The OT reading tells the story of Moses’ birth and upbringing. A new Pharaoh had come into power; he saw the Israelites as a threat and so enforced slave labour to prevent them growing in power and rising up against him. Yet, this did not halt the growth of God’s people. The reading picks up after the Pharaoh has issued a new terrible decree to prevent their multiplication, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live’.
A man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth
Background to Scripture reading
The beginning of the story of Moses is a story of sacrifice and redemption, very familiar themes when it comes to the story of Jesus of course. Sacrifice, because Moses’ mother had to give up her son to protect him; and redemption because through this little baby God would lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and fulfil the promise to Abraham that they will be a blessing to all nations.
On Mothering Sunday we celebrate all the positives that families experience: love, happiness, togetherness, but also remember that there might also be pain, sacrifice and loss. Being a part of God’s church we are all one family under Christ, who has redeemed us from our brokenness and is making us whole so we can all be an example and a blessing to the world.
Just like the nativity of Jesus, the nativity of Moses tells a great story. Each of the characters have their own stories to tell about this baby boy who would be known as Moses. Each one would play their part in God’s plan to save his long suffering people who had become the first outworking of one of God’s promises to Abraham, that they would become a numerous people.
This was too much for Pharaoh who tried his own version of ‘population control’, but God’s plan would not be deterred by any earthly ruler. Through the sacrifice of one mother, an oppressor’s daughter would be the agent of redemption for one people, and eventually all people. It is interesting to note that the main players in this story are all women, and it is the women who subvert Pharaoh’s plan to suppress a people.
The basket where the child is kept safe is an important ‘prop’ in this story as it has parallels to the Noah story, in that it is an ‘ark’ of sorts. In fact, the Hebrew word used to describe Noah’s ark (hat·tê·h) is the same word use to describe the basket and is only ever used to describe the ark and this basket. It also speaks of the love, desperation and faith of a mother who would abandon her son to the reeds, the ancient equivalent of leaving babies on the steps of a hospital or orphanage today.
We can see, and rejoice in God’s providence that a) Moses is watched over by his sister, b) is found by Pharaoh’s daughter and c) it is Moses’ mother who is called upon to raise him. It’s a bittersweet beginning to a story which plays a pivotal role in God’s rescue plan for humankind.