This is a terrible story—almost like the story of the Holocaust. Pharaoh feared the Jews, and set out to suppress them. First, he tried making them work longer and harder, but they continued to breed and to prosper. Then he told the midwives to kill the baby boys, but the midwives disobeyed. Finally he did the same thing that Hitler did three thousand years later. He started killing Jews—in this case, all the baby boys.
This is a story about women. All the heroes are women. The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, not only disobeyed pharaoh; they then told him a crazy story that he bought hook-line-and-sinker. God honored Shiphrah and Puah by including their names in the Bible. They lived three thousand years ago in Egypt, but we talk about them today in Pacific Grove. People will remember Shiphrah and Puah throughout the rest of history, because Shiphrah and Puah obeyed God instead of pharaoh.
Moses’ mother was a hero. She defied pharaoh by hiding her baby.
Moses’ sister was a hero. She stood guard over the baby. When pharaoh’s daughter discovered the baby, Moses’ sister said, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” What presence of mind!
And pharaoh’s own daughter was a hero. She defied her father by rescuing this Jewish baby. Everyone else might run scared of her father, but nobody was going to kill this baby while she was around.
All the heroes were women. I am reminded of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. He and his people were doing a great job taking care of needy people and spreading the gospel, but some people criticized Booth for allowing women to hold responsible positions. Booth replied:
“All my best men
Sometimes it is like that, isn’t it! When it comes to people who are actually willing to do something—to get their hands dirty—some of our best men are women.
But, most of all, this is a story about God. Moses’ was not born by accident. He was part of God’s plan. God’s people were hurting. They were being worked to death in the blazing sun. It was like the Nazi concentration camps. The objective was not getting work done. The objective was working Jews to death. When a man stumbled from too little food or too much sun, the soldiers whipped him. The only good Jew was a dead Jew, as far as the Egyptians were concerned.
And so a baby was born. This story shows how far God plans ahead. It shows how carefully he works behind the scenes to help his people. Nobody could suspect that the baby was important. Nobody could see the plan. Moses’ birth seemed unimportant, unplanned, even chaotic. Nevertheless, God was at work quietly behind the scenes, preparing, getting ready to act, getting ready to save his people.
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I am reminded of my experience working on one of the early interstate bridges near Abilene, Kansas. When I arrived on the job, workers had dug holes. They had even begun to build some of the bridge supports. But I could not picture how the bridge would look. To my uneducated eye, the work site was chaos—mud and debris. There was, as yet, no highway to which the bridge could connect. On one side stood a farmer’s field; on the other side stood another. The construction site was simply disorder in the middle of nowhere.
But today that bridge works day and night carrying cars and trucks, because there was, from the beginning, a plan. In the early stages of construction I could not see the plan, but the planner saw the plan.
God had a plan to save his people. His people couldn’t see it, but God had started to work. A baby was born. He would grow up to free God’s people. The Jews would not have been happy with the plan. It was too slow. “Hey, God, we don’t need help twenty years from now! We need help NOW!”
But God had started his work. A baby had been born. It didn’t look like much. It didn’t look any more important than the hole in the ground that starts a new bridge. People couldn’t look at that baby and imagine what God was going to do, any more than I could look at the hole in the ground and imagine what the bridge would look like. But it was a start.
God had started, and there would be no stopping him. Pharaoh tried, but failed. He tried to work the Jews to death, but failed. He tried to get the midwives to kill the Jewish babies but failed. He tried to get the people to kill the Jewish babies, but his own daughter sabotaged his plan. Pharaoh didn’t really understand the game. He thought that he was fighting the Jews, but he was really fighting God. Pharaoh never had a chance. The most powerful man in the world never had a chance, because he was fighting God.
God is still at work in our world, and he will win again. Sometimes that is hard to imagine when we read the headlines or watch the news. How can such terrible things happen if God has a plan? But that is what the Hebrews thought when pharaoh was trying to work them to death—and killing their babies. Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something? But God was doing something. A baby was born, and pharaoh couldn’t kill him. In fact, pharaoh ended up paying the baby’s mother to take care of the baby. God has a sense of humor.
God is at work in our world and in our lives. He is at work in your life. He loves you as much as he loved those Hebrew slaves. He loves you as much as he loved Moses. He has plans for you too. They might be great or they might be small; it is impossible to say. Nobody would have guessed that God had great plans for this Hebrew baby. What can a baby do? Well, that depends. It depends on God.
Sometimes we wonder about God! When things are not going well, we ask the same questions that the Jews asked in Egypt and in the Nazi camps. Where is God? Why isn’t he doing something? Why am I sick? Why can’t I find a better job? Why didn’t things work out better? Why can’t I find a husband or a wife? Why? Why? Why?
But the God who called his Son to the cross does not call us to a featherbed. God does not promise his people prosperity; he promises us victory. The road to victory is seldom easy, and God does not promise to make things easy for us. In fact, Jesus warns us:
“Enter in by the narrow gate;
for wide is the gate and broad
is the way that leads to destruction,
and many are those who enter in by it.
How narrow is the gate,
and restricted is the way that leads to life!
Few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
But, if we can live in faith, even through the hard times, we can be assured that God has planned the battle and will lead us to victory.
One note of caution! Pharaoh worked against God, but was unable to defeat God’s plan. But if Moses had rebelled, he could have defeated God’s plan for him. If the Jews had rebelled, they could have defeated God’s plan for them.
God has a plan for us. He has planned our victory over life and death. Nobody in this world can defeat God’s plan for us—except us. If we refuse to walk with God, he will, with great sadness, accept our refusal. And then we will have lost.
Commit your life to God and to doing his will this day, and let him show you his grand design for your life.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan