I was recently asked to preach from the first part of Exodus 2:1-10. The first time I opened the passage and read it, I thought to myself, “how in the world can anyone preach from this tiny story?” It’s a concise summary that simply says Moses is born, put in a basket, found by a princess, and grows up. Yet sure enough, God’s word proved to be bigger, smarter, and deeper than my little mind assumed. Through more intense study I found out this passage to be filled with many satisfying riches of wisdom and profoundly humbling ideas. Let me share a few:
1. There is indeed evil in this world
The very backdrop to this famous story is the fact that there is evil. Moses is known all around the world, three major world religions mention his name (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) and yet, it’s not because of Moses himself. Instead, the primary cause of his “fame” is the evil nature of the Egyptian oppressors. Had there been no oppression, there would be no Moses story. So thus we see, everything starts with evil. This world is evil. There is a very real “badness” here. Sin and evil is the only good explanation of why things are the way they are. Post-modern thought alludes that there is no good/evil and everything is relative, yet in the pages of this Bible story, we can clearly see a very real, tangible, presence of evil.
2. God’s presence changes legacies
Everyone who has been around the church has heard of the word “Levite.” Growing up, I was taught that the Levites were a very special group of people, who were anointed by the Lord to be involved in ministry as priests and musicians. They were very highly esteemed and carried some of most prestigious roles in all of Israel. What isn’t always taught is the broken beginning of this special tribe. The Levites were the descendants of Levi, one of the sons of Jacob. He, along with his brother, earned a curse from their father (Genesis 49:5-7) for violently avenging their sisters seduction (Genesis 34:24–30). Yet, even though Levi’s namesake was a curse, and his legacy was to be filled with corruption, because of the advent of Moses who saved his people, Levi’s legacy was forever changed. The Levites ceased to be cursed, and became blessed.
3. God’s Providence misses no detail
The Nile is a dangerous place. In fact, no civilization on earth has been able to successfully send an expedition from the north to the south, or vice versa. Every attempt has failed and resulted in death. First, there 10 types of venomous snakes that slither perilously close to the river. Then crocodiles that are set to devour anything. Also there are Hippopotami that aggressively turn over boats (and have statistically killed more humans than the assumed “most dangerous predator,” the lion). In addition there are tropical diseases carried by mosquitoes, sunstroke, roaring rapids, dehydration, and many other dangers. And for Moses, another threat was being found by an Egyptian who would murder him by drowning in the Nile per the law. Yet, in an very palpable display of God’s Providence over all things, Moses was protected from all of these dangers. Every minute this tiny, defenseless, baby stayed in this hazardous river He was protected by the sovereign hand of God.
4. God works through human means
While God miraculously protected Moses from the many dangers, his salvation was provided partly through uniquely human means. The sister of Moses stood at a distance and watched the basket. When God had providentially brought the daughter of Pharaoh to the baby, the sister of Moses ran up to her and asked her if she needed a Hebrew nurse to take care of the baby. Instead of saying “God will protect Moses all by Himself” and leaving, his sister stayed and participated in God’s plan. Surely, if she had left, and God wanted to, he could have done it another way. Yet God often works his good will through human hands, and we get to join in his mission and participate in his plan. Not because God needs it, but because he is pleased to let us partake and receive the reward of working with him.
5. God changes hearts and gives compassion
Even in the most unexpected of all places, God is at work. The very same grandiose halls that housed the wicked Pharaoh, who decreed death to all Hebrew babes, held another Egyptian royal. The Pharaohs daughter, who was raised in the same riches, spoils, prestige, and religion as her father. She carried the family responsibility and honor upon her shoulders. What her father, the Pharaoh, declared, was her royal duty to uphold and promote. And so she found a child in the River, one whom she was clearly ordered to kill. She knew the law, and knew Moses was a Hebrew. Yet Scripture says she rejected her Fathers order to kill Moses and “took pity upon him.” Her father’s irrevocable command was ignored for God gave her compassion for this child. In Hebrew tradition, this princess also eventually left Egypt in the Exodus.
6. God is in the business of reversals
In the opening of the story we see dangers, perils, and a slave mother who is forced to abandon her child. All hope is lost. Then in a manner of minutes, we see the complete transformation and reversal to this story. The baby who was sentenced to death, now lives. The poor slave woman who would waste her money to take care of her child, is now paid to do it. The child who was in peril by the Pharaohs hand, is now protected by the Pharaohs family. Where there was darkness, we now see light. Where there was poverty, we now see prosperity. Where there was death, we now see life. This is the manner in which God often works, by reversing a story, at the moment when all seems lost. What a great God he is!
7. Peasants become princes
While Moses shares many similarities with Jesus (He is in fact a “type” of Christ), he also shares many with us humans. One of the biggest is the transformation of a common peasant slave into a son of the royal house of Egypt. Moses is adopted by the Royal family and becomes one of them. He receives fame, fortune, and esteem. All of it given freely to him while he is a helpless babe, none of it earned by His efforts. Similarly, we too are adopted by the Father of an even more Royal House, with more fame, fortune, and esteem. Also, like Moses, we are peasant slave children, we have nothing good to offer to the Royal Kingdom. We too are set to be killed and destroyed because of our unworthy namesake. Yet Moses is loved and adopted, and so too, are we.
8. The source of death became the source of life.
The great grandfather of Moses, Joseph was once sold into slavery by his brothers. He later told them that “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20). Echoing this, the Pharaoh intended to use the River Nile to drown the future of the Hebrew people, yet God intended to use the Nile to raise the deliverer of the Hebrew people, to give them a future. So too as Satan and sinners physically killed Christ, meaning to accomplish evil, God meant it to accomplish good. This is a profound truth found in Scripture. The source of death becomes a source of life. The source of shame becomes a source of glory and joy. The Nile river was the chosen instrument of death to be used to drown Moses. Instead, that same Nile river brought Moses life. So too God’s perfect justice was meant bring us death for our sins, but it brought us life through the punishment of Christ. And today that same cross that was a symbol of death has now become a symbol of life.