won’t the God of creation who called the sun, moon, and stars into existence do much more? If the daughter of the king is able to defy the commands of the most powerful man on the earth, then how much more should the nation of Israel be unashamed and unafraid to reject all other gods!? If God can protect Moses in the house of Pharaoh, how much more can he fulfill his other promises to them? If an evil ruler will give into the wishes of his daughter to raise a Hebrew boy right in front of his face, how much more will a gracious and compassionate God generously give all things to the nation he has called to himself?
Maybe you feel like your life is out of control, or not what you thought it would be. The story of Moses’ birth gives us great confidence that God is always at work, no matter how things seem to appear! He never sleeps, or vacations, or needs a break.
NOT FROM HERE
This world is not our home. Like Moses in the river, Jesus was given up for death as well, buried in a sealed tomb, and raised to life again for our deliverance from this papyrus basket that is our temporary home. The empty tomb points to the goodness and abundance we will inherit when our deliverance has come, and we are finally home.