It is often said that we are ordinary people, with an extraordinary God. The book of Exodus and all the phenomenal stories in it, definitely point to a God whose ways are far beyond man’s. And embedded within the grand plot of Israel’s redemption from Egypt and journey to the promised land, are multiple moments where ordinary people were given a choice to take a risk and trust an omnipotent God.
But the midwives feared God and did not do what the King of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So God dealt well with the midwives…And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Exodus 1:17,20-21.
Shiprah and Puah are names that are not usually remembered when it comes to biblical characters. They were Hebrew midwives at a time when the king of Egypt, out of fear of losing his dominion to a rapidly growing race, wanted all male babies killed. With no ultrasound yet to carry out gender determination and murder in utero, the king called upon the two midwives with the busiest practice and ordered them to do the killing at the moment of delivery, as soon as they have verified the baby’s gender. But these women feared God more than the genocidal king. And because they feared God and not man, God gave them the courage to do what was right. Even when summoned back and interrogated by the king, they were able to stand firmly and defend their position wisely by giving details on how Hebrew mothers give birth – details that were impossible for the king to refute. Read verse 19 and imagine the king trying to wrap his mind around the scenario: deep breath, now PUSHHHHHH!!!!! He probably said that was too much information, forget plan A, move on to plan B. Meanwhile, God looked upon Shiprah and Puah with favor, and rewarded them for their faithfulness.
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 in the river bank. Exodus 2:3
Chapter 2 tells us of the birth of Moses and how God preserved his life. Can you imagine being a mom in those days? Baby boys were being thrown by Egyptian soldiers into the river Nile to die. It took tremendous faith and courage on the part of Jochebed (Moses’ mother) to hide her child on the banks of the Nile. We read this with comfort because we know what would happen to Moses. But Jochebed didn’t know that. She took a huge risk. Did she think the river would be the last place for the soldiers to be looking for a living baby? We don’t know. Nonetheless she took the effort of waterproofing the basket so that her child wouldn’t drown. That which was within her power to do, she did well. And she left the unknown to the all-knowing God.
Mothers, think of Jochebed when it’s time to send your kid to kindergarten, or when it’s time to drop him off to college, or when your child joins the military, or leaves for mission work. At the same time, let’s seek the Lord for the grace to waterproof that basket with His love and truth.
Now back to Egypt, where it’s bath time for the princess. I count her story as one of courage, too. She did not belong to God’s chosen race but it doesn’t mean God couldn’t use her.
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.” Exodus 2:6
God moved her heart and she took pity on the baby. In that moment, she who was also created in the image of God, somehow saw the preciousness of this life that has been hidden in a humble basket. She knew that this helpless one needed protection – one that was within her capacity to give, though it meant going against her father’s edict. On behalf of a child who was not her own, she chose life. She chose to keep the baby.
As we think of our own life stories, I’m sure there were times when God sent someone at just the right time and place to meet us at our point of need. That someone might not even be a fellow believer, and the encounter was likely unexpected. It only proves that God is able to use anyone, anywhere, at any time, if He so desired.
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?” Exodus 2:7
Finally, let’s look at a young girl, the sister of Moses. She has been keeping an eye on her brother’s basket. Was she filled with horror when the maids took the basket and brought it to the daughter of the king; the king who wanted her brother dead? I’m not sure how old Miriam was at that time. I’m in my 50’s. I’ve had years and years of education, training and professional experience. But I don’t think I could’ve come up with a plan as wise as Miriam’s when she came up to the princess and tactfully asked if she could get her a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. Clearly, Miriam was more than a guardian who stood at a safe distance. She sprung out of her hiding place, intervened at the first hint of opportunity, and did it so graciously. She was just a young girl, but God gave her courage.
And we know what happened next. Jochebed got paid by the princess to nurse her own baby. Just two short chapters into Exodus and I am already absolutely amazed by the wisdom and greatness of God. No one else could have written this story. No king, no power can stop God’s plan from moving forward. This is because He is indeed an extraordinary God who uses ordinary people. The king of Egypt was already wealthy and powerful, and yet because he didn’t know God, he greatly feared man. He feared the thought of being overthrown by men. The Hebrew women in this story feared God, not man. That’s the difference.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.