At Home in the Ark
Exodus 1:1-2:10 January 31, 1999
Many of you may have now seen the new animated video, “The Prince of Egypt.” In the introduction to that movie, the producer makes admission that they have taken literary and historical license with the biblical text. It was a good show, inspiring in many parts with the glory given to God in the account of His power, preservation, and miracles on behalf of His people, but I was left wondering if I had all the facts straight myself. I certainly knew that there were some accounts that were off track, but you know Hollywood – they always seem to think they can make the truth more believable by changing it; at least they think it will sell better. I needed to review the biblical account again for myself just to make sure I would not be led astray. This led into the idea to do a several sermon series on the life of Moses.
Illustration: Hollywood’s Tactics
Title: Greatness of Christ
The Sister stood before her very young parochial-school class. She held up a shiny silver dollar and said, "I'll give this silver dollar to the first boy or girl who can name the greatest man who ever lived."
"Was it Michelangelo?" asked a little Italian boy.
"No," replied the Sister. "Michelangelo was a brilliant artist but he wasn't the greatest man who ever lived."
"Was it Aristotle?" asked a little Greek girl.
"No," the Sister answered. "Aristotle was a great thinker and the father of logic, but he wasn't the greatest man who ever lived."
Finally, after several more incorrect answers, a little Jewish boy raised his hand and said, "I know who it was, Sister. It was Jesus Christ."
"That's right," she replied and promptly gave him the dollar.
Being somewhat surprised at the Jewish boy's answer, she approached him on the playground at recess and asked, "Nathan, do you really believe Jesus Christ was the greatest man who ever lived?"
"Of course not, Sister," Nathan replied. "Everybody knows Moses was the greatest. But business is business."
-- Michael Leboeuf, The Greatest Management Principle in the World (G.P. Putnam, 1985), p. 26.
Who was Moses? Moses was a Levite. Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. He was the third of Leah’s sons. The lineage follows from Levi to Kohath to Amram, but there may well be more generations that are not listed. Amram married Kohath’s sister, Jochebed, to which was born Aaron and Moses (Ex. 6:13-27). Moses was a Levite to the core – a double compound Levite. All of Moses’ fathers that were listed lived to over 130 years old. Moses himself lived 120 years (Deut. 34:7).
The early account of the slaughter of the Shechemites in Gen. 34 sets the stage for much of what follows. In that account, Levi and his brother, Simeon, take vengeance on Shechem and his clan for defiling their only sister, Dinah. Their vengeance was deceptive, spiteful, retaliatory, and cruel. Perhaps the Shechemites had it coming because of their own deceit (vs. 23), but the fact remains that the action by Levi and Simeon was done in a way that did not bring honor to God’s people (vs. 30). Their father, Jacob, did not forget his displeasure with this when it came time to bless his sons in Gen. 49:5-7, just prior to his death. In his prophecy regarding Simeon and Levi, he condemns their traits of anger, violence and cruelty, which made their company a liability. His prophecy about them was that they would be scattered throughout Israel. In fact, the Levites were not given a tribal allotment as the other tribes, but only towns to live in (Josh. 14:4; Num. 35:1-7). This action fit their call as a non-political entity within Israel as caretakers of the tabernacle and aides to the priests, which were the sons and descendants of Aaron (Ex. 28:1). So there was the priestly class of Levites descended from Aaron within the Levite tribe.
The Levite quality of steadfast loyalty in the extreme was turned to blessing by God in the account that followed the image of the golden calf that Moses found when he came down the mountain with the ten commandments (Ex. 32:25-29). In that account, Moses called out in the midst of rampant anarchy for all those on the Lord’s side to come to him. Only the Levites responded. Zeal was an element in their character that now had opportunity for God’s purpose, not withstanding that they were most closely related to Moses and Aaron. Moses ordered them to take swords and go throughout the camp killing the offenders at random – those who were committing idolatrous revelry. After about 3,000 had died, Moses pronounced that they were then set apart unto the Lord because of their zeal. Our zeal can go the way of the flesh or the way of God. Sometimes this may be a fine line. After Moses had lived 40 years in Pharaoh’s court (Acts 7:23), fleshly zeal leading to murder against the Egyptian who was beating one of Moses’ countrymen (Ex. 2:11-12) led to his 40 year escape into Midian, but prepared him to return as God’s servant. Indeed, the Scripture says that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth, probably learned by the 40 years he was put out to pasture with the sheep. But Moses’ zeal would still tend to be influenced by the flesh as in the incident at the waters of Meribah (Num. 20:7-12). God’s judgment because of Moses’ disobedience would keep him from entering the Promised Land toward which he had been laboring through the desert – this too ultimately for 40 years. Moses, in spite of his share of the failings that all men have, was one of the most capable leaders of all time.
(Pentateuch) Here closes the first fourth of the Old Testament (almost as large as the entire New Testament), all written by one man, Moses. What a man Moses must have been! How intimate with God! What a work he did! What a benefactor to mankind! 40 years in the Palace of Pharaoh, 40 years a refugee in Midian, 40 years leader of Israel in the wilderness. Delivered a nation of some 3,000,000 from servitude; transplanted them from one land to another; organized for them a system of jurisprudence that has been a fountain source of much of the world's civilization. -- Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 156.
But we must not miss the amazing story of Moses’ beginnings in Ex. 1:1-2:10. Truly great lives most often come forth from truly humble beginnings. The Bible is full of them. Truly humble beginnings are those submitted and devoted to God in faith. Last week we had a baby dedication. Firstborn male offspring of both man and animal were to belong to the Lord (Ex. 13:15). The firstborn male animals were to be sacrificed. The firstborn male children were to be redeemed because they were saved when the death angel passed over Egypt. At our dedication, the parents agreed to raise the child, named Levi, in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In short, the child was dedicated to God’s purpose and glory that he might be redeemed from sin and death.
We see a particularly powerful account of this act of faith by Moses’ parents. He didn’t happen to be the firstborn male in his family. His brother, Aaron, was three years older (Ex. 7:7). But Moses was God’s choice for this experience in faith. All of our children are to be devoted to the Lord. Surely he was saved by faith from Pharaoh just as Chicago Care Pregnancy Centers saves babies by faith from the abortionists. Moses would be an example of the greatness of one who was saved from abortion. That was Pharaoh’s intent - abortion. His was of a different dynasty than the one who knew Joseph. He felt threatened by the Hebrews and the blessings God gave them. The more they were oppressed, the more they increased. Pharaoh’s (Clinton’s) decision to have the midwives perform partial birth abortions, as it were, on the baby boys was met by shrewd civil disobedience (Acts 5:29). The midwives let God deliver the babies and they got there late after they were born. God honored their godly fear and courage by giving them their own families. Perhaps they were midwives because they had no children of their own. This must have given them a particular reverence for life. Just like we still uphold rights for babies after they are born, this must also have been the law of the land in Egypt. So Pharaoh’s fear and pride usurped the law of the land and he went for outright murder. Every baby boy was to be thrown into the Nile; sacrificed to the god of the culture. This was double jeopardy to the Hebrews. Not only would it wipe out half the population, but also it would eventually lead to their extermination as a people. Without Hebrew men, the women would intermarry with the Egyptians and the Hebrew race and culture would eventually be extinct. I believe today that many feminists selectively abort male children in an attempt to change the culture in behalf of their twisted logic. Don’t they know that this will eventually lead to their extermination?
Moses’ parents were Levites and particularly zealous for God according to what we have learned of their tribe. Heb. 11:23 says they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Aside from the fact they knew this was wrong, they knew they had an exceptional child. They were able to hide him for 3 months, but then Moses’ mother performed a remarkable act of dedication and faith. She built a little ark, as it were, a basket coated with tar and pitch, and floated him on the waters of God’s mercy in the Nile – the same Nile that swallowed the other infant boys. They were obedient to Pharaoh’s law by placing their baby boy into the Nile, they just placed him on top of it. And their faith kept them on top of the situation. Just as Noah’s ark carried the hope of life on earth, so this little ark of the covenant carried the hope of life for the Jewish nation according to the promise of God. There comes a time when we have no other recourse than to cast our hopes adrift on the currents of God’s mercy. Just like the time came when Noah had to trust and believe God enough to proceed with his ark, Moses’ mother had to trust and believe God enough to proceed with hers. Just like Noah’s ark contained everything needed to renew life on earth, this little ark contained everything needed to renew life for the Hebrews. Just like Noah’s ark came to rest on the high place of a mountain, this little ark came to rest in the high place of Pharaoh’s court.
Perhaps you have a child that you can no longer hold. You fear for their life that is in danger of being immersed in the culture of death – or so it sometimes seems to you. There comes a time when you can no longer have direct control of your children’s lives and you must begin to trust God more and more for them. It becomes an increasing partnership between God and you as you pray for them on the basis that they belong to God more than to you because you have consciously dedicated them to God’s purpose and glory. This happens when you get your first babysitter, when you take your child to school for the first time, when your daughter goes on her first date, when your son gets his driver’s license, when he gets his first job, when he goes off to college or the military, when she gets married, when she has her first child, when one of your children faces death---. We never outgrow our need for God regarding our children. In fact, the degree to which you trust the outgrowth of God’s glory in your child beyond your direct intervention may well be the degree to which they fulfill it. But we must know where to draw that line. Certainly there is a time for continuing well-placed exhortation and encouragement in their lives. Beyond that you must let them go, and pray, and trust God.
The Bible says in Eccl. 11:1 that what we put adrift in dedication or devotion to God will one day come back to us. Mt. 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” And Jn. 6:39 says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” We can trust God with our children when we devote them to him.
Trusting God is more than a fishing expedition. You generally go fishing in hopes that you will catch something, but most often I don’t catch anything. You bait your hook, you cast it out into the water, you reel it in. On one of those casts you might get a strike. One of those strikes might just bring a fish all the way into shore. You cast out your bread and it comes back to you greatly increased. But casting your bread on God’s water is a sure thing. But you might have to wait for the increase. Be sure that God is watching your investment of faith. Just like Moses’ sister, Miriam, watched to see what would happen to him, God is watching your children that you devote to him. Eccl. 11:1 probably refers more to possessions than children. But if we can call children possessions by virtue of the fact that God entrusts them to us for awhile for safekeeping, then they are our most important possessions. And if he is gracious enough to entrust them to us, we can certainly entrust them to his greater provision.
But notice now how quickly God honors this dedication of Moses to the baptism of the Nile. He floats into the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter, of all people. Isn’t it just like God to make a mockery of those who would mock him? Pharaoh is trying to kill the baby boys and his daughter is saving them. She has the heart of a genuine woman regardless of her culture and is deeply touched by the helpless cry of baby Moses. God uses the weak things of this world to defeat the mighty. Babies of any race are more than beautiful. Almost everyone who has not completely defiled the image of God which resides in them will ultimately protect a child in reverence for the maturing of that image. No sooner than Moses’ mother gave him up, she got him back to care for legally – and with pay at that! How good is God? How gracious he is to respond to our faith. But there came a later time when she had to honor her commitment and turn him back over to Pharaoh’s daughter. She had to go through the pain of casting him adrift a second time, although this time she knew where he was going.
Pharaoh’s daughter would be the one who named him Moses, which means “is born” in Egyptian and “draw out” in Hebrew. Truly Moses was born of water and would later save his people through water in the parting of the Red Sea (1Cor. 10:2). A later Savior would come not by water only, but with a new covenant by water and the blood (1Jn. 5:6). Moses would be schooled in Pharaoh’s court just like Joseph. And he would be just as instrumental as Joseph was in God’s covenant to his people, Israel, which means, “God prevails”. Certainly God did, and would, prevail in Moses’ life. He shall prevail for Israel. He shall prevail for your children. Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” Are you willing, like the parents of Moses, to trust God with your children? It is not like anything bad will never happen to them, but God will preserve them. Just like the verse we learned about two weeks ago in Psalm 34, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” You child’s soul, entrusted to God, will be preserved.
What does it mean to entrust your child’s soul to God? It means you dedicate them to God and then begin to diligently teach them everything you can about God. Do you think that perhaps Moses’ mother sang to him about God and tried to tell him everything she could about God, even though he was too young to understand, in hopes that God would preserve him somehow, knowing that he would soon have to go into pagan Pharaoh’s court to be schooled in idolatry? We must do what we can, what we know how to do, as long as we have to do it, and trust God that it is enough and that he will do the rest. The following verses give us direction and comfort for our children:
Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ¶ Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Psalms 78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psalms 78:6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Psalms 34:11 ¶ Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Psalms 8:2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Psalms 72:4 He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.
Psalms 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
Psalms 112:2 His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Psalms 103:17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-
Isaiah 49:25 But this is what the LORD says: "Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.
Isaiah 54:13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace.
Isaiah 65:23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.
Ezekiel 37:25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.
Matthew 11:25 ¶ At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
Matthew 18:3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:13-14 ¶ Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 21:16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
Acts 2:39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Romans 9:8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.
Let us then share this promise with our children that when Jesus comes he might find faith on the earth (Lk. 18:8). Let us believe this promise for our children – and for ourselves. Let us then, like Moses’ parents dedicate our children to the Lord, placing them tenderly and faithfully in the ark of the covenant of his grace. The ark refers to the place of God’s care. It’s the safest place you can be. Are you at home in the ark of the covenant of God’s care, wherever that may be for both you and your children? Perhaps they will become God’s instruments to save many as Moses did. Perhaps they will lead the church through the desert as Moses led his people through the desert. But it begins with entrusting them, and your concerns for them, to God. It begins by believing God for them. But perhaps there are also other things you need to trust God with. Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. What are you willing to let go unto God? It won’t be the last time you see it. Can you be at home in the ark?