At different points in my life, I have been able to relate to different people in the Bible. There are times I can relate to Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, as he mourns over his fellow countrymen turning their backs on God. Other times when I can relate to David, crying out for protection from his enemies. And still other times when I can cry out like Paul "What a wretched man I am!" (Romans 7:24). But never, have I related more to a person from the Bible than I do with Jochebed, Moses' mother. Jochebed lived during a time when the Israelites were under the rule of a cruel Egyptian pharaoh. The Pharaoh was concerned about the strength and number of Israelites and so after trying some other scheme, he orders that every Hebrew baby boy that is born must be thrown into the Nile River, and that is where Jochebed comes in. Let's peek in at the story from Exodus chapter 2:1-4
"Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman,(Jochebed) and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister (Miriam) stood at a distance to see what would happen to him." Italics mine
This is the first part of the story, and what I see is a woman who loved her baby boy and valued life. She took great risks to protect him. She hid a baby for 3 months, not an easy task if you consider all the crying a newborn baby does, and then when she could hide him in her home no longer, she made a basket and placed him in the Nile River, in a sense obeying the decree of the Pharaoh, yet with her own added protection. The struggle that must have been taking place within her, a mother's heart to protect at all costs and yet knowing the only thing she could do was let go and trust that God had it under control. Let's look at the rest of the story, picking it up in verses 5-8
"Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
Ultimately, Jochebed's prayers were answered, Moses' life was spared and she even got to love on him, nurse him and just as an added bonus, she got paid to do it! Now isn't that just like God to see Jochebed's heart and sprinkle in his favor. Of course, as each day passed, Jochebed knew that their time together was more and more limited. She knew that eventually she would have to surrender her baby again when it was time for him to go live with Pharaoh's daughter. What she didn't know at that point, is that God was going to use Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage. He was putting the pieces together even as Jochebed rocked her sweet baby boy and with tears streaming down her cheeks, she sang him lullabies. She just didn't know it. No one did, except of course, God.
In the last four and a half years, I have come to understand Jochebed's plight at a deep level. God has delievered 3 Moses babies to our home. Many of you know that I have the privilege of raising my niece and 2 nephews, and in some ways their journey is much like Moses, and my heart feels much like Jochebed's. You see, legally, these babies aren't mine, I have been chosen to care for them, to love on them and in every sense, to be their momma. But...legally, well legally, that is a different story. In fact, the birth parents still, after almost 5 years, have more rights than I do to these babies. And each day that goes by, may be a day closer to them being part of our forever family, or may be a day closer to them returning to the birth family. I want to hold tightly to them, to hide them away in hopes of not being discovered, but the truth is, I cannot. So, like Jochebed, I am forced to make a basket, to line it with tar, and to place them in it, hoping they will be rescued and returned to me, but unaware of the long term plan. Only God knows that.
It was only a year ago, when I literally had to release one of these babies. My, then 11 month old nephew was ordered to "return home." It was with great weeping and a deep sorrow, sorrow unlike any I had known before, that I packed up his belongings and placed him into that basket in the Nile. I was terrified, "The crocodiles may consume him," I argued with God. I begged God to intervene, I believed God was going to step in before I had to let him go, but the day came and I was forced, against everything in me, to put this sweet baby in the care of people I knew would not love or protect him, and walk away. Actually, more accurately, to be drug away. I wonder if Jochebed had to be drug away as she turned Moses over?
God provided a Miriam though, for this sweet baby boy. You see, the court for my niece, had not agreed that she should be returned "home" so instead she began unsupervised visits and then would return here to our care. While she was on a visit, she could watch out for her brother and report back to us on how he was doing. Then, one night she returned home with the saddest of all tales, not for her brother but for her. As I was bathing her and getting her ready for bed, I saw that she had been injured. I cannot go into detail about the injury except to say that it was significant. The realm of emotions I felt in that moment are indescribable. As I tenderly washed her and questioned her, I could see that this wound went straight to her sweet, little heart. She was frightened at what she had experienced, and afraid for her brother who had remained in the Nile, while she had gotten to come home. Even now as I write this, fresh tears spring to my eyes, and fresh questions. I do not understand why she had to go through this, and why God didn't work this out in a different way. I wonder if Miriam was afraid as she sat and watched over Moses? Was she full of fear as she approached the Pharaoh's daughter?
44 days after placing our baby boy in the Nile, he came home. He was removed from the birth home and welcomed back into our house. It was with great celebration, as you can imagine, but also with heartache at knowing what his sister had had to endure, and not knowing what all he had endured. And now, a year later, and a new baby added to the mix, we are still uncertain of if or when someone will tell us we have to send any of these three babies home. It is still very much a reality, one that often robs me of sleep. Oh I understand the heart of Jochebed! How many nights did she walk the floor, checking and double checking on her baby, uncertain of their future together. How many tears did she shed at the uncertainty of all that lie ahead of them. And I wonder if she again had tears streaming down her cheeks as she sang him lullabies?
This side of heaven, we will not know exactly what Jochebed was feeling, but we do know that she must have spent her days filling Moses' head with the knowledge of God, of who He was and what He could do. We know this because as Moses grew, He walked with God. When God appeared to him in the burning bush, he knew it was the great "I AM." So I am taking notes from Jochebed, really none of us know what tomorrow holds, we only have the promise of this moment right now. Let's use the time we have wisely, let's train up our babies to know and love the Lord. Let's hold each moment precious, and try not to waste this moment being anxious about what the next moment may bring. Oh trust me, I know that is easier said than done, but really it is all we can do because though we don't know the long term plan, God does. And I trust that He loves me, that He loves these babies even more than I do, and that He's "got this." So sing those lullabies, even if tears are streaming down your face as you do!
Would love to hear your thoughts!