20 September 2017

The Parent, The Princess And The Plan

There is a picture in a children’s Bible story book. It is of a wide, fast flowing river, crocodiles prowl its waters expectantly, here and there rocks loom ominously and in the middle a tiny craft bobs precariously. As you look closer you can see a little infant inside, sleeping peacefully, heedless to the dangers around it. I suppose like many other children I grew up with this somewhat fanciful notion of the story of baby Moses, that his mother happened to take him to the river on a certain day in a certain place where Pharaoh’s daughter just happened to be bathing. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to consider the enormity of what this baby’s mother, Jochebed, had done and in truth it begged the question, how could a woman who had risked everything in the first three months of this child’s life to protect him from the armies of Pharaoh, suddenly seem to lose her reason and entrust him to the grip of one of the world’s greatest waterways?

The desire to protect our young is one of the strongest instincts of nature. Stories abound in the animal and human kingdom of parents who will go to great lengths and even make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect their offspring. Jochebed was no exception. The more I study this story the more I am convinced this was a clever, courageous and creative lady whose every action was driven by her absolute faith in Jehovah and there is much for Christian parents to learn from her example.

There are immediate parallels between the times Jochebed was living in and our day and age. It was, for the children of God, one of the darkest and seemingly most hopeless periods of their history. A government which had once protected them and the principles they lived by had been replaced with ‘another Pharaoh’. New laws had gradually encroached on every area of their lives, controlling their work practices and now even their family lives. Now the unthinkable had happened, murder legalised in the form of infanticide and upheld by the authorities. It was into this world Jochebed and her husband brought their children.

Despite the difficulties, this family sought to live by the unchanging principles of an unchanging God. Heb 11v23 tells us Moses’ parents were not afraid of the authorities; the principle that guided their lives was faith. Jochebed was a woman of great faith and so she determined the best course she could, in truly awful circumstances, and left the rest to God.

Knowing her child was in danger Jochebed made a plan. She knew there was only one place her boy would be safe, not in the Hebrew ghettos but in an Egyptian home, the loftiest home in the kingdom, the palace itself. To get him there she will touch a woman’s heart. And so she watches the princess and studies her habits. There is some debate as to who this princess was and some take the view that she was the eldest of Ramses II fifty-nine daughters. In Hebrews 11:24 we are told that “Moses… refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. This was an official title which could only be taken by the heir to the throne, the eldest child of the eldest child. If it was this particular princess, history records for us that she was childless. Surely the heart of a childless woman beating in this royal breast could not fail to be touched by such a “goodly child.” Having chosen the target, she must get the child to her. It must be done outside the palace, when no soldiers are nearby, almost in a private moment….when she is bathing. So the person and time are chosen but where to put her precious child. Perhaps the choice of the river is a perplexing one. Yes, he was in a watertight ark and yes, he was secured as much as possible “in the flags by the river’s brink” but Jochebed must have known she was taking a risk; a sudden strong current, a hungry crocodile or he might be so well hidden that the princess may not even see him. Why not place him directly in the path she knew the princess must take to the river, surely it would be safer?

But this lady had done her homework, she knew the enemy. She would have known the importance of the river Nile to her son’s would be killers for it was worshipped as one of their gods. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of a religious ritual associated with worship of the Nile. Priests would recite these words supposedly uttered by the Nile god, “I have afflicted no man. I have not made any man weep. I have not withheld milk from the mouths of sucklings”. Would the daughter of Pharaoh dare withhold milk from a suckling, given to her by the god she worshipped?

And so having done all she humanly could she places him in the hands of the one true God. You can rest assured she wasn’t too far away and imagine Jochebed’s delight when she is called, and given the job of nursing her son. What joy and delight there must have been in that household over faith rewarded. She would only have her boy for about four years but what precious years they were and what deep roots she laid, for her boy became the Deliverer of the Israelites.

We never read of Jochebed again on the pages of scripture. The last we read of her is as she hands her son over to be “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians.” (Acts7:22)

But she had done her work well for one day God would use her son to lead His people out of Egypt and to the edge of the Promised Land.

Jochebed’s story should be a great encouragement to Christian parents and particularly mothers in a day when there is much to discourage them. Governments may change, laws may change but the rules and guiding principles based on the Word of God which we seek to pass on to our children do not change. Jochebed never questioned her responsibility to protect her child and to teach him those principles. She did not leave it to chance, she had a plan, she knew the enemy, she used all of her God given gifts and talents and she trusted completely in the faithfulness of her God.

Be encouraged by Jochebed, have faith, lay deep roots in your children’s lives, guard and protect them to the best of your ability and when you have done all and it is time for them to launch out into the deep, have faith.

Vi Dawson