Recently I visited a young mother who had given birth to a baby boy. Unfortunately, the child needed surgery in the first few hours of his life. He had been born with his intestines on the outside of his stomach. When it was time for him to be transported to the Children’s Medical Center in Dayton, I observed the mother anxiously watching her new born son as he was being wheeled out of the room.
The birth had taken place in Troy, about 25 miles North of Dayton. But, that hospital didn’t have the medical services to handle his surgery. Since the Children’s Hospital handled all the special cases in the area, the child would have to be taken there. On the very first day of his life, the new born would be traveling down Interstate 75, through heavy traffic and a stretch of major construction.
For a mother to release her child into the hands of strangers and into the elements has to be 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 have to endure that experience so early in their lives can be very traumatic.
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. It’s hard for us to imagine such a circumstance, but there are thousands of children who are put on ships, airplanes and transported to foreign countries every day. For them this is their only chance of survival.
This week some of you will place your child on a yellow school bus for the very first time. That can be a scary experience. Others will be sending their son or daughter away to some college campus. That too, can be difficult. 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 even painful. 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 of 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.
Since September 11th, we have seen an upswing in the amount security, including safeguards, alarms and devices to protect our families. In public places I have observed parents keeping their children closely by their sides. A few weeks ago I witnessed a young mother in sheer panic because she had lost her child in a shopping mall. Quite naturally we always fear the worst. To make things worse we have been bombarded by a series of news stories about missing children. Unfortunately, not all the endings have been happy ones.
Fortunately, the story of Moses does has a happy ending. The child floats down the river and is rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Miraculously Moses’ sister witnessed the whole river scene and is asked by the daughter of the Pharaoh to fetch a young Hebrew woman to nurse the child. She therefore goes and gets the mother of Moses and mother and child are reunited.
What I find amazing about this story is that the Mother of Moses had to let go of her son, not once, but twice. Making the decision to place him in river was certainly a painful one. Then, she had to go through the process of nursing him and letting go of him a second time as the Pharoah’s daughter raised him as her own. We never know the name of the mother of Moses and the story implies, that after Moses comes of age, she is no longer needed and disappears from the scene.
Does God reward her for her act of faith? You could interpret it that way, but I believe the story has to be taken in a broader scope. First, there is the courage of the mother of Moses to release him into the flowing river and trust that God would care for him. Second, there is the Pharoah’s daughter, who ignored the rule of the land and rescued the Hebrew infant. She too took a great risk. Although this woman was in the house of the enemy, she believed that life is precious and raised Moses as her own son. This is a story of women of courage, women who were willing to take risks and trust that God would watch over them.
What we glean from this story is that God wants us to trust beyond our own powers. First, the mother of Moses had to trust the elements. Would the basket sink? Would it survive the currents of the river? Would the basket float into oblivion?
Trusting the elements is not always easy. Just listen to the complaints about our lack of rain this summer. Many have complained about the unusually high number of days in the 90’s. Many worry about the cost to air-condition their homes. Others worry about the lack of green grass. We have to trust in the bigger picture and realize that nature is in harmony with the rest of life, although it doesn’t always appear that way.
Secondly, the story illustrates that people in foreign lands can be trusted. The Pharoah’s daughter may have been the enemy but she rescues Moses and raises him as her own. 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 the other side as God is on ours.
Third is the fact that we sometimes make choices which are very risky but we can still trust that God is involved. God wants us to take risks. God wants us to have faith. God wants us to know that we can let go and trust that those we love will be in God’s ultimate care.
A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “Dear Dick, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the exegesis and the sermon for today. I even used part of your sermon. What I wanted to pass on was the reaction from the congregation. Many people said that thinking of actions instead of feelings made things much clearer for them. I told them about agape and hina… Anyway, I always enjoy your exegesis. Usually won’t read your sermons until I am well on my way with my own. This time I did and it was a real help.”
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That day in the mall I sensed the young mother’s pain when she discovered her child was missing. Frantically she fled down the mall asking everyone in site whether or not they had seen her little girl. My wife and I began to look around ourselves, hoping to find the lost child. About a minute passed and a security guard came walking toward the young mother holding the hand of a little girl. A store clerk had immediately found the child and called security. Happily, the mother and child were reunited.
I realize that not all stories like that one have a happy ending. Thankfully, the story of Moses does. The story doesn’t make us immune from tragic endings. It doesn’t mean just because we are faithful we have nothing to worry about. It is rather a reminder for us to see the bigger picture. As parents we will reach a point where we must let go of our children and give them their wings. When we do we can trust that God will be with them even in foreign lands. The story is also a call to take some risks, reaching out to those who are oppressed and setting them free or seizing an opportunity to rescue the helpless from the wild rivers of life.
––Copyright, 2002, Dr. Keith Wagner. Used by permission.