JOCHEBED Exodus 2:1-10 May 13, 2012
From 100 Devotions for Pastors and Church Leaders regarding Jochebed “She had him - She hid him – and she held him.” “She” was Moses’ mother. You have to look over in Chapter 6 to find her name. Her name was Jochebed, her husband was Amram (Exodus 6:19-20). And their children were Miriam and Moses and Aaron (Numbers 26-59). All three of them were prominent leaders in the Exodus from Egypt. She was a faithful mother to the man who became the most significant Israelite in Jewish history: • the man who was raised in Pharaoh’s court, but turned not to the ways of the Egyptians – instead offered his heart and his life to the God of Israel. • the man whose remarkable faith and leadership can be traced back, in part, to the faithfulness of his mother: the one who had him, hid him and held him. It was a brutal and terrifying time to have children. By the time Moses was conceived, it was Egyptian law that all male Hebrew babies were to be thrown into the Nile – a move on the part of Pharaoh to keep his nation of slaves from becoming too strong for his soldiers to handle. Who would dare to have children in times such as these? But the New Testament letter of Hebrews tells us Jochebed and Amram were not afraid of the King’s commandment because they had faith that God is stronger than Pharaoh. (Hebrews 11:23) So Jochebed had Moses. Having children in any age requires faith: faith that God is stronger than the forces of darkness: stronger than unjust laws, stronger than racism, stronger than violence and pain and sickness and injury and all the other millions of things parents worry about. Over the years I have encountered a few people who won’t have children because of these fears. “Why would you even want to bring children into this horrible messed up world?” They ask. Why did Jochebed take a chance and have children down in the slave quarter shacks in Goshen? • Not because she believed somehow that nohing would ever happen to her children. • Not because she believe she was strong enough to somehow keep them safe from the soldiers But because she believe in God.
Having children is an act of trust in God – that God intends for life to continue – that God has created for us a world for us to live in justice and in peace, and in goodness, and God hasn’t given up on our world despite the depth of human sin. So we must not either. Jochebed had faith in God and thus she had Moses.
I try to stay away from Internet stories because by the time they get to me everyone else has already seen them, but here is one for you today too good not to include: “A friend and I went to lunch. Over coffee, she casually mentioned she and her husband were thinking about starting a family. ‘What do you think? Should we do it?’ My mind was instantly flooded with a million responses. I looked at here immaculate white suit with cream sleeves and thought about telling her it would be at least ten years before she ever wore white again because little fingers with ketchup or chocolate or mud always reach for Mom. I thought about telling her she would never lie down to sleep at night again without her children running through her mind: was homework done – was she home from her date – is his new job working out OK – is her new husband treating her well – are they sleeping enough with your new grandbaby’s arrival? Then I thought I wonder if she knows that if you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan it is not enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a towel for a cape or that a cat spun around on a computer chair throws up twice its weight and doesn’t make it off the carpet to do so. Then I thought to mention how much more precious your handsome in charge husband becomes when he has spit-up on his tie or coaches Little League, or takes pictures on Prom Night or stands by you to give the toast at your daughter’s wedding. Then I decided to say: • you know stretch marks never go away • that important business meetings will never again be the most important thing you have to do that day – and • you will always drop everything to go to them when they need you – no matter what it costs you to get there and sometimes they will break your heart – when I realized she was looking at me startled that it was taking me so long to answer! “You’ll never regret it” I finally said. Having children is an act of faith. Jochebed had faith – thus she had Moses. Next our scripture tells us Jochebed hid Moses. Her baby was born into the world under the sentence of death. Jochebed took him inside the haven of her home and shut the door. Her first line of defense against the world and its ways was a Godly Home. Throughout Christian history Christians have often asked what can I do to deepen my faith and my commitment to God? What can I do to be a better, stronger Christian? And Christians have answered that question in many ways. First Century ascetics went off into the desert to live alone in huts and caves and devote their life to prayer.
Christians in the Middle Ages went on pilgrimages to Cathedrals and sacred sites to pray at the site of a saint’s tomb or the site of a miracle. Some Christians turn to celibacy to deepen their faith – monks, nuns, priests.. Some turn to good works, leaving their homes to go work among the sick, the poor – Mother Teresa – Dorothy Day – Albert Schweitzer. Some become missionaries, preaching in great crusade movements – Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther had a wonderful answer to that question. What can I do to deepen my faith and my commitment to God? This leader of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, when asked “how can I become a better, stronger Christian”, answered simply” “Have Children.” Have children: you will learn just as many lessons about patience, calling on the name of the Lord for help – caring for the hungry, the sick, and getting along with others by having children as you will in the monastery. Have children: you will learn just as much about making it through hardship and struggle when you guide your teen-agers through the journey of adolescence as you will going on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. Have children: By the time you have had to try to answer all their questions about God, you will have muddled through all the major theology issues faced by the preacher and the scholar. So have children: and then take the lessons you have learned out into the world to continue to witness, because the bricks and mortar of a Christian society are first hammered out outside the Christian home. Jochebed’s Godly home was her first line of defense against the evils of the Egyptian world. She hid her son there. She had him. She hid him – and then she held him. In a series of extraordinary events, Moses was saved by God, as a sign of God’s intention to save all His people. Moses ended up inside the Pharaoh’s house – the one place he could grow up in safety. But still in the arms of Jochabed who became his nurse. Jochebed knew very clearly now what her job as a mother was. Her job was to teach this child the ways of God, even as he learned the ways of Pharaoh – to teach this child the ways of justice even as he learned the ways of power. And she did. Faithfully – day by day – she taught and he grew. She taught of Abraham and the mysterious God who called him by name, so that later when the bush burned and the voice spoke, Moses would understand. She taught of Joseph and the wrongs of his brothers so he would later understand slavery was not god’s will for His people. She taught of hope in God so later when he stood in a shepherd’s robe with a single wooden staff before all the power of Egypt, he would not be afraid.
She taught and he grew. She held him and he matured. “She had. She hid and she held.” And then in the way of God, she stepped back and faded from history, having faith in God to take it from there and having faithfully done her job. My oldest child left home this year. Many of you knew it and thoughtfully asked me was I doing Ok through the transition. But really I didn’t realize what was going on until December. Back in August when she left everything was new and exciting. Shopping – filling out paper work – packing – buying books – and then it was like she was gone to a really long week at camp. But then after Christmas she left again, and it occurred to me that she really didn’t live with me anymore. “She’s left home” I announced to the kind and patient man who shares my life. “Did you know that? Do you realize she doesn’t live here anymore?” “Umm – well, yes.” (You know after 22 years of marriage he’s realized not to say too much right off the bat.) “So we just spent 18 years of diapers and homework and horses and boy friends and she’s outta her!??!” “Umm, yep, I believe that’s the way it works.” “Oh. So it happens to other people too? Parents give all they’ve got – make sacrifices – guide, cry, console, hug, love – and then all of a sudden we’re supposed to step back and let them take over? Call us when you get there? This is crazy. Somebody needs to start a movement, circulate a petition “parents against the pain of children leaving home. This is not fair. This is not fair to me..” “And I’m just saying this, of course, for their own good. Nobody is ready at age 18 to strike out on their own. Nobody! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” And no, don’t anybody mention sacrifice, or trust, or faith in God and especially do not mention Jochabed, who loved her son enough to let him go. She loved and trusted God. And because she had faith in God, She had Moses. She hid Moses. And she held Moses. And then she faded from sight, trusting God to take it from there. Thanks be to God, Amen