For three months, she hid him—her first-born son. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt had ordered the midwives to kill all newborn Hebrew baby boys. He was afraid that the Hebrew slaves would soon outnumber their Egyptian masters, and if war should come, the Hebrews might side with the enemy in order to gain their freedom.
The army of Pharaoh, however, continued to carry out the gruesome task, casting every newborn Hebrew boy child into the Nile to be drowned. That’s why this Hebrew daughter of the tribe of Levi hid her son. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep a growing healthy baby boy out of the sight of searching soldiers.
She did not want him killed. He was her first-son—the continuance of the family name and heritage. Without him, their branch of the tribe of Levi would perish. But, she was realistic, too. She could not hide him from Pharaoh’s headhunters forever. Believing that God had a special mission in life for this son of hers, the woman constructed a small cradle-like boat from the bulrushes that grew along the Nile River bank. Carefully sealing the miniature ark so that it would not lead, she lovingly placed the three-month old inside. Balancing the unwieldy basket on her hip, she made her way to the Nile and concealed the basket among the bulrushes and water flowers flourishing there. She then hurried away—her arms empty and her heart breaking.
A Lesson in Faith
I don’t know exactly what went through that mother’s mind. Perhaps she only intended to hide her boy in the river by day when Pharaoh’s execution squads were searching for the male Hebrew children. Maybe she expected to retrieve her son from his bulrush basket as the daylight faded, returning him to his floating cradle at daybreak. She may have counted on someone finding him and raising him as their own. She may even have purposely hid him where she did, knowing that someone would soon be coming to that very place to bathe.
Whatever she thought, two things are certain: that Hebrew mother believed that God had a special purpose for her child and she believed God would take care of him.
Imagine how she must have felt when her daughter came running back from the riverbank with the news that the Pharaoh’s daughter had found the baby in the basket and had taken him back to the royal palace! Pharaoh’s daughter!! Surely her boy would be killed! As fear sent adrenaline racing through her blood stream, the panicked mother suddenly heard the rest of her daughter’s story. “Mother, she’s going to keep our baby! She’s not going to let him die. I told her I would find a Hebrew nurse to care for him. Come—he will be ours again!!”
How that mother’s heart must have leapt for joy! Her son would live! She would care for him as if he was her own—and the daughter of the Pharaoh would protect him from the king’s cruel edict. God DID have a plan for him. God DID take care of him!
A Lesson in Obedience
The mother of Moses is not the only one from whom we can learn a lesson today. What about the princess—the daughter of the Pharaoh? Doesn’t she have a lesson to teach us, too? Idol-worshipping heathen though she was—can’t she teach us something about obedience and faith?
Consider this! Her FATHER, the king of Egypt, had issued an order that EVERY male Hebrew baby was to die. When she found the child hidden among the bulrushes at the river’s edge, she declared to her servants, “This is one of the Hebrew children.” She KNEW—either by his facial features, his coloring, his clothes, his blanket or the fact that he was circumcised—this child was marked to die! Yet, she took the risk of obeying some inner voice and disobeying her father so that Moses could live.
She claimed the baby for herself even though he was obviously Hebrew and she would be hard-pressed to explain how she now had a baby when she was not pregnant—not even married! Yet, she claimed a baby that wasn’t hers, hired someone (his very own mother) to nurse and raise him until he was five or six years old and then brought him into the very palace of the man who had ordered his death. Why? We don’t know. Perhaps the maternal compassion she felt at overtook her Egyptian loyalty. Maybe she, like the midwives, thought the execution order to be insane, cruel, and unreasonable. Perhaps, heathen though she was, God put within her heart pity and love for the seemingly abandoned “basket baby”. Whatever it was, God used this non-believing Egyptian to fulfill a very key role in the salvation of the Hebrew people.
Another Lesson in Obedience
Moses, the “basket baby”, would become a fugitive from Egyptian justice in his early adulthood. In later maturity, he would have a personal encounter with the God of his forefathers—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He who had been known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter would return to the land of Egypt to lead the slaves whom Pharaoh feared to freedom.
Moses was a nobody—the son of a slave, born in a land filled with superstition, suspicion, hatred and fear. At birth, he was marked for death. At three months of age, he was a fugitive hidden along the banks of the Nile to escape the law of Pharaoh. As a young man, he was a murderer, killing and Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Again, he was a fugitive from Egyptian law, fleeing the wrath and judgment of the Pharaoh. He became a shepherd, on the lower end of Midian’s social ladder.
Moses was not rich or important or famous and came from the humblest of beginnings. He was an escapee from justice. He worked at a “dead-end” job with no thought of ever being anything other than a shepherd. Then, he met God, and the “nobody” became “somebody”. The ordinary shepherd became and extraordinary prophet. The “basket baby” became the leader of the Hebrews.
There are many lessons we can learn from this story about the “basket baby”. We could point to the faith and courage of the mother and her confidence that God would care for her baby. Or look at the lessons in obedience by the princess who obeyed her instincts rather than her father, Moses obeyed a voice from a bush rather than the fear in his heart and the Pharaoh who obeyed a Hebrew raised as his own grandson, who stood before him demanding, “Let my people go!”
The Most Important Lesson
But the most important lesson in this familiar Old Testament story is the lesson that God can use anyone to achieve His purposes. You don’t have to be famous or rich or well-educated in order to be used by God. You don’t have to be important or well-thought of in the high ranks of society in order to be called by God. Indeed, the Scriptures would teach us again and again that God isn’t interested in our wealth, education or social position. e is not interested in where we live, the color of our hariHe is not interested in where we live, our age, race, sex or denomination. God is only interest in our willingness to be used. He’s not even interested in our ability, but rather our response to HIS ability.
Remember the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians? Consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standard, not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth; but Bod chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’ God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28
Consider those first twelve followers of Jesus. They were not wealthy business tycoons or highly educated PhD’s from the university in Rome or important political figures or revered spiritual leaders. They were nobodies—misfits just like Moses—crude and crass fishermen, radical zealots, despised tax collectors. The others who followed Him everywhere weren’t much better—prostitutes, beggars, epileptics, demoniacs—the outcasts of Jewish society.
Yet, Jesus saw not what they WERE but what they could BECOME. He looked not at what they HAD DONE, but at what the MIGHT DO. LIKE MOSES!
God Sees Beyond Us
When God called Moses from the burning bush on the mountainside, He saw not a baby in a basket, but a man who could lead the people of God out of bondage. God saw not a fugitive from justice, but a deliverer of the Hebrews. He did not see a stammering, tongue-tied, scared-out-of-his-wits shepherd, but a dynamic leader who could confront the Egyptian Pharaoh with the unequivocal demand “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let my people go!””
Moses balked and hesitated; he didn’t think he could do the job. Please Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, not since thou hast spoken to they servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue…Oh my Lord, send, I pray, some other person. But God knew Moses better than Moses knew himself—I will be with your mouth…and will teach you what you shall do. In essence, God told the reluctant prophet “You go, Moses. Just do what I tell you and I’ll take care of everything.”
God Needs You
God called a keeper of the sheep in the land of Midian to lead His people out of their Egyptian bondage. He used a nobody, a “basket baby” drawn out of the Nile by the Pharaoh’s own daughter, to confront the king of Egypt and demand the release of a nation.
God called a young shepherd boy to slay the Philistine giant named Goliath. That name “nobody” became the king of God’s chosen people—their greatest king—King David.
God called an unknown peasant girl from an obscure northern Galilean village of Nazareth—a young girl promised in marriage to the local carpenter—to be the mother of the Son of God.
God called an ignorant fisherman named Peter to lead the fledgling church. It was the uneducated “nobody” who saw three thousand men converted in a single day.
Down through history, God has chosen the common ordinary people to do “extraordinary” things for Him. He constantly chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise and what is weak…to shame the strong.
Paul explained the “why” of this seeming paradox in his second letter to the Corinthians this precious treasure, this light and power within us, as it were, in an old crockery bowl, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own. 2 Corinthians 4:7 Living Bible
Child of God—whoever you are—wherever you are—whatever you’ve done— GOD NEEDS YOU! He can use you. and He will if you’ll allow it. He used a “basket baby”. Why not you?