Here's my heart tonight. I'm pouring it out because I can't hold it in. I need to go to sleep. I had a very rough day of mothering and I'm exhausted. But I'm preparing for a women's retreat at which I'm speaking next weekend, and my heart is burning. Fire in my bones kind of stuff.
I want to be like Jochebed.
Perhaps you're not familiar with this powerhouse woman of courage and humility. That's okay...many people probably aren't. But please allow me to introduce you to her. I am most certain that you'll want to be like her too.
Jochebed is Moses' mom. In the last week as I've dived into her story she has become one of the people whom I'm most excited to meet in heaven. I about fell off my chair the other day when I realized that she and my mom might be friends now. I am certain they would be great friends.
Jochebed's story is found in Exodus 2:1-10. Ten verses. That's it. I encourage you to read it here. (This link includes the 22 verses preceding her story also, so you can get the context.) You may notice that in these ten verses of extreme faith and courage, her name isn't even mentioned. We learn her name in a tiny verse a few chapters later in a list of Moses' genealogy.
Many of the women I love most in Scripture have names who are hidden from us. Yet their hidden names by no means imply insignificance. No one's name is hidden from God. God says, "I have called you by name, and you are mine...." (Isaiah 43:1)
Jochebed and her husband are slaves, as are all of the approximately 2 million Israelites in Egypt. They've been slaves for 400 YEARS. Friends, the pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock not quite 400 years ago. The Israelites had been slaves for longer than our nation has been a nation. It hurts my brain.
The Pharaoh who ruled at the time hated this chosen people of God and tried ruthlessly to get rid of them. When Jochebed enters the scene, the Pharaoh had just issued a decree that all the Hebrew (Israelite) baby boys must be drown in the Nile. Horrid. Evil. Genocide.
Jochebed was a mama. Throughout the ages, the heart of a mama hasn't changed. She's like you and me. Except she's so much more awesome than me.
She would have been pregnant when this was decreed; how it must have shattered her more than my little brain and my weak heart can possibly even begin to comprehend.
Then her baby was born. A boy. And she saw in him something that set him apart. Doesn't every mama see in her child that which sets her child apart? We ought to, friends.
When Jochebed looked at her son she knew that God's plan for him was something different. Something set apart. She knew that he was not going to be thrown into the Nile to die. She risked her very life by keeping him hidden until his cries were too loud. So many of us know that cry. The 3-month old baby whose cry has reached a new volume. That was Moses.
But Jochebed was prepared. For weeks (maybe while her newborn napped?) she must have been making a strong basket, covered in tar (the same stuff Noah had used on his ark, interestingly). A strong basket certainly, but in one of the mightiest rivers on planet earth? That's some crazy faith. I love her. I want to be like her.
She had apparently been searching the Nile for a seemingly safe spot. How many days had she walked around the riverbanks, looking for a spot where the current was calm and the reeds were high? A spot that the Nile Crocodiles tended to avoid? How many days had she spied to find the spot where Pharaoh's daughter bathed, and on which days she bathed? How many nights had she stayed awake to pray for God's protection over this baby? How many times did she nurse him, sobbing the entire time?
And then she does it, friends. All her preparation and prayers have come to this point. She puts her baby in the basket. She must pray a thousand prayers over it. She must shed a million tears. How did she do it? How in the entire world did this woman actually place that baby in that basket?
I cannot fathom how she did it. I will most certainly be asking her when I get to heaven.
But she knew the alternative. If Moses stayed in her home, he would be discovered and killed. She would likely be killed too for her disobedience. Maybe even her other children, Aaron and Miriam, would be taken away, or worse.
And whatever she saw in Moses...the unique image of God that she saw in this baby, would be killed too. That's what happens when babies die...no matter what age.
So she nurses him and holds him close for that one last time (so she thinks...) She must sing every lullaby she knows a thousand times trying to stall. But then she does it.
She lets go. Oh it hurts to just type the words. She lets go. She's found the right place amongst the reeds, she presumably knows the princess is coming, and she lets go.
Oh my. The bravery. The courage. The love. The HOPE. Oh, I want to be like Jochebed.
And Miriam, the big sister who is out checking on her beloved baby brother, is so like her mama in her bravery as she suggests to the bathing princess that perhaps the baby's own mama be his nurse.
This girl! Clever. Strong. Bold. Courageous. Faithful. Spontaneous. Quick-witted. Oh, how well her mama raised this young girl to trust God's voice within her!
Miriam was about 8-years-old at this time. I have an 8-year-old daughter too. Am I teaching her to hear God's voice and to trust with such quick, confident diligence as Miriam did? Am I modeling to my daughter this unabashed faith in the God who can do the impossible? Oh Jesus, make me like Jochebed.
I want to be like Jochebed, the woman who birthed this baby boy and saw in him God's plan. This woman who held this baby boy and saw in him the hope of God. This woman who planned and prepared and prayed and must not have wasted one millisecond in those first three months. Or in the few years to follow as she got to nurse her own baby boy. She certainly never counted the minutes, wishing for bedtime to come. She for sure cherished every minute because she knew her minutes with her baby were numbered.
Well guess what, friends? Our minutes with our babies are numbered too. And yet today I counted the minutes until bedtime. Forgive me Jesus. Help me be like Jochebed.
Help me be like this slave woman who was so in step with the promises and plans of God that she knew the 400 years of slavery were coming to an end, and she saw in her son the deliverance of God. She looked at her son and saw the end of slavery. It gives me chills. I have four children sleeping in their beds right now. Lord, show me how each one of them will be instrumental in bringing the redemption of Jesus to this broken world.
Oh Lord, help me to see your hope and freedom every time I look into the face of my children. Because each new child is a proclamation from God of hope in this world.
Each baby is hope. Each baby is a promise that God is still making all things new. He is still a God of life and freedom and beauty even though we live in a culture of addiction and death and isolation.
Jesus, help me to look at my children and see your freedom just like Jochebed did.
Her story may only be ten verses but tonight as I dive deep into her story, I know that those ten verses are now written on my heart in a way that I pray will impact my mothering for the rest of my life.
Lord, let me be like Jochebed.
The pure faith to trust God with my children. The due diligence to make room for God to work mightily in the lives of my children. The confident audacity to proclaim that my children will change the world for the sake of Christ. The crazy hope to not just give up after 400 years of slavery. The consistent perseverance to walk with God in the face of death. The loving commitment to raising my children to know and obey the voice of God without question. The prophetic vision to see God's plan for freedom each time I look at my child. The unswerving conviction that God created each of my children for great and mighty purposes. The audacious boldness to proclaim God's promises despite the lies of the culture that so easily smother us.
Oh Lord, make me like Jochebed.
The next morning's afterthoughts:
Okay, so I wrote this late last night. Now it's Saturday morning and I just got back from a beautiful run. While running I kept asking God the same question I asked all night, "Okay, but really, how did she put her baby in that basket? I mean, I know it was simply by faith, but really, how?"
I thought I'd share what God told me. It blew me away.
"Rebecca, of course Jochebed could put Moses in the river. She knew the God who made the Nile. The Jesus who calmed the raging sea and walked miles across the wild waves is the same God who created the Nile, and He could certainly calm the Nile. The same God who shut the mouths of the lions in the den with Daniel could certainly shut the mouths of the Nile crocodiles, and Jochebed knew Him. She wasn't simply placing her baby in the Nile, but she was placing her baby into the hands of the God who holds the Nile."
Now, not only do I want to be a mother like Jochebed, but even moreso I want to know God like Jochebed knew God.
Amen and Amen.