A former parishioner of mine told me that when she was eighteen she had a child but was unable to care for her. She put the child up for adoption. It was an extremely difficult decision for her. She lived with the guilt and sorrow of never knowing her daughter. On the other hand it was a courageous act to give the child an opportunity to be raised in a family who would provide for her.
For a mother to release her child into the hands of strangers is a difficult task. It takes tremendous courage and faith to trust that our children will be cared for outside of our protective grasp. At some point we ultimately give them their wings and set them free, but to let them go when they are infants requires real faith and trust.
The mother of Moses wanted to give her infant son a chance so she put him in a basket and released him in the Nile River. Hebrew male infants were in danger at the time of being killed by the Egyptians. If Moses was going to have a life his mother had no alternative other than to “ship” him away. For Moses, this was his only chance for survival.
Now that school has begun some of you will place your child on a yellow school bus for the very first time. That can be a scary experience since you are entrusting your children’s lives into the hands of strangers. Others will be sending their son or daughter away to some college campus. That too, can be painful. Your children will meet total strangers. Their teachers may be from another culture. To send our children off for any reason can be very emotional and scary. It will take courage and faith.
We know little about the mother of Moses except for her tremendous act of faith. Imagine her personal sadness and emotional feelings of loss, not to mention guilt, as she placed her child in the river, not knowing of his future. I believe she must have trusted in God to watch over him. In addition, I believe she was thinking more of him than herself as she wanted him to have a life. Therefore, she willingly took a great risk and ultimately let him go.
Incidentally, the Nile River was full of crocodiles and swift currents. Moses was in treacherous waters, but safe and secure in the basket his mother had made for him.
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The word for basket in Hebrew is “tebah.” The word also appears in Genesis. It is also the same word for “ark.” Just as the mother of Noah entrusted her son’s life in a tebah, it was also a tebah that saved Noah and the animals from the great flood.The tebah or ark of Moses carried him down the waters of the Nile and safely into the hands of the daughter of the Pharoah. She, like the mother of Moses, took a great risk in rescuing the infant Hebrew boy. Somehow she convinced her father to raise the child. Ironically, Moses was raised, educated and cared for in the nation that was the enemy of the Hebrews.
Miraculously Moses’ sister witnessed the whole river scene and was asked by the daughter of the Pharoah to fetch a young Hebrew woman to nurse the child. She therefore went and selected the mother of Moses and mother and child were reunited.
One day my friend, who had put her child up for adoption, called me to tell me that she had received a phone call from a voice of a thirty-year old woman who did not identify herself. She thought it might be her daughter who she had not seen since the day she was born. She didn’t know what to do if she called her again. I suggested that her daughter was most likely reaching out to her and something was probably going on in her life. It turned out that she called again and indeed it was her daughter who now had children of her own. They had some questions about their heritage and ultimately they were reunited.
They did not become a close family. Too much time had passed. They did however vow to keep in touch and at best became pen pals. The good news however is that my friend felt vindicated. Now that she had reconnected with her daughter she no longer felt guilty. She also believed she had done the right thing by letting her go since she had loving parents to care for her and her children.
For my friend her “tebah” was the act of putting her daughter up for adoption. It wasn’t a basket or an ark. Instead it was a system that provides homes for children who have none. Providing “tebah” for someone is an act of mercy. It means we are willing to take a risk, willing to let go and willing to show mercy for another human being.
These are stories of women of courage, women who were willing to take risks and trust that God would watch over them. The mother of Moses was a woman of faith. My friend was also a woman of faith, active and dedicated to the church.
What we glean from this story is that God wants us to take risks. The mother of Moses took a risk to liberate her child. All that mattered was his freedom. Consider the risks: Would the basket float? Would it survive the currents of the river? Would the child escape the danger of the crocodiles? Would he be safe in the hands of the Egyptians? All she could do was take the chance.
In this case a complete stranger is entrusted with Moses’ future. There are times in life when we have to entrust our children’s lives into the hands of people we don’t know. When we do, we can be assured that God is just as present on foreign soil as God is on ours.
Consider Shawn Johnson, gymnast for the US Olympic Team. Her parents mortgaged their home twice to pay for their daughter’s gymnastic training. What a huge sacrifice to make for her future. On the other hand they entrusted her life into the hands of her trainer, Liang Chow, who is from China. Shawn Johnson won a gold medal from her performance on the balance beam. She trained since she was a little girl, her parents supporting her all the way, entrusting her life in the hands of her Chinese coach.
God works through all kinds of people. In the story of Moses it was not a powerful ruler who made a difference, but people behind the scenes, all of them women. Their acts of mercy would change history. They defied the oppressive system of a powerful Pharoah and saved and nurtured a young child that would one day become leader of the Israelites.
There are times when we need to take risks in order to ensure that justice and mercy prevail. Sometimes we have to say “no” to power and act with faithful hearts.God can work through anyone, even people who are foreign to us. It requires sacrifice, faith and trust. Since tebah worked for Moses and the first faith community it can also work for us.