Sunday, May 09, 2010

Exodus 2:1-10 - A Mother called Jochebed

Opening thought
This is the 102nd anniversary of Mother’s Day. The first Mother's Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on 10 May 1908. Like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day comes out of the national trauma of the Uncivil War. Ann Jarvis was a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the War Between the States to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. When Jarvis died in 1907, her daughter, named Anna Jarvis, started the crusade to found a memorial day for women.
        That first Mother’s Day was celebrated in the church where the Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, had taught Sunday School. Originally the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, this building is now the International Mother's Day Shrine (a National Historic Landmark). From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. The holiday was declared officially by some states beginning in 1912. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
        Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. Mother's Day continues today as one of the most commercial American holidays. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine in a restaurant.
        According to IBISWorld, a publisher of business research, Americans will spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts — like spa treatments — and another $68 million on greeting cards. Mother's Day will generate about 7.8% of the US jewelry industry's annual revenue in 2008. Americans are expected to spend close to $3.51 billion in 2008 on dining out for Mother's Day, with brunch and dinner being the most popular options.
        Today we want to talk about one of the most important but otherwise overlooked mothers in the Bible, a woman named Jochebed. But before we do, I want to address a few groups of people. For some of us, Mother’s Day is not a joyous time, but a painful day. You might have lost your mother, or you desperately want to be a mother, or your mother was less than ideal. Not all of us are mothers, but Jochebed’s commitment to her children is a lesson for us in commitment to family and loved ones.

Pray and Read:  Exodus 2:1-10

Contextual Notes: 
Jochebed. Her name means “glory of YHWH.” Jochebed was the mother of three famous people: Moses, Aaron the first priest, and Miriam (Exodus 26:59). Jochebed was from the family of Levi and married a Levite named Amram, actually her nephew (Exodus 6:20). So Amram’s wife was also his aunt. West Virginia somehow comes to mind again.

        “The oak has its roots around the rock, and Jochebed’s children had their roots around their godly mother.”[1] Moses was the great lawgiver of Israel. Aaron the first of Israel’s priesthood. Miriam was the gifted prophetess and musician who saved the baby Moses in the river Nile and led the Israelites in celebration after the crossing of the Red Sea.

        Jochebed’s most famous deed was the clever way she attempted and succeeded to save her baby boy from death. Pharaoh’s program of population control through forced partial-birth abortion was failing because the Hebrew midwives were not cooperating (Exodus 1:15-20). His next directive involved sacrificing all male Hebrew babies to the god of the Nile, a crocodile-infested river.

Jochebed’s courage and trust had far-reaching consequences for the nation and the world. She is among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:23. At the time that Jochebed was expecting Moses, Miriam was about ten years old, and Aaron about three. They lived as an oppressed minority, slaves to the Egyptians, somewhere near Memphis in northeast Egypt thirty-three centuries ago.

        Imagine her suspense as she carried the child. Was it a girl or a boy? If a boy, he would be taken from her and thrown into the Nile to be devoured by a crocodile, considered a god to the Egyptians. What devastation when the midwife delivered a boy. What would she do?

        Three times the Scripture says that “she saw that he was a goodly child” (Exodus 2:2; Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). How did she keep him a secret when he cried out loud?  When she could hide him no longer, she plaited some reeds and put the water cradle among the bulrushes, and she put Miriam on guard duty to watch him.

        Soon Pharaoh’s daughter, coming to bathe, found the little one in the basket, and Miriam offered to find a nurse for her, none other than Moses’ own mother, Jochebed. And Pharaoh’s daughter paid her a wage to nurse her own son.

        One thing I’ve always wondered about was Pharaoh’s daughter naming the baby boy, Moshe, or Moses, a Hebrew name which means, “drawn out” of the water, that is. Wouldn’t she have more likely named him with an Egyptian name? Well, she did. She named him Moshe indeed. In Egyptian it means, “son of” or “my son,” as in the names of pharaohs like Thutmose and Ahmose.[2]

        Jochebed died a slave of an oppressed minority in Egypt. By the time Moses was 40 years old and fled the country after killing the Egyptian overseer, Jochebed apparently was dead. She never saw what kind of man became of the little baby boy she had saved.

Key Truth: Moses wrote about his mother in Exodus 2 to give an example of wisdom, courage, faith, and love.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what the Bible says about the kind of mother you should be.

Sermon Points: God calls you to be a mother of
1.           Be a mother of Courage (Exodus 2:1-3)
2.           Be a mother of Wisdom (Exodus 2:4-8)
3.           Be a mother of Faith (Exodus 2:9-10)

Exposition:   Note well,
1.   BE A MOTHER OF COURAGE (Exodus 2:1-3).
a.           Jochebed knew she was breaking the law by not killing her baby. She knew the risks. Her whole family could be executed by the authorities. They were nothing but dirty slaves, of no value to anyone, but Jochebed knew there is a higher law than the government. Even if her government had a low view of life, she had a high view of life, and it came from her heritage of the Word of God and the promises to her forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When most mothers were keeping their mouths shut for fear and giving their babies up to be thrown in the Nile, Jochebed had courage to say NO.

b.           APPLICATION: There may be a time when you must be courageous for your own children’s sake. It may be that their weekend visits with your former spouse expose them to all kinds of abuse and filth. You need the courage to report that to the authorities and protect your children.

It may be that you are struggling with taking that step to sacrifice some extras in your life to stay home with your children. You know the truth that no one can take care of your children better than you can, but the fear of debt and the convenience of not having the extras you want keep you in a daily misery of guilt for leaving your children with someone else and in a job you hate anyway. Have you ever thought that the expenses of working, a vehicle, car insurance, fuel, car taxes, work clothes, income taxes, day care, etc. might be costing you more money that you are actually making? Even if you’re breaking even, it is worth the price that your children are paying?

Or perhaps you are in the place where you need the courage to go back to work for your children’s sake. Perhaps they need help getting through school. Perhaps the best thing you can do for them to help them is to go back to work outside the home. The point is that whatever the Lord has called you to do, you need to ask him for the courage to be obedient.

Women today are killing their children, not out of fear, but out of convenience. You might need the courage not to take the easy way out with your unborn baby, to say NO to the lie of abortion. The truth is, that abortion is murder – every time. Killing your baby is not the answer, and the regrets last for a lifetime.

2.   BE A MOTHER OF WISDOM  (Exodus 2:4-8).
a.           Jochebed was nobody’s fool. She made that little basket and coated it with tar and pitch, the same as Noah’s ark. And Miriam was not just playing in the water. She was on guard. The river is full of crocodiles.
b.           And do you think she just happened to place it in bulrushes upstream from the Egyptian princess’s bathing spot?
c.           And how do you think a ten-year old slave girl knew what to say to a royal princess? Don’t you think someone had coached her? Miriam wasn’t just standing around the princess’s bathing spot offering free nurses to baby boys floating in the river. Jochebed’s wise head was behind all this, protecting her child.

d.           APPLICATION: Are you watching out for your children? Are you protecting them from what is on television? Or do they have their own television in their room? Are you protecting them from things they can see on the internet or online predators they cannot see? Or is the computer used in a private place (or in their room) without protective software? Are you protecting them from harmful video games? Do you even know what the games involve and why your child is so addicted to them? Are you protecting them from kids, adults, and places that may have temptations over their heads? Alcohol, weed, raging hormones? Maybe it’s time you let them show you how to use their iPod and listen to some of that music. Maybe it’s time to find out how to do Facebook or text so that you can know what is going on in your kids’ lives.

3.   BE A MOTHER OF FAITH (2:9-10)
a.             Jochebed saw the image of God in that little boy, “he was a fine child” (Exodus 2:2).
b.           Where do you think Moses, Aaron, and Miriam got their training, their understanding of the Bible and the covenants and the love of God? It wasn’t in the court of Pharaoh. It had to happen early in their lives. Miriam and Amram taught them, trained them, made them to know their heritage and their faith in God and why they should believe.

c.           APPLICATION: You know, it’s not the Sunday School’s responsibility to teach your child about the Lord Jesus and the Bible stories. It’s not the childrens director’s responsibility. It’s not the youth pastor’s responsibility. It’s your responsibility. Are you doing it? Are you reading a Bible story several times a week to your child? Have they ever seen you praying or reading your Bible? That has a big impact on them. Do you pray with them more than teaching them a little ditty that you use for a table blessing?

d.           Why do you think our young people drop out of church? They are not seeing it modeled in their homes growing up. You can’t live any way you want to and play church on Sunday and expect your children to have any respect for the God you claim to worship. Your calling is to live a Christlike example before your children. Oh, and BTW, Hannah Montana is not a good replacement role model for your children. Make it your top priority to nourish in your children a love for the Word of God, a love for the Lord, and when the Holy Spirit moves in them, a commitment to give their lives to Jesus Christ.

Invitation: Everything Jochebed did in her family was motivated by love. She hid him for love. She basketed him for love. She nursed him for love and got paid from the royal treasury of Egypt for doing it, too.
Will you make a fresh commitment today to love your children? Perhaps someone here today needs to open their arms and receive the Christ of Love whose life in you will make you a person who can love. Would you respond to the Lord today?

[1] Herbert Lockyer, All the Women of the Bible, 79-81.
[2] Africa Bible Commentary, 88.