Saved By the Belles – Mothers Day
As many of you know Trista teaches kindergarden in Port Arthur. Watching her work with kids has always amazed me, you can tell that she truly has a gift for working and loving on children. What you may not know is that she comes from a long line of teachers; her mom and grandmother both taught school so you could say that she was born into it.
When we were first dating I thought that it would earn me a few points if one night we went on a date to a book store. So, after a quick bite to eat off we went to a book store and camped out in the children's books. After about 2 seconds Trista picked up a book and said, I loved this book when I was little, did your mom read it to you? I said that she didn’t so Trista told me about the book and we moved on. Well 30 minutes later Trista had found 20 books that she loved as a child and wondered if my mom had read it to me.
Now I was a little boy with ADHD before anyone knew what those letters meant. The only book I remember my mom reading to me was the Bible every night before we went to bed. So I told Trista, that my mom didn’t read these stories to us, she only read the Bible, and that was the end of it.
I’m pretty sure that my parents read us other things, but the Bible always had a special place in our life, it was the go to book. For instance, when the kids on the play ground started making fun of my name, my mom took me to Matthew 2 and showed me that my name was in the Bible. The next day, some kid called me Germy Wormy and I told him he was just jealous that God didn’t love him enough to put his name in the Bible. Granted I had a flawed theology and it wasn’t my greatest evangelistic moment, but I found peace in that passage.
That is until I got a little older and I actually read what Matthew 2 is talking about. In this text we read the story of mothers who are in horrible grief because they have lost their children to violence. In this text we see that Herod gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem two years old and under. The text that bears my name, at least in the King James version says Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Now that I’m older and I understand what is going on in this text, I am a bit thankful that I don’t read the King James Version any more. You see every other version associates the Prophet Jeremiah with this awful prophecy that is very difficult to read. This text paints this picture of a woman who is in such distress that she refuses to be comforted. A woman who has witnessed the murder of her child. It’s a story that reveals the ugliest side of human history and unfortunately it’s not the only time this story has been told. There are other stories in the pages of the Bible that tell of the massacre of babies, so that grown men can find some sense of security.
Our text this morning tells one of those horrible stories of a time that a man was so afraid of what was going on in his world that he thought that the best way to protect himself and his family was to destroy his enemies. It is a story that began thousands of years before the birth of Jesus in the land of Egypt. In Exodus 1 we see that there was a new Pharaoh in Egypt who was busy establishing his rule, strengthening his borders and securing the homeland. But he believed his greatest domestic threat was just outside his palace window; the Hebrews. The text says that there were two problems, first he didn’t know who Joseph was and secondly these Hebrews seemed to multiply like insects and threatened to swarm the land.
Leaders tend to like to kill two birds with one stone. This nameless Pharaoh needed workers for his aggressive building programs and he needed to do something with these foreigners, so he gave orders to turn the Hebrews from mild-mannered shepherds and farmers into Egypt’s slave force. We read in Exodus 1:14, They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their labor, the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
As a reminder that God is the one in control, in verse 12 we are told that no matter what the Pharaoh did, the more they were oppressed, the more the Hebrews multiplied. If Pharaoh was having some trouble with his people, God would make sure that his trouble was now double, or triple.
So the Pharaoh summoned the women who served as Israel's midwives, Shiphrah and Puah and gave them orders to kill every boy that was born to the Hebrews. It made sense to Pharaoh because that’s how you treat livestock; keep the females for breeding but cull the males who might grow up to be more trouble than their worth. And to Pharaoh that’s what the Hebrews were, livestock.
The problem is that Shiphrah and Puah, who were on call 24 hours a day to help life get pushed into the world, were not very responsive to some man who tells them to kill half the babies who arrive. Moses writes in verse 17, The midwives, however, feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.
Eventually it get’s to the ears of Pharaoh that there are all of these little Hebrew boys totting around the kingdom. So he calls our heroes back into his throne room and confronts them, Why have you done this this? And their response is just what you would expect from strong and compassionate women; they said, Well, you know how those Hebrew women are. They are not like the gentle flowers that the Egyptian women grow into, they are hearty like livestock. As a matter of fact before we even arrive, they've had their babies and are holding them in their arms.
Shiphrah and Puah insisted on life rather than death. They respected God rather than Pharaoh. For their faith, they received two rewards. God gave them families of their own and we are able to know their names. Faithfulness has a way of working out.
But they aren't the only women who figure prominently in Moses' story. There were three other women of grace and mercy. His mother Jochebed already had two children before she got pregnant with Moses, a daughter named Miriam and a son named Aaron. For just a moment, think about the fear that must have existed in a family when you found out your wife was pregnant. I mean a deeper fear that we normally have, can we do do this, afford this, live through this type of fear.
Can you imagine the feeling you would have knowing that if your wife was carrying a son he was to be welcomed into life with a death sentence? But Jochebed was a woman of strength and grace and for the honor of God and the love of her baby she hid Moses until he was three months old. But you can't hide a baby long. So with great care she made a little boat and set it afloat in the Nile. But she was not going to allow her son to leave her sight without someone to to watch over him. She sent her daughter Miriam to follow the little ark's voyage.
We can see God working in this situation as His hand guided the little boat to a particular spot along the river bank, to the exact spot where the daughter of Pharaoh was bathing. There in the current, a little ark comes floating by. Pharaoh’s daughter sent a slave girl to retrieve it for her and when She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for this Hebrew baby.
The princess has a decision to make. She knows what the law of the land, her father wrote it and he probably told her it was for her protection and the security of her own children. She can see that some mother has taken extraordinary measures to preserve the life of this child. So she can either turn the baby over to the soldiers, who will carry out their orders with merciless efficiency. Or she can push the little boat on down the stream and let come what may. Or…
At that moment Miriam steps through the reeds and asks, Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you? The Princess, like Shiphrah and Puah, like Jochebed and Miriam, chooses to defy the king and honor God. She tells Miriam to go and find someone to raise this baby for her. Can you imagine Jochebed’s emotions when the Princess said, Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.
It was because of the faithful love of five women that Moses was able to grow up in a home filled with love and compassion. It was because of these five women that that Moses was offered the education and privilege that came with membership in the royal family, and a chance to know Jehovah who was working in the background of His life. Moses was blessed because his life included strong, defiant, faithful women; a mom, a sister, a stepmom, and two strangers who poured their lives into this future leader of God’s people.
Today is Mothers day, but really we gather this morning to say thank you to God who had the wonderful idea to create woman in the garden to be a helpmeet for Adam. In our culture there is no one that has the same influence on your life as a woman who loves and cares for you, whether she is your mom, grandmother, aunt, or another woman who has poured her life into you. Women hold powerful influence over the futures of sons and daughters.
Had there not been a Shiphrah and Puah, a Jochebed and Miriam, and a young princess who defied their toxic culture, there would have been no Moses. These women had no authority, no voice, no power. Yet through faith, determination, and courage they stood between life and death for one little child and changed the world.
This morning I want you to look around you. I mean that literally. Take a moment to look around at the women who are sitting here this morning. We are surrounded by people to whom God has given the power to shape lives. That should produce at least two emotions; awe and gratitude.
With awe comes respect. The women in our lives deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. We should never disrespect or tolerate the disrespect of these women who are gifts given to us by God.
With gratitude comes appreciation. I'm sure the women in our lives will be appropriately affirmed today. But that affirmation must stretch far beyond this one day. We may not give them carnations every Sunday, but we can extend the tenderness and love we'll show this afternoon.
What I'm suggesting is that these women around us are nothing less than the messengers of God. They may well be shaping the souls of future presidents. They may even be molding the hearts of men or women who will, like Moses, be drawn up out of the river of our culture to lead us out of some kind of slavery into a new kind of freedom. We do well to honor them today. We'd be wise to honor them every day.
So this morning I would like to honor you, those who see today as a day of joy and blessing, and those of you that hate this day with a passion, because of the reminders that are carried with this day. To do that I would like to share with you something I found on Amy Young’s Blog, The Messy Middle.
To those who gave birth this year to their first child - we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year - we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains on your clothes this morning - we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or a child running away - we grieve with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment - we walk with you. Please forgive us when we say foolish things, we don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms - we are thankful for you and we desperately need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children - we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children - we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year - we weep with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother - we acknowledge your experience and we are sorry that you had to endure that, it was not what God had intended for you
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood - we are thankful for you and we are truly better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children - we remember them and the pain that you still feel to this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we are sorry that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent - we walk with you on these complex paths and thank you for choosing to love and care for a child that you did not have, but you are willing to pour your life into.
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, but that dream is not to be - we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year - we grieve the loneliness you will feel and rejoice with you that they are strong enough to step out to become what they were created for
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising - we anticipate the beautiful gift with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you. When Shiphrah and Puah rescued thousands of little boys, they had none of their own. God used them and God can use you. As we close this morning I thought we should spend some time in prayer, thanking God for the women in our lives. (Close with prayer).
Questions For You to Consider
Think of a woman who poured her life into you, what did she do that made your life better?
What are some things that cause us fear?
How does fear cause us to make un-rational decisions?
What risks are found in a life lived following God?
How can you be a Shiphrah and Puah in our world today?
Do you really believe that God is working in the world today?
If you really believed that He is working then what are you afraid of?