Part One of the sermon entitled The Moses Five – Defiant Love which was originally given on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.
Sermon Scripture Text: Exodus 1:15-2:10(NRSV)
Imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to realize you are a persona non-grata where you live. You are an alien living in a foreign land among people that consider you less than them. You have no country to call your own.
Now, imagine you are this same person, and the citizens of the country you live in not only dislike you, but are also afraid of you and fearful of your husbands and sons. You live in constant fear for the safety of yourself, your husband, and especially your children.
Then you find out you are pregnant again! Something that should be cause for great joy is marred by great fear. You have little time for celebration as you are already worried about how to protect your child from the society you live in from the very first moment after giving birth.
I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty scared if I were to find myself in this situation. I can only imagine that this must be exactly the way that Jochebed felt when she discovered she was pregnant for a third time. Are you familiar with this name?
Jochebed’s story is found in the book of Exodus, where we are introduced to her as the mother of Moses. She is a person of little importance, but she finds herself caught up in the story of God’s redemption for the people of Israel. Through Jochebed’s willing obedience and faith in the God of Israel, her actions were instrumental in the protection of her son Moses. That protection would allow for a great leader of the Exodus to reach adulthood.
But she was not alone in doing this. It took five strong, courageous women, the Moses Five, to love, teach and raise Moses and ensure that he would survive his childhood. A childhood that was stacked against his survival. Women who lived lives of defiant love.
How did Jochebed and the Children of Israel find themselves in this rather scary place? I believe we need to turn back a little in our Bibles. Back to where it all begins with a covenant made with Abraham.
In Genesis 15 we find that God is making a promise to Abraham. His descendants, that would start with his own child that he and Sarah will have together, will be as numerous as the stars. But this promise is also followed by a prophecy. In Genesis 15:12-15 we read, “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.” And God is faithful to his word. He always follows through with his promises.
I’m sure most of us are pretty familiar with the story from here. Abraham’s son is Isaac, whose son is Jacob. Jacob has several sons, but one of them becomes prominent and given a powerful position in the government of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, finds himself in the land of Egypt. But God uses this for good. In the closing chapters of Genesis, peace has been restored within the family and forgiveness extended from Joseph to his brothers. All of the house of Jacob come to Egypt to live in this foreign land with Joseph in order to escape a famine in their own country. All is well for the descendants of Abraham…
Remember the prophecy made to Abraham? The one about 400 years of slavery in a foreign land? In Exodus 1:5-14 we see,
“The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.”
While there is some debate between scholars as to whether the 400-year timeline begins with Ismael persecuting Isaac when he is five or begins with the time of Jacob and his family going to Egypt, in these passages, we see clearly the prophecy coming true. The new Pharaoh has forgotten the favor shown to Joseph and his family.
Not only has he forgotten this, but the sheer number of Israelites are making him nervous. The original seventy Israelites that made up the number of Jacob’s family that immigrated to Egypt has exploded to a population of several hundred thousand!
If you enjoyed Part One, please visit next week for Part Two.